More than half of neurointerventionalists, neurosurgeons, neurologists and radiologists are currently experiencing burnout as a result of provider shortages, covering multiple hospitals simultaneously, and increasing demand for emergency stroke care, and this is only expected to get worse

Neurologist burnout is caused by a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to provider shortages, covering multiple hospitals simultaneously, and increasing demand for emergency stroke care. Among neurologists specifically, the shortage is only expected to get worse — projected to increase by 19% by 2025.

The human and financial cost of this burnout can be felt at all levels of healthcare. It’s estimated that the U.S. healthcare system alone spends $4.6 billion (£3.0 billion British pounds) per year on burnout caused by physician shortages, physician turnover, and expenses to effectively hire and train replacements. Worse yet, this growing problem can also greatly increase the number of medical errors and compromise the overall care of patients.

Fortunately, emerging technologies can help reduce many of the burdens leading to burnout among those working in neurology. Two areas showing the most promise so far include workflow technology and clinician decision-making Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Intuitive clinical workflow technology can help

One of the top complaints from neurologists – and many other physicians – is the challenges they face with interhospital communication. When a patient needs to be transferred from a spoke hospital — often a smaller, potentially rural hospital with a more limited-service offering — to a larger and more comprehensive hub hospital to receive proper care, there is often a lot of information about the patient that gets lost along the way.

This information may include their presenting symptoms, or any medical history collected upon arrival, both of which can be critical for physicians to determine the proper treatment. These ineffective communication processes not only make it challenging for physicians to treat stroke patients effectively but ultimately contribute to increased stress and burnout.

Intuitive clinical workflow technology is one of the simplest and clearest ways to address this issue. Technology should help connect care teams from the minute a patient arrives to when they are discharged. This includes allowing physicians to view, organize and track cases from multiple sites and communicate with stroke teams in a single application.

Another important benefit of many workflow applications is that they provide increased convenience and flexibility for physicians when they are remote — not unlike the technology being implemented across many other industries. It improves quality of life for physicians by providing anytime, anywhere access to results and critical patient images on their mobile devices, allowing them to support the responding team virtually, through a secure, GDPR and HIPAA- compliant messaging app. Finally, all these improved efficiencies can also make it easier for physicians to efficiently manage a higher capacity of case volume and deliver more consistent patient care.

Clinical decision support AI

We know that time is of the essence when it comes to stroke, which is why often physicians are under enormous pressure to make quick treatment decisions day and night. With the number of emergency stroke patients on the rise, physicians may be more likely to make a mistake.

They are, after all, only human. Artificial intelligence and automated scan review technology can help improve accuracy in diagnosis and support physicians by serving as a second set of eyes – and enabling faster and more accurate treatment decision-making. By assisting burnt-out clinicians with algorithms created and approved by fellow neurologists, the technology helps ensure patients are triaged with appropriate treatment options.

A great example of this is the RapidAI

stroke platform, which automates image processing and analysis and provides easy-to-read, near real-time views of the brain. It also provides clinicians with standardized results for assessing whether a patient is eligible for endovascular treatment, minimizing the variability associated with interpretation by individual clinicians. Clinical decision support AI can ultimately reduce a great deal of stress on healthcare providers by offering a second opinion and alleviating some of the burden off clinicians.

Looking to the future

While there is no quick fix to solving burnout, workflow and clinical decision support AI are two of the ways hospitals can begin to ease some of the burden on providers. As health systems begin to think about new investments for 2023, it’s important to keep the costs of burnout top of mind, as it is so closely related to clinician stress — and even patient care. Health systems must act now to improve the experience for patients and providers alike.

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