It’s widely recognized that working in the healthcare sector is often exhausting, emotionally draining, and highly pressured.
The sheer volume and complexity of the daily workload, coupled with inefficient working practices and shortages of staff, are currently causing members of healthcare teams to be at particularly high risk of burnout. Approximately, one in three physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time, according to research.This is a condition that can have serious consequences on mental and physical well-being, as well as on the operations of an entire organization and on the quality of patient care and safety.
And it’s not just doctors and nurses who bear the brunt of the pressure:, a recently published study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that non-clinical staff report burnout at very similar rates to their clinical colleagues.
By proactively addressing the root causes of clinical and non-clinical staff burnout, and implementing measures to support streamlined working, leaders in healthcare organizations can build happier, and healthier teams with improved retention and productivity rates. Based on my experience working with hundreds of healthcare organizations, here’s where I’d recommend that you start:
Get to the root(s) of the problem
It’s likely that the contributing factors to burnout in any organization are multiple (ranging from psychological to social or financial), and may not align with your expectations. Dr Vivek Murphy, the US Surgeon General, recommends that the first step for healthcare organizations on a mission to tackle burnout should involve “listening to health workers and seeking their involvement to improve processes, workflows, and organizational culture”.
Leaders should conduct assessments to evaluate the extent and causes of burnout within their administrative team. Mediums such as surveys, interviews, or focus groups can be used to gather insights and identify specific stressors, especially with regard to workload distribution, task complexity, and time pressures. Fostering this level of open communication with an option of anonymity (if needed) will encourage team members to share real experiences, challenges, and suggested courses of remedial action. From this point, transformation plans can be mapped out and set into motion.
Increase capacity with strategic modernization
Until today, owing to a shortage of funds, capacity and appropriate solutions, digital transformation of the administrative operations in healthcare has lagged behind clinical operations. This is especially true for HR operations, where many organizations continue to rely on paper-based or manual-entry systems to onboard, verify, roster and redeploy their workforce. With this taken into account, it’s hardly surprising that 44% of non-clinical healthcare staff feel overloaded with work on a regular basis.
However, digital transformation is now becoming more commonplace in non-clinical settings, spearheaded by ambitious organizations looking to streamline their operations. As several major providers have now shown, in order to increase your team’s capacity without expanding its headcount, leaders ought to explore opportunities for automating the most repetitive or time-consuming daily tasks. For example, the creation of staff rotas and the approval of leave requests can now be automated and completed in seconds with the right tools. By integrating proven automation technologies and platforms into the workflow, time and resources can be made available for the most important tasks. In addition, the risk of being subjected to fines, poor inspection ratings or poor reviews from patients is reduced.
In many healthcare systems, such as England’s NHS, there is funding and support available for organizations looking to alleviate staff workloads through digital transformation projects. By looking at successful examples of automation and new tech adoption in similar organizations to your own, you can build the blueprints for your own initiative.
Fix the cracks in your new hire pipeline
As reported, maintaining those elusive high staff recruitment and retention rates is an essential pillar of any anti-burnout strategy. However, the challenge currently lies in the fact that onboarding new healthcare staff members is typically a slow and effortful process for the new hire and for the HR representatives involved. In fact, it typically takes 2-3 weeks for candidates to move through the onboarding process – during which time they are at high risk of dropping out of the process altogether.
However, by incorporating a digital onboarding platform, it’s possible to alleviate a significant quantity of workload from your team while ensuring faster and more accurate processing of candidates. Using smart automation and machine learning, these onboarding platforms guide candidates through every step of submitting necessary documents and references. They then cross-reference or synchronize the provided information with relevant databases, promptly flagging any non-compliance and sending timely reminders to ensure compliance.
Consequently, new hires can commence their roles significantly more quickly, without creating additional stress anywhere else in the system. Addressing and preventing burnout in healthcare teams requires a nuanced and personalized approach, but implementing effective change doesn’t have to be laborious or expensive. Pinpointing the pain points, pursuing a digital-first approach to workflow reform, and replacing outdated HR processes with automation will deliver instantly noticeable benefits with a minimal cost outlay. These benefits – from increased compliance to reduced risk of human error, will soon translate into improved staff and patient experience across your organization.
About Dr. Kit Latham
Dr. Kit Latham studied medicine in the UK at The University of Leeds. He worked as an emergency physician in the NHS before attending London Business School and studying Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London (UCL). In 2016 he founded Credentially, a global SaaS company revolutionizing HR processes and delivering efficiencies for healthcare organizations with machine learning and computer vision technology.