Modern medicine ushers in advanced technology that helps improve patient care and the way physicians work. But some of the side effects of this technology can lead to physician burnout, especially in an era of virtual care where, more and more, doctors are working by themselves and not interacting with colleagues or even the patient.
Ameya Kulkarni, MD, Assistant Chief of Cardiology for Northern Virginia, tackles the topic of physician loneliness in a perspective article published in the Jan. 24 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. In the article, “Navigating Loneliness in the Era of Virtual Care,” Dr. Kulkarni writes that “doctors, for the most part, are social creatures. So the transition away from routine interaction with patients and colleagues and toward more isolated and individual activities has contributed to loneliness and resulting burnout.”
He goes on to describe some of the innovative activities MAPMG is implementing in an effort to create meaningful connections for its physicians. Along with opportunities for doctors to spend time together outside of work, the organization created a “This Is Me” program in which each week a physician writes a brief autobiographical essay that is emailed to the entire group to learn more about colleagues. Dr. Kulkarni is also an active social media user (especially Twitter), promoting the good works and achievements of his colleagues and encouraging others through impromptu fitness challenges while at work or during travel.
“Addressing physicians’ loneliness in the 21st century requires finding innovative ways to interact with each other,” Dr. Kulkarni says.