Burnout happens in every industry, but heavy regulatory requirements, overwhelming patient loads, and a growing understaffing crisis make it especially prevalent in healthcare.
If you work at or manage an independent healthcare practice, you may feel like you’re barely keeping your head above the surface. You’re not alone. The burden on private practices is extraordinary.
Multiple reasons for private practice burnout
While burnout is nothing new for healthcare workers, rapid change and staffing shortages have escalated it.
- In the ways they can book appointments
- When their appointments are
- How they communicate with their providers.
Practices that use manual processes and currently schedule and reschedule by hand face more administrative demands.
Telehealth can make it easier to fill gaps between appointments, turn follow-up calls into billable hours, and allow both patients and providers to have appointments from anywhere. But depending on the solution, it can also require:
- A billing and coding learning curve
- Staying on top of updated testing methods
- Ensuring regulatory compliance
- New communication workflows to keep colleagues and patients informed
If not automated and integrated with your electronic health record (EHR), these manual processes can add to the practice workload.
If automated and integrated, however, telehealth can ease some of the strain caused by staffing shortages. These shortages may be caused by economic stressors or by attendance challenges. Even so, using the virtual visit option reduces the number of staff required for an exclusive office-visit staffing model.
How can a medical practice reduce burnout?
More than 1 in 3 healthcare workers have made a mistake at work due to lack of sleep. Patient care and safety, along with efficiency and internal office operations, bear the consequences.
“More than 1 in 3 healthcare workers have made a mistake at work due to lack of sleep. ”
Here are 5 ways your medical practice can begin to reduce burnout.
1. Engage and communicate
Even before burnout, there are a lot of challenges to keeping your practice running. With burnout, they can seem nearly insurmountable. In that context, it’s understandable if you’ve overlooked regular and transparent communication.
But regular, thoughtful communication with staff and patients is a component of practice management that should be on every practice’s priority list. Internally, communication and check-ins help to build a workplace culture of transparency and mutual support. Externally, they help to create and maintain the provider-patient connection.
When in doubt, ask your staff what’s causing them the most stress. Brainstorm together to identify possible solutions. Establish daily team huddles to improve operational communication and distribute regular emails to keep your team informed and engaged.
2. Take morale boosters seriously
Don’t forget to remind staff how important they are. This may look different for every practice, but reinforcing your team’s worth can be invaluable. While some practices may be able to offer financial bonuses, never underestimate the power of a simple and sincere “thank you.”
This has been a focus of workplace research for well over a decade, with many results showing the power of regular recognition and the effectiveness of staff recognition. Ideas can include an impromptu staff lunch delivery, a success board to thank standout staff and peers, and weekly email shout-outs — all of which require very little investment.
3. Consider recharge days
This is often a staff favorite. Whether you can offer a full paid day off on a rotating or as-needed basis, or even a half-day with other staff teaming up to cover, a few hours off can help your team catch up on life or get a much-needed break from the office.
4. Automate and go digital
Minimizing tedious administrative tasks can help reduce stress in a busy practice. By automating certain front office functions like scheduling and appointment reminders, or digitizing processes like registration and patient intake, you can free up staff time and reduce inefficiencies.
5. Shift job functions as needed
As your practice changes, job roles and duties may need to change, too. If leadership is overwhelmed with managing operational changes, charge a senior staff member with leading a project that can be easily delegated or even partly automated, such as creating and deploying your practice’s email newsletter. By shifting some responsibilities, you may be surprised to find a future practice leader.
Support your practice staff
An exceptional staff is one of the most valuable assets an independent practice can have. Each person plays a key role in the patient experience and therefore your practice’s reputation. Helping your team navigate ups and downs will position your practice for continued success and growth.
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