employee engagement

New EMR/burnout study: Can your practice benefit from its findings?

A new PAMF (Palo Alto Medical Foundation) study on the connection between EMR and physician burnout is getting a lot of attention. The study has limitations (e.g., it focuses on one organization, one EMR and set of workflows, and it aims to infer much from a single question). But despite the need for caveats, the study is valuable because it confirms what intuition suggests about EMRs and physicians' stress. What's more, the authors tested workflow modifications and found they helped alleviate EMR-related burnout at PAMF. You can read about the study here. To summarize it, the study validated that when EMRs encourage message overload, they significantly increase physician stress. The study found that about half of all messages the physicians in the PAMF study received were EMR-generated--i.e., things like health maintenance alerts and medication reminders that the system generates automatically. The researchers found that many of these messages could be handled, or at least triaged, by other members of the care team. For example, medication messages could be routed first to a pharmacist, who would involve the physician only if needed. Nurses and MAs could also handle much of the automated message volume, such as follow-up appointment reminders. Not surprisingly, when PAMF experimented with diverting these lower-complexity messages to others, the burden (and stress) on physicians decreased substantially. Can PAMF's solution work in your practice? PAMF is a large, integrated healthcare organization. Healthcare Dive reported that PAMF launched an initiative called MIST--Multi-Disciplinary Inbox Support Team--to test the idea of sharing the message workload. One year in, MIST seems to have helped reduce physician message loads (and stress) substantially. But what if your practice is not a huge organization with IT and workflow experts or pharmacists on staff? In our consulting work, we often recommend practices involve staff in more meaningful work. To enable physicians to focus as much as possible on tasks that only they can do (working at the top of their licenses), everyone else needs to do as much as they can. Expanding the roles of staff -- within their skills and scope, of course -- can help

By |2022-01-01T22:51:44-08:00July 7th, 2019|

From manager to leader [practice management tip: leadership]

Working in a medical practice, whether on the clinical or the administrative side, amplifies any tendencies one might have to try to do and control everything personally. Given the potential for serious consequences (to both health and finances), it’s not surprising that responsible healthcare professionals focus intensely on getting every detail right. The problem is that trying to do it all yourself has serious consequences of its own. It can even lead to the very problems you’re trying to avoid. When an employee first takes on management responsibility – such as when workload grows, and staff are added to handle it – personally doling out tasks may seem like the best way to utilize a new staff resource. But it’s not scalable. As the team expands, it gets harder and harder for a supervisor to manage the workflow while overseeing tasks so closely. That puts a hard limit on the amount of work the team can accomplish – and it puts the supervisor at high risk for burnout. The staff in these roles will also find them stifling – which can lead to poor morale and turnover that cut productivity. Designing jobs so that employees feel a sense of growth, independence, and accomplishment is a key competency for new managers who want to become leaders. The goal should be to help all employees reach their potential through work. Allowing employees to stretch and learning to trust them with critical jobs can be challenging for managers who’ve been promoted because they have been the best in those same roles. But if managers don’t learn to do this, they hurt the practice. They will also limit their own professional growth. Planning for succession is an essential part of managing well. If your practice or a key department would fall apart if the manager leaves, that’s a management failure. A strong manager always adds value in the job, but also organizes their team so that work gets done without micromanaging. If you’re a practice owner or a practice leader who manages other managers, give some thought to how well-prepared your teams are to

By |2022-01-01T22:51:45-08:00November 28th, 2018|

Patient rudeness affects physician performance — what should practices do about it?

A new study from the University of Florida found that patients' rudeness towards their physicians can have a "devastating" impact on medical care. Patient rudeness may play a critical role in medical errors, which by some analyses are now the third leading cause of death in the US. The Florida researchers determined that patient rudeness causes more than 40% variability in hospital physician performance. (By contrast, poor judgment due to lack of sleep led to a 10-20% variance.) The reason for the huge variance is that despite intentions to 'shake it off,' experiencing rudeness disrupts cognition, even when physicians are determined to remain objective. The researchers found that key cognitive activities such as diagnosing, care planning, and communication are all affected -- and the effects last the entire day. The study suggests that patients need to understand the potential for rude behavior to  undermine their care, even when clinicians try their best to be patient and understanding, and even when the rudeness is driven by understandable frustration. But I think the results are also a reminder to practices to try to limit patient frustrations in the first place. Doctors often bear the brunt of patient rudeness when aggravation and anxiety boil over, even though most of what bothers patients happens before they even see their physician.  Because administrative issues are frequently the source of dissatisfaction, it's possible for practice staff to prevent or ameliorate many blow-ups. Doing so may help patients have more productive visits with their clinicians, while also helping to protect the practice's reputation and maintain a pleasant work environment for the entire team. If you're concerned about emotional patients disrupting your practice, here are a few ideas to consider: Evaluate, minimize your wait times. A long, unexpected wait in reception is a sure-fire source of patient frustration. When it happens in your practice, is it a rarity or SOP? If running significantly behind is an everyday occurrence your practice, consider a review of your scheduling processes, to come up with a schedule that is attainable. And make sure your front and back office staff are working together

By |2022-01-01T22:51:53-08:00January 15th, 2017|
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