Improving Staff Well-Being and Retention Through Digital Solutions

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Ayn Koscso

Written on August 10, 2023

DevelopmentHealthcareModea News
image of a digital health tool and icons that represent different functions of health services

The state of the U.S. healthcare system and the increased demand placed on employees are contributing to a high number of health workers experiencing burnout and leaving their jobs. This trend stems from increasing mental wellness challenges as health workers are put in environments that strain their emotional, psychological, and physical health on a daily basis. 

image of nurse experiencing burnout while surrounded by piles of paperwork

What exactly is “burnout” and how does it affect a hospital? 

According to the 2022 U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce, burnout is characterized by a high degree of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (feeling “out of body”), as well as a low sense of personal accomplishment at work. Burnout can also be associated with anxiety and depression, and can be caused by organizational, structural, cultural, and societal factors. 

In healthcare, burnout is exacerbated by significant factors, particularly in recent years, although these challenges have always been present to some extent. Key contributors encompass overwhelming workloads, extended shifts, administrative burdens, and a lack of organizational support.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a demand for over 203,000 nursing positions annually in U.S. healthcare organizations until 2031. Additionally, there’s a predicted shortage of physicians and behavioral healthcare providers. The increasing U.S. population and aging demographics contribute significantly to the shortages in physicians and behavioral healthcare providers. A deficiency of general surgeons in rural areas compounds the issue, as specialists are frequently not geographically close to these communities, compromising the access to care for rural residents.

To tackle challenges like physician burnout and staff shortages, healthcare organizations must explore both short- and long-term solutions for sustained success. Digital tools, in particular, offer a multitude of effective solutions.

The Power of Digital Tools 

As hospitals grapple with the challenges of physician burnout, there’s an increasing demand for improved and equitable access to care for patients. Employing the right tools can streamline care management for both patients and providers.

While no singular solution can address all of healthcare’s current issues, we’ve distilled our insights into several noteworthy digital initiatives that merit discussion.

1. Interoperability Across Technology Systems 

interoperability across technology systems which helps with worker burnout

Healthcare systems are embracing innovative technologies for substantial service improvements. An Electronic Health Record (EHR) system stands out as a prime example of a digital tool designed to alleviate care fragmentation. However, effectively introducing or managing such a system within your organization is a considerable challenge. As various departments in health systems integrate new technologies, a common issue arises: these technologies often lack interoperability, causing frustration and additional workload for staff.

Working towards better interoperability can alleviate some of the difficulties surrounding operations. Interoperability facilitates the exchange of health data between different systems, creating a more streamlined and effective health information ecosystem. This lessens the strain on those using and accessing the data. Digitizing and automating services, whether through third-party vendors or within the existing Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, is beneficial. It relieves healthcare workers from mundane administrative tasks, enhancing efficiency. (Note: that initiatives involving patient data sharing require significant involvement from your organization’s IT security and compliance stakeholders.)

Where to start: Modea recommends departments, such as marketing and IT, come together and audit the current technologies as well as the needs of the organization. Have you thought about creating journey maps for your staff? Consider how different members of your staff use various technologies and identify areas in their journeys that are complex and burdensome. 

We have worked with clients to create customer journey maps, as well as internal staff journey maps, so reach out to us if you would like to talk more in depth on this topic. 

2. Investing in Intranets For Staff and Providers   

investing in intranets for staff and providers which helps employee retention

An intranet is a private network within an organization and is used to securely share information and resources amongst employees. It encourages communication and allows employees to easily access important training, forms, and applications. An often overlooked digital tool in healthcare, an intranet, serves as a valuable tool and a facilitator in communication and employee engagement

Engaged employees are notably 87 percent less likely to leave an organization compared to their disengaged counterparts. Intranets offer social and collaborative features like comments, direct messaging, and document sharing. These features facilitate seamless communication and information sharing across departments, promoting efficiency and higher levels of engagement among staff.

Where to start: While most healthcare organizations have an intranet in place, they often lag in updates or improvements. We recommend initiating a survey for all employees to share feedback on their use of the existing intranet and suggest improvements. Recognizing diverse user needs, segmenting audiences can enhance tailored experiences. Ensuring anonymity encourages staff to candidly address daily challenges, aligning the organization on leveraging this data for meaningful changes. In the context of rising burnout among healthcare workers, prioritizing internal resources is as crucial as external patient-facing digital tools.

3. Open Scheduling and Online Visits

split image of a virtual appointment and an in-person appointment which helps staff shortages

On average, virtual appointments save patients and providers approximately 105 minutes compared to in-person care, eliminating the need for travel and waiting room time. Despite these advantages, healthcare organizations may be slow to adapt and implement the necessary digital tools for scheduling and facilitating online visits. Introducing open scheduling, allowing patients to make same-day appointments, can alleviate the stress healthcare workers experience when accommodating patients for the earliest available slots.

Embracing a hybrid care model offers positive upstream impacts, providing patients with easier access to the care they need, irrespective of their location and circumstances. Adopting a “consumer-first” approach to digital tools, enabling patients to search and find the right doctor for their condition, alleviates the staff burden of handling unnecessary calls and inquiries. This approach allows healthcare workers to concentrate on other essential tasks.

Where to start: Modea recommends beginning with organizational alignment on the approach to online scheduling and a hybrid care model. The most common barrier is open scheduling and provider reluctance to implement this due to less control over their schedules. 

4. Enable a Self-Service Patient Experience 

self-service patient experience using a healthcare website which boosts engagement

The information available on a healthcare website can assist patients in assessing whether they require care based on their symptoms. Access to accurate online information can prevent unnecessary appointments or visits to the wrong provider. Empowering patient self-service reduces the time and effort healthcare workers spend on scheduling and managing low-value appointments. Open scheduling serves as another form of patient self-service. Prioritizing healthcare staff’s time with patient-focused, streamlined solutions benefits both healthcare workers and patients.

Studies indicate that the U.S. healthcare system delivers a considerable amount of low-value care, defined as medical services with potential harm or high costs that often outweigh the benefits. This wasteful practice can result in overtesting, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment, contributing to an estimated annual cost exceeding $300 billion.

Mitigating wasted resources, time, and administrative work associated with unnecessary or low-value care appointments can be achieved by offering educational resources about conditions and health management on your clinic or hospital’s website. Providing valuable information not only enhances the educational aspect of users’ care journeys but also fosters trust and authority for the health organization. Websites play a critical role in addressing and resolving unmet healthcare needs.

Where to start: We recommend fostering internal alignment on viewing your website not merely as a “website” but as a crucial digital asset and tool for providing patient care. In today’s landscape, consumers can access care globally, and although self-service is unconventional in health management, many hospitals are integrating it. Conducting customer research illuminates patient preferences and desires, reinforcing the significance of digital investments. This approach ensures that your digital initiatives align with the evolving needs and expectations of your patients.

5. Embrace Mobile For All Audiences 

consumers access their care with mobile and boost engagement

Consider your mobile strategy. Having a well-thought-out mobile app that delivers a seamless experience provides another way for patients to trust your organization and access their care on a device most Americans already own. 

Developing a mobile app that revolutionizes how consumers access their care and enhances a healthcare organization’s digital footprint provides a personalized and customized experience unique to both the organization and the patient. This innovation strengthens the relationship with your brand. Mobile health apps are designed to complement in-person and online patient experiences, serving as an additional tool to enhance the overall patient journey. Even with complex Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems like EPIC and Cerner, there are opportunities to personalize the experience and create a proprietary app owned by your organization. Maintaining interoperability and unified data ensures seamless communication between systems, reducing additional workload for healthcare staff.

Value of an Internal Mobile App

Creating an internal mobile app for healthcare staff is a valuable way to enhance and streamline communication for employees who are often on the move within a hospital. This internal mobile app becomes a central hub for all employee needs, providing visibility into benefits and payroll information, enabling the submission and review of IT help desk tickets, offering quick access to company messages and news, facilitating targeted employee communications, and even serving as a platform for nurse schedule management.

To fully reap the benefits of your digital investment, educating patients and staff on how to use the apps will support self-service and increase engagement.  

Where to start:  Conduct thorough research on your competitors to understand the offerings and digital experiences they provide to their patients. When considering the development of a native mobile app or modifying an existing one, Modea can assist in the planning process and provide insights into the reasons supporting different approaches. With extensive experience in healthcare mobile apps, Modea can guide your organization towards creating the ideal mobile asset. Whether developing tools for internal use or patient-facing purposes, it’s crucial not to overlook the importance and convenience of mobile applications.

In Conclusion

As healthcare systems grow more complex and face constant pressure from both patients and internal stakeholders to enhance their digital tools and experiences, the introduction of emerging technologies adds to the challenges. To address healthcare burnout and foster cohesive communication between patients and providers, healthcare systems can benefit from collaborating with specialized technology consultants. This partnership aims to facilitate a seamless digital transformation journey, ensuring the effective integration of advanced technologies into the healthcare landscape.

Thinking about how your company needs to digitally transform? Modea can help you strategize and utilize the right tools for you.