How better technology can mitigate healthcare employee burnout
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout was a problem for healthcare workers. Defined by the World Health Organization as chronic, unmanaged workplace stress, it’s characterized by feelings of exhaustion, negativity, and mental distance from one’s job. Over time, these feelings can make it difficult for someone to perform their job well.
Healthcare workers have long suffered from burnout more than the general population. In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, an overwhelming 55 percent of frontline healthcare workers suffer from symptoms of burnout. For workers below the age of 29, that number is 62 percent.
Symptoms of burnout include:
- Apathy about work
- Changes to diet or sleep
Unlike depression, burnout is usually a response to a specific situation—often a workplace. Depression won’t fade simply because a person has changed jobs. Burnout can. And healthcare employee burnout is especially dangerous. A Stanford study cited it as the leading cause of medical errors, responsible for up to 200,000 deaths in the United States every year.
Causes of burnout among healthcare workers
Healthcare is an inherently stressful occupation. It combines a variety of causes of burnout into one job. Often, healthcare workers don’t recognize burnout or simply chalk up the symptoms to normal aspects of their job, delaying care that could help them manage their stress.
Healthcare workers often face:
- Pain and suffering on a day-to-day basis
- Long hours
- Irregular shifts/night shifts
- Insufficient sleep
- Increasing administrative duties
When combined, these factors can quickly lead to burnout for healthcare providers. The emotional burden of watching patients suffer, sharing bad news with hopeful families, working a long shift during the day before filling in for a coworker at night, and running on little sleep can compound into feelings of apathy and fatigue on the job.
Some of these factors are difficult or impossible to eliminate. Doctors and nurses will always work with suffering patients. Scheduling is a function of staff size, which often shrinks as burnout increases. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, healthcare workers have left the profession in droves. But it is entirely possible to take the burden of administrative duties off your employees with the right EHR automation.
How can technology help?
Electronic health record (EHR) software is more than just a place to input patient health records and appointment times. The newest versions are like digital employees, trained to take on thousands of menial tasks without the need for lunches or coffee breaks. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of manual processes that take place in healthcare every day can be delegated to digital assistants. Here are some benefits of electronic health record systems.
When healthcare workers aren’t spending hours attending to any of the millions of menial tasks EHR software can take over from them, they have more time. That can translate into reduced hours for overworked nurses, even as staff size shrinks. When given more time off, nurses can seek mental health care, sleep more, take up yoga or meditation, or investigate any number of other activities that help reduce stress. Eventually, that can lead to a less stressed, less burned-out staff.
More time with patients
Ask any nurse or doctor why they chose to work in healthcare. You’ll probably hear about a lifelong desire to help patients. But these healthcare workers now spend just 27 percent of their time with patients. With modern cloud based EHR solutions that can take over administrative tasks, they can carve out more time to talk face-to-face with patients. More hours spent on the aspects of their job they truly love can help them recharge and refocus on their work. And longer, more in-depth conversations with healthcare workers can benefit patients as well. Research has shown just 40 additional seconds with a doctor can result in better health outcomes. Even just a sliver more time can be the difference between a patient mentioning symptoms of other health issues and keeping them to themselves.
Improved outcome tracking
A patient’s relationship with a doctor consists of millions of tiny tasks. Medication must be prescribed, dispensed, and taken according to a strict schedule. Appointments must be scheduled, kept, and followed up on. Patient progress must be tracked. When these items aren’t crossed off a to-do list, a patient’s condition likely won’t improve.
What’s worse, most of these tasks are out of the practitioner’s control. They can set the appointment and prescribe the medication. But they can’t force the patient to show up in their office or take the pills as directed. For a healthcare worker who cares about improving health, patient apathy can be incredibly frustrating. Their whole day can seem like a list of meaningless tasks that don’t make a difference to the patient’s health.
EHR software can’t force a patient to swallow a pill or drive to a medical office. But it can increase the chances that these tasks get done. Instead of one person in the office calling every patient to remind them of their appointment one time, EHR software can automate the process, so every patient receives four or five reminders. It can track medication and alert the patient and their pharmacy if a prescription hasn’t been picked up. It can act as an invisible, silent support system for the physician, so they can focus on creating a care plan instead of tracking whether it’s being followed. This frees up time and results in less stress for the practitioner and safer conditions for the patient. In fact, in a 2016 study, hospitals with full EHR systems had lower rates of patient death and readmissions.
Want to learn how the right EHR can help your staff? Contact us.
About us: Eye Care Leaders, a division of Healthcare Leaders Group, is the leading source of top-rated ophthalmology specific EHR and Practice Management systems. With a singular focus on eye care practices, Eye Care Leaders tailors’ solutions to meet the unique needs of each practice. The company is based in Durham, North Carolina and trusted by over 9,000 physicians.
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