Physicians at breaking point
Unsurprisingly, physicians who are constantly under peak pressure have the highest rate of burnout with an average of 45.8%. However, the source states emergency physicians claim a whopping 60% burnout rate. I also recently received an unverified Tweet about the life expectancy for physicians in this specialty, and the news just gets worse. It’s almost 20 years less than other specialties. I am unsure if it’s that much however, if you have ever ventured into an emergency department you can see for yourself why this may be true.
Stress - too much of a good thing?
Stress at intermittent, low doses is actually a good thing. I know that might sound weird but, it can motivate you to get a task done (like write that blog that’s overdue). Stress can do great things when you applied to your muscles i.e. weight lifting. But what happens when you are in daily situations of constant stress? Like those of emergency department (ED) staff… A short list of the impact would be health problems (high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes) behavioral health problems (irritability, anxiety), problems with sleeping, and fatigue; and this isn’t nearly a comprehensive list. Don’t think for a moment the alcohol and drug dependency is solely limited to those that visit the department either. Approximately, 1 in 10 physicians, and 1 in 5 nurses, have a substance use disorder during their careers. So if you're a clinician in the ED and are lucky enough to have most of these issues under control there is one other thing you may want to remember - if you can - is that stress wreaks havoc on your memory.
Stress can kill, and not just you
When healthcare providers are overworked, stressed, tired, etc. they can also be forgetful. After all, we are only human right?
Take, for example, a situation that is both costly and dire - a missed radiology critical result:
The emergency department physician is on hour 22 of her shift - not an unusual situation. She is vigilantly working to address the direct concern of multiple accident victims. Meanwhile, a young, tall, thin man comes in wreaking of tobacco and states he feels a little dizzy and is short of breath. The young man is triaged and sent for a chest x-ray. Amongst the chaos of the bleeding accident victims, this young man’s critical result- spontaneous pneumothorax gets missed. Signs and symptoms of it’s advancement to tension pneumothorax are noted prior to the staff having the knowledge of the x-ray result. Now yet another real emergency is in the hands of this stressed out staff.
Now let’s look at the same urgent clinical situation, but this time with a real-time Natural Language Processing (NLP) workflow in the picture:
The tired, stressed clinical staff initially misses the critical, clinical clue of the pneumothorax, amongst the chaos of the multiple accident victims. The real-time NLP workflow, however, rapidly detects the critical result and brings it to the attention of the clinical staff via an immediate warning sending an alert to their workstation as part of the new workflow. Now the ED clinical staff can address the spontaneous pneumothorax before it advances to a dire event, like the example above.
Augmented Intelligence: why it needs adopting before it's too late
Error is inevitable in an age where long clinical hours and skeleton crews are the norm. The possible consequences remain ominous, but new technology like real-time NLP workflows can help. Your organization can add fault tolerant, real-time, scalable document processing and reporting to your workflows when they are needed. Wouldn’t you want a safety net like this to keep your staff from reaching their breaking point?