From Penn Medicine News: While certain aspects of life look more like they did before the pandemic, life as a health care practitioner remains decidedly changed today, nearly three years after COVID-19 arrived in the United States. After working long hours and seeing so many sickened, burnout risk is exceptionally high for clinicians across the United States, said M. Kit Delgado, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Tied to the complications related to burnout, Delgado pointed to a new study in JAMA Open that shows that the rate at which patients leave United States emergency departments without being seen due to has doubled. In the busiest hospitals, 10 of every 100 patients who visit the emergency department can’t make it in from the waiting room because the hospital is stretched beyond capacity, the study indicated. “That’s emblematic of a national problem in which the current demand for acute care far exceeds the capacity of our country’s current health care system and its ability for public health prevention measures,” Delgado said. These are among the challenges that Delgado is extra aware of as he settles into the first few months of leading Penn Medicine’s renowned Nudge Unit. Founded by Mitesh Patel, MD, the Nudge Unit — which focuses on designing slight pushes that help people make better, healthier, or just more-optimal decisions — has often gotten attention for its work in increasing exercise, improving prescription practices, and improving health screening rates. In the wake of COVID, Delgado hopes to push the Nudge Unit firmly into the territory of making health care workers’ lives easier. A heavy focus of that is lessening the load they carry. “There needs to be a focus on interventions that make it easier for clinicians to help patients access the preventive care they need and safely manage their acute care needs outside of the hospital,” Delgado said. “Solutions in these areas will be difference-makers.” In the past, the Nudge Unit has implemented measures to help cut down on clinician tasks, which almost always also improve patient outcomes. For example, one intervention published earlier this year doubled hepatitis C screenings among eligible patients. Nudges like this provide a clue into how Delgado and his team could continue the drive to make doctors’, nurses’, and other staff’s lives easier.