Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. That’s what motivates people, according to Daniel Pink in his book Drive. Great physicians are no different.
Regardless of where they are applied, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are connected. When they work in unison, the impact is palpable and powerful. Take one away, and the others will soon crumble. For many physicians, the traditional model of healthcare may have challenged these elements of drive, leading to the pervasive burnout we’re seeing across the profession.
Increasingly physicians are turning to virtual care as a sustainable alternative to reignite their passion for patient care. Virtual care, when done right, frees physicians from double-booked, 20-minute clinic visits and allows them to focus on delivering the highest quality care possible while achieving a better work-life balance.
In other words, virtual care presents a tremendous opportunity to care for our caregivers. And when we take care of physicians, they’ll take better care of patients.
Restoring Autonomy with Online Private Practice
Whether by choice or by force of the current healthcare environment, more than half of today’s physicians have lost their autonomy in the delivery of healthcare. A recent American Medical Association report revealed that fewer than 50% of physicians work in physician-owned, private practices — a record-low statistic. Instead, the most common physician status is now the “employed physician” caring for patients under a larger, corporate system.
I’m the son of a physician who went into private practice in the 1980s, and for three decades, I watched as he painstakingly built a thriving practice that delivered quality care to those our community. I saw him forge lifelong, trusting relationships with his patients, and because of those deep connections, he was able to provide better care.
The practice of medicine is ultimately about the doctor-patient relationship. With virtual care, we now have an opportunity now to empower physicians to do the same thing I saw my father do — build a practice of patients that they can take great care of, now with the convenience and benefits of a remote model.
When you remove the geographic limitations of care, it opens up a lot more possibilities of matching patients with clinicians who are the right fit for them. For example, imagine a physician who is a runner and through sophisticated software of a virtual care platform that is licensed in all 50 states, the doctor can be matched to patients around the country who are avid runners as well. That shared interest can enable a strong relationship that results in immediate rapport, which is the foundation of a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship. Patients can have access to a clinician who, quite literally, has run in their shoes. Such technological capability is available today.
The best virtual care gives physicians the power to design their practice based on what they know and what they do best. And empowering physicians with the autonomy and agency of how they practice their art is a powerful way to keep them engaged and satisfied in their careers.
Mastering Proactive Approaches to Care
Once physicians have the autonomy to practice medicine in a more efficient and effective system that is powered by technology and innovative processes, they have more time to spend on their patients that are most in need of their knowledge and expertise. When people think of virtual care, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a doctor calling you on a phone or doing a video call. But best-practice approaches to digital health entail so much more and include multiple other modalities to care for people asynchronously. For example, adaptive questionnaires and remote patient monitoring with digital, connected devices are just two of the many tools physicians use to gain a more comprehensive view of their patients. From this vantage point, physicians can course-correct behaviors before they materialize into significant health issues.
By using all of these different modalities, we can offload physicians’ time for things that didn’t necessarily need a visit to be able to really focus on conditions that require a deeper dive. Take, for example, a patient with high blood pressure who historically would visit their doctor several times a year for a quick check-in. Through the virtual care model, we can replace those limited, moment-in-time snapshots with a digital health solution in which their physician can gain real-time access to that patient’s ambulatory home blood pressure monitoring device. Then we can use telehealth visits to review and interpret the data from the device and work with the patient on managing their lifestyle — a much more masterful, proactive approach.
In this case, not only do care outcomes improve for the patient, but ultimately, we can replace that 30-minute, high blood pressure in-person visit with a patient who has an issue that needs to be seen in person or needs a procedure.
Widening Access to Purposeful, High-Quality Care
The practice of medicine is ultimately about keeping people healthy through strong doctor-patient relationships. The most important benefit of virtual care, for physicians and for patients, is that it expands access to these relationships and to quality healthcare.
Most recently, a report from the National Academy of Medicine urged that “all individuals should have the opportunity to have a consistent source of primary care,” and suggested that virtual care could help us get there. Particularly for reaching patients in rural areas or even patients constantly on the go, virtual care provides a convenient opportunity to foster a healthy, consistent relationship with a trained medical professional.
People are already visiting the web for health information, so why not meet them where they are? With technology, physicians have the opportunity to engage even more patients and make sure that they aren’t falling through the cracks of the brick-and-mortar system. We no longer have to for patients to come to us. We can go to them and walk them down the right path, whether that’s in-person or virtual.
Pretty soon, there will come a time where we don’t call digital modalities “virtual care.” It’ll just be the delivery of healthcare. The sooner we embrace digital health technology and modernize healthcare delivery, the sooner we can alleviate burnout, and our society will have access to medical professionals at their fingertips eager to help provide care for their patients.
Photo: elenabs, Getty Images