Clinicians don’t need to take a blood, sweat, and tears sample to arrive at the diagnosis that clinician burnout is at an all-time high and health systems are struggling to provide the support and tools needed amid large financial losses. For healthcare innovators like Wellsheet CEO and founder Craig Limoli, the signs are as clear as the top line of a Snellen eye chart.
“Wellsheet cares for the clinicians, who care for us in our times of need,” Limoli says. “We must care for clinicians and help ensure the health of their organizations by reducing their costs or we risk breaking the healthcare system. That’s what motivates and unifies the whole Wellsheet organization: our mission to support clinicians.”
Wellsheet organizes and presents clinical data in a way that significantly reduces the time physicians spend with electronic health records (EHRs) and length of stay which impacts the bottom line. For example, a 2016 study evaluating exactly how physicians allocate their time in ambulatory practice concluded that for every hour doctors spend in direct clinical time with patients, they spend nearly two hours on EHR tasks and desk work. The study also found physicians spending another one to two hours of personal time each night handling additional clerical duties.
Add in the extra stress of treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seems obvious that something has to give.
“Clinician burnout is one of the biggest problems facing the healthcare industry,” Limoli says. “In fact, it’s created a very serious issue where people are leaving the workforce. Nurses and physicians are no longer wanting to practice because of the burnout and the burden that’s placed on them. And a significant portion of that burnout is attributed to electronic health record systems.”
Wellsheet’s mission is to reduce EHR-induced clinician burnout with a measurable ROI that makes clinicians’ day-to-day practice responsibilities easier so that they can focus on what’s most important: delivering the best care possible to patients.
An Antidote for Burnout
Physician burnout is real, and it’s getting worse. A survey conducted in the winter of 2021–2022 by researchers from the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic, Stanford University School of Medicine, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that 62.8 percent of responding physicians had at least one manifestation of burnout during the previous year. That is an alarming rise from just 38.2 percent in 2020.
The same survey also saw professional fulfillment scores dropping from 40 percent in 2020 to 22.4 percent in the winter of 2021–2022. Additionally, asked if they would choose to become a doctor again, only 57.5 percent answered affirmatively—a drop from 72.2 percent the year before.
None of this is news to Limoli, who founded Wellsheet in 2015 to target some of the key issues leading to physician discontent.
Limoli studied economics and computer science at Princeton, and then worked for nearly three years at IBM, serving the final year as a senior strategy consultant at IBM’s Watson Health & Corporate Strategy division.
“That’s where I saw the immense frustration that physicians faced with existing technologies, especially electronic health record systems, which in many respects were not designed for them,” Limoli says. “Arguably the most important function in our society had to deal with really antiquated technology and the frustrations that come along with it.”
After leaving IBM, Limoli pursued an MBA in healthcare and entrepreneurial management at The Wharton School, during which time he founded Wellsheet. In starting Wellsheet, Limoli says he was excited about the prospect of creating a solution that supports clinicians’ needs and augments the EHR experience much more effectively. Fortuitously, the advent of application programming interface (API) software, which allowed for effective integration into EHRs that was scalable across the industry, just started to come to market.
“That was an enabling technology shift that really made Wellsheet possible,” Limoli says.
The biggest problem with EHRs, Limoli says, is that they were designed in a static way. Whether someone is a cardiologist or an endocrinologist, the data is presented in the same fashion, even though physicians are looking for very different things for different patients in different scenarios. You don’t have to be a proctologist to recognize what a giant pain in the posterior that process could be.
“Wellsheet is designed to predict what content is most relevant for a particular clinician to know about a particular patient based on the clinical context,” Limoli says. “So the physician’s specialty, the patient’s reason for the visit, their set of diagnoses, the physician’s practice patterns, and how they interact with our technology over time are all incorporated into this predictive ability that really focuses on what’s most important for that particular clinician-patient interaction.”
Designed to Scale
Most mornings, you’ll find Limoli on the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan, sailing past the Freedom Tower and Statue of Liberty. At night, he’ll get home just in time to put his two children—a three-year-old and a five-month-old—down for bed and spend some time with his wife.
That grind is difficult, but Limoli’s family and Wellsheet have both seen the benefit, with Wellsheet seeing exponential growth. In the beginning, Limoli shares, the company was working with small practices that featured staffs between one and 10 doctors. Nearly seven years later, Wellsheet partners with large EHR companies and has been deployed at some of the largest commercial health systems in the country.
“So the scale that we’re delivering these incredible experiences for clinicians has really shifted monumentally from where we were just a few years ago,” Limoli says. “Something we’re really excited about is the immense response we’re seeing from some of the largest, most influential healthcare organizations on the planet. And they’re interested in what we’re doing.”
From an architectural perspective, Wellsheet was designed to scale.
“We built the technology on a foundation that was anticipating this immense scale that we would ultimately need to support from Day 1,” Limoli says.
The traditional means of EHR integration used to take months, and sometimes years, on a per-health system basis. The arrival of API software, however, trimmed that time down for Wellsheet to a month or less.
“That’s a very significant transition that’s occurred in the industry that we are benefiting from,” Limoli says.
The Wall of Gratitude
Anyone needing visual validation as to the impact of Wellsheet’s offering should check out one specific wall in the company’s headquarters.
“We actually have a wall of gratitude, as we call it, in our office with all of the thank you letters that we’ve received unsolicited from our clinician users, tens of thousands of them, from across the country,” Limoli says. “That really highlights the impact that we’re having for them and motivates us to deliver better and better experiences.”
That inherent gratitude is pervasive throughout the organization, says Limoli.
“For me, culture is caring,” he says. “So we strive to create a positive culture by really caring about the clinicians that we serve by having the whole Wellsheet team and community focused on those clinician challenges and the frustrations they face—and caring about what they need.”
“I think that’s what really drives the right culture as an organization,” Limoli says. “We look for people in our hiring process who really pay a lot of attention to that as well and who we can tell are going to really put that extra effort in to ensure that we’re delivering great experiences to everyone that we serve.”
Limoli is a first-generation college student who attended Princeton with the support of a very generous financial aid package. His experience there, along with looking for ways to give back, influence Wellsheet’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“This is a matter that’s actually really important to me, personal to me, and we are very dedicated as an organization to hiring people who have different backgrounds, have different experiences, and are able to bring different perspectives,” Limoli says. “We think that is the best way to tackle immense challenges and figure out unique approaches to solving problems. That’s a huge focus for us as we build our team at Wellsheet.”
Having witnessed the impact Wellsheet’s program has already made for those taking advantage of it, Limoli’s vision is to now bring the time-saving platform to as many clinicians as possible. Diminishing burnout, after all, starts one clinician at a time.