Modernizing care delivery while addressing potential physician burnout

By Megan Lecas, SVP for Service Lines, WellSpan Health

As we move past the one-year mark of this global pandemic, it’s not lost on any of us that the way in which we deliver care to our patients has profoundly changed. While some of these changes are undoubtedly temporary, others now have gained a foothold as society adjusts to a new normal in just about everything that we do. For some health systems, having a broad suite of telemedicine options once seemed like an insurmountable challenge, while others with digital telehealth solutions on a smaller scale prior to the pandemic were struggling with scale.

At WellSpan Health, our digital offerings prior to the pandemic included

  1. Virtual urgent care,
  2. Primary and specialty care,
  3. Babyscripts (an online connection enabling pregnant women to communicate with their obstetrician), and
  4. MadelineRx (our online birth control solution).

Operating as a cohesive, integrated health system spanning six counties across southcentral PA afforded us the ability to quickly scale up these telehealth offerings early on in the pandemic to remain a reliable and trusted partner to our communities in such an unprecedented time. And now, we are accelerating our vision to reimagine healthcare by investing in innovative approaches to inspire health and provide greater value when and where our patients need it.

Innovating the delivery of patient care must also be done in concert with measures to avoid clinician burnout. One of the most energizing projects we have taken on to combat this at WellSpan is a physician pilot with Nuance and their Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) solution. Nuance DAX is a natural language voice AI solution that reduces documentation time for physicians. It’s available in the exam room, where it listens to the patient-provider interaction. Nuance DAX translates what it heard into a written note right in Epic at the end of a visit. 

We began piloting Nuance DAX in July of 2020, and to date, 50 WellSpan physicians have used the app on their mobile devices. The goal is to reduce their daily time commitment for Epic documentation. Our physicians have said it allows them to be more present and to connect with their patients. This partnership creates highly engaged clinicians and contributes to personalized experiences and better health outcomes for our patients. Measurement is just beginning to reveal the impact on documentation time, but for one physician surveyed, the average decrease in patient wait times was nine minutes. The vast majority of patients (97%) agreed that their physicians were more focused, personable, and engaged.

Dr. R. Hal Baker, senior vice president, chief digital & chief information officer at WellSpan Health, has championed this and many other digital efforts at WellSpan. He also continues to practice and utilizes DAX. At the end of the day, we’re excited that using this technology helps increase our interactions with patients while shrinking after-hours workload.

Our pilot with DAX is an effort that fits in line with one of WellSpan’s five core values: “find a better way.” It underscores the importance of discovering better ways to meet our mission and serve our communities – innovating, continuously learning, seeking out best practices, and reimagining healthcare delivery.

Our patients have told us time and time again that the more engaged they are in their own journey to better health, the more successful they will be at achieving their personal health goals. Through digital tools, such as our MyWellSpan online portal, our patients now have more control of their own health than ever before – scheduling appointments, accessing their records, connecting with their care teams – all from the convenience of their computer, smartphone, or tablet.

One year ago, we were one of the country’s first health systems to give our patients access to view their own imaging studies. Patients across our system of over 200 care locations and eight hospitals now have the power to view images of their actual x-rays, CTs, MRIs, ultrasounds, etc., at a time that works for their schedule. The images are secured so that they are private and only viewable online. Patients may continue to request their images by contacting the hospital imaging or cardiology departments.  

Putting these resources at a patient’s fingertips is a critical step in being that trusted partner. Patient comfort level with digital resources took a giant leap forward over the past year and we need to keep up the pace.

In many ways, the pandemic allowed us to accelerate our strategic plans using our vision and values to guide us through an event which came with no playbook. We continue to forge ahead, using that momentum not just to bounce back, but bounce forward. 


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