HIT Corner Online Learning Modules Helping to Manage Physician Burnout

Michigan Medicine - September/October 2016

By: Jalyn Ingalls, MA, Influenza Epidemiologist, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Immunization

In June of 2015, the American Medical Association (AMA) launched an interactive 24/7 online practice transformation series designed to address administrative burdens that are leading to physician burnout. The AMA's STEPS Forward™ initiative is designed to offer "innovative strategies that will allow physicians and their staff to thrive in the evolving health care environment by working smarter, not harder. Physicians looking to refocus their practice can turn to AMA STEPS Forward™ for proven, physician-developed strategies for confronting common challenges in busy medical practices and devoting more time to caring for patients."

As reported in the AMA Wire®, a 2013 AMA study with the RAND Corporation found that providing high-quality care was the primary driver of physicians' professional satisfaction while obstacles to providing that care were found to be major sources of stress. The following observations from Christine Sinsky, MD, an internist in Dubuque, Iowa, and Vice President of Professional Satisfaction at the AMA reflect those findings, as well as the need for physician-developed practice transformation tools:

"When I was a young physician, only a few years into my practice, I realized that if I was going to stay in practice and thrive, I needed to change the way I organized my work... I realized that I needed to spend much less time documenting the visit and chasing after results and find a way to spend more time really focused on the patient. Otherwise, I wasn't going to be able to stay in practice."

Additionally, physicians who have used the AMA's practice transformation series have reported positive changes.

  • "Before, there wasn't enough time in the office visit to get it all done," one physician said.
  • Another physician noted that using these solutions led to a rediscovery of the "beauty of reconnecting with my patients."

Currently, there are 35 educational modules, with more expected in the future. These modules are developed by physicians and categorized as follows:

  • Patient Care (11)
  • Workflow and Process (12)
  • Leading Change (4)
  • Professional Well-Being (3)
  • Technology and Finance (5)

Examples of topics covered by the AMA's STEPS Forward™ collection of practice improvement modules include, but are not limited to: planning end-of-life decision with your patients, preparing your practice for value-based care, medication adherence, improving blood pressure control, adopting a patient pre-registration process, implementing a daily team huddle, team documentation, quality improvement using Plan-Do-Study-Act, preventing physician burnout, adopting telemedicine in practice, electronic health record implementation, and revenue cycle management.

As mentioned above, all this can be done online and at a time that is convenient for the physicians and/or their staff. The modules can be accessed at www.STEPSforward.org. On the webpage for each module, physicians will find steps for implementation, case studies and downloadable tools and resources. Physicians completing the modules can also earn continuing medical education credit.

Additional stories on the AMA's STEPS Forward™ modules may be found at http://msms.org/STEPSForward.

The American Medical Association and the AMA Wire® contributed to this article.