“Struggle doesn’t make success happen. In fact, struggle can prevent success from happening.
If you seek struggle you will find it. If you seek ease, you will find it.”
~ Rich Fettke, Success Coach and Author
You finally decided to leave the hospital setting and open your own private practice. Initially, the idea of working in a hospital might have seemed quite appealing, as you thought it would allow you to focus more purely on patient care. But then you slowly began to realize that there were some drawbacks you just did not appreciate – the bureaucracy, the competitiveness, the lack of patient relationships – and then the COVID-19 pandemic made everything even worse. That’s when you decided it was time to move on.
Now that you have your own independent practice, you find that you really enjoy the autonomy and ability to fully get to know your patients. One thing you might be a little worried about, though, is that it seems to be sucking you into a vortex of administrative burdens and time-consuming activities that have nothing to do with patient care. It feels like the practice demands more of your energy, leaving you with less time to focus on your personal well-being.
Physician burnout is real, but it is something you can avoid by making mindful choices and using technology that helps make your practice more efficient. The COVID-19 pandemic may have revealed systemic weaknesses of the American workforce in establishing a work-life balance, so a fresh approach is obviously needed. This article looks at several recommendations for achieving the goal of improving work-life balance, and reviews some technology that can help in turning this goal into a reality.
Methods Doctors Use in Independent Practice to Maintain Work-Life Balance
“Most millennial physicians are giving more importance to work-life balance after seeing the firsthand effect of burnout in their colleagues and among their family members. There is also a shift in the family dynamics of millennials, as most families have both parents working and limited support from immediate family members. This has put additional pressure on their abilities to manage work-life balance.”
~ Dr. Arun Saini, Medical News Today
Work-life balance is critical for physicians of all ages, but seems to be particularly important for those of the Millennial Generation. According to a 2017 American Medical Association survey, 92 percent of those physicians aged 35 or younger felt that work-life balance was important.
Older physicians can also take these lessons to heart. As you leave the hospital setting, it is crucial to set priorities for how best you want to practice to run. Of course you want to provide quality care, but it should not come at a cost to you or your team. Here are some methods you can use to maintain a better work-life balance:
Implement Better Scheduling
The hospital administrators might have done all the scheduling for you, so that all you had to do was simply show up at a designated place at a specific time. You were only paid for work you performed, so there was no real incentive to complete non-essential tasks. At your own practice, however, it seems like you are being pulled in a hundred different directions each day. Now, you need to prioritize your practice needs, and set your schedule accordingly. Think about how the tasks you are performing are directly related to practice income, and assign those with minimal impact to other team members. Set specific blocks of time to perform certain activities, and try not to deviate from that schedule.
Minimize Time Wasting Activities
You like the idea of being able to spend more time with patients in private practice, but some just seem to want a little more time than others. Keep aware of your billable time allotments, although you can allow a little extra time now and then, but be firm in your time constraints with patients. Focus on providing care and running your practice efficiently. Let your office manager deal with routine undertakings, and keep your personal activities out of the office as much as possible.
Don't Do Everything Yourself
Some doctors in private practice feel they have to make every decision, manage every task, and oversee every point of patient contact. Use your team members and office staff wisely to share duties appropriately. Think about using a Virtual Preventative Care Assistant to bring a better balance to the different types of patient visits. You can now include external remote care services in your patient care kit by adding remote staff, or contracting out existing staff, to reduce labor costs while maintaining patient continuity. This maintains patient care levels without requiring your personal involvement for routine care tasks.
You do not need to be on call 24 hours a day to maintain patient satisfaction, so don’t feel compelled to take calls, respond to messages, or perform office tasks just because you have the technical capability to do so. Set specific times when you are willing to communicate with patients outside office hours, and then use an answering service or join with other local doctors to provide emergency coverage.
Allow for "Me" Time
Doctors cannot perform at their best if they do not feel well themselves. Make time to look after your own health, and follow the advice you would give to your patients. Spend a few moments at the office engaging in stress-reducing activities, and schedule down time outside the office as well. Don’t skip vacations or family events, because these are the times that provide nourishment for your body, mind, and soul. And don’t take home any guilt you might feel about not spending more time at the office.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
There is no shame in admitting that it is getting to be too much. Talk to your family to let them know what you are experiencing. Seek out help from local or national medical associations, or find a counselor who specializes in preventing career burnout. You don’t have to “tough it out” alone. Lean on the support of others, so you can be better at taking care of yourself.
Technology Doctors Use in Independent Practice to Maintain Work-Life Balance
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
~ Stephen Covey, Author
Does it sometimes seem like we go out of our way to find the latest gadget to make our lives easier? People will stand on line for hours to get the latest smartphone, or purchase all types of gadgets and technology to make their at-home lives easier. So why is it so difficult to use the same thinking when it comes to adapting technology to make life in private practice easier via workload management, work flow solutions, and scheduling control?
It does not have to be that difficult to improve office functioning. Today there are numerous technical innovations which can make the practice run more efficiently and reduce stress for the doctor, leaving more time for improving work-life balance:
Become Fully Engaged in Telehealth
You may have been reluctant to use this technology before, but McKinsey & Company projects that telehealth is now a post-COVID reality. Modern telehealth solutions increase the ability of your practice to deliver remote patient care that is comparable to an in-office visit. You and your medical staff can quickly and easily initiate telehealth video and secure text conversations, and maintain logs of those chats and videos for billing and audit purposes.
Improve Your Charting Capabilities
The latest in Electronic Health Records (EHR) make smoother charting a breeze, and add to office efficiency. Components of the latest comprehensive EHR systems include easy charting capabilities and templates to maximize provider time, e-Prescribing, better scheduling capabilities, and a patient portal for enhanced communication purposes.
Avail yourself of the latest practice management software to improve daily efficiencies and minimize administrative stresses. Keep things running smoothly from the front desk to the billing office, and shorten the check-in process by automatically verifying insurance eligibility. Dealing with billing issues upfront reduces collections headaches after you’ve already invested your time.
Reduce stress for you and your team by investing in a Medical Billing Service. Let technology handle the hassles of billing for you, and your practice could experience an increase in collections, a higher rate of claims paid on first submission, and a quicker time to payment with your payers and patients.
Watch Practice Activity
Get real-time, online access to what is going on within your practice to minimize downtime and maximize efficiency.
Get Control Over Your Revenue
One big source of headaches and frustration is unpaid claims. Use technology to bring them to your attention, so they can be worked promptly. Get those issues resolved before they turn into problems you need to manage personally.
Simplify Your Claims Submission Process
Use electronic claims submissions to eliminate coding and billing errors, and reduce payment time. Follow-up with claim status technology that automatically checks claims status to improve reimbursements.
How to Optimize Electronic Health Record Utilization
In its tool kit of Strategies to Help Organizations Maximize Benefits and Minimize Burdens, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends that doctors in private practice optimize their software solutions. According to their recommendation, integrating certain functions within the EHR can improve workflow and efficiency, such as:
Configure the EHR for Your Practice Needs
An EHR should not be a one-size-fits-all application. Find one that you can customize to your particular practice needs, build templates that help you move quickly through patient visits, and highlight information pertinent to the reason for the appointment.
Use e-Prescriptions through the EHR to the extent allowed by federal and state regulations. This may even be helpful for issuing strict internal guidelines regarding prescribing controlled substances.
Include Patient Photos
Cameras can quickly capture a photo at check-in to associate with a patient for future verification purposes. This can be helpful for facial recognition, prescription protocols, and matching a face with a patient during telemedicine interactions.
Improve Patient Education
Provide an after-visit summary for patients to reinforce educational points regarding disease management, prescription changes, and lifestyle adaptations. These can be sent through digital means via email or the patient portal to reduce printing and paper costs.
Promote Patient Access
Let your patients have access to their medical record and visit notes, so they can be sure you are both on the same page when conducting an in-person or remote care visit.
Encourage Patient Portal Use
A secure patient portal can be an efficient way of communicating routine information between patient and physician. Chronic care management patients using remote monitoring devices can transmit their appropriate readings, while other patients can use it to inquire about medication refills. When used effectively, patient portals can reduce workload and increase efficiency for physicians and the care team, by transferring some of the most routine administrative tasks from the care team to the patient.
Taking full advantage of the latest in EHR and office management technology can go a long way towards reducing administrative burdens and alleviating stress. Achieving a better work-life balance after leaving the hospital setting should not have to be a struggle for physicians. Recognize that burnout can be a challenge, and take steps to avoid it. Work with a reputable vendor dedicated to helping independent practices survive and thrive by providing easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care that make healthcare more accessible, and more effective.
Healthcare Technology Solutions Designed By and For Independent Practices
Amazing Charts was founded in 2001 by a practicing family physician to help medical practices thrive. We have grown consistently since then by creating easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care. Today, we offer a variety of additional capabilities designed to help independent practices succeed, including Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Services, Population Health and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, and learn more about telehealth pandemic lessons that can help your independent practice grow.