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Making Medicine Fun Again
Posted on: 8/1/2013
Eldon A. Trame, MD
ISMS President
Eldon A. Trame, MD  

One in three doctors is burned out.That is according to data from a study in The American Journal of Medicine way back in 2003. I suspect the number may be a bit higher now. A month doesn't go by when medicine isn't faced with a new compliance deadline of some sort. For example, primary care doctors had to previously attest with Medicaid by June 30 for increases that were to begin Jan. 1, 2013, but still aren’t being paid. Next month many of our medical practices must be in compliance with new HIPAA regulations, another layer of stress on modern medical care.

I'd like to pivot the direction of this column, and talk about a dose of good news. As reported in the May/June Annals of Family Medicine, several clinics are working to redesign practices in an effort to restore the notion that serving patients as a primary care doctor can be enjoyable.

Some of the novel steps these clinics are taking include reducing "computerized busy work," administrative overload and streamlining communication flow. Many of the "innovations" these clinics are pursuing are relatively simple things that ease workflow such as engaging a nurse or medical assistant to help manage the physician's email inbox to triage lab results and routine prescription renewals.

A recent AMNews story suggests these clinics indicate small workflow and internal communication changes not only improve patient satisfaction, but also create happier doctors.

Clearly, linking quality to reimbursement is the future of medicine, but basing quality on rules and checklists does not have to be the way of our world.

The American Medical Association in conjunction with the RAND Corporation is working on a project with the goal of improving physician satisfaction across specialties, not just primary care. I am eager to read the first report from this initiative, expected in the fall.

Physician burnout is a serious issue, and I'd like use this column as an opportunity to remind our members about the Illinois Professionals Health Program. IPHP is a statewide and confidential resource for health care professionals contending with problems that affect health and well-being. ISMS Resident and Fellow section members can access the program at no cost. ISMIE Mutual also provides IPHP access to policyholders.

If your specialty or clinic is engaged in an effort to improve professional satisfaction, I'd like to hear about it. Send me a note at DrTrame@isms.org.



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