Four ways to embrace process and technology to fight burnout in specialties

Special efforts must be made to use improved processes and technologies to aid patient experience and reduce burnout.

This article is part of the February 2023 COVERstory.

According to a recent Medical Economics study, administrative burden and paperwork, managing payments, and influx of patients and physician burnout were the top three hurdles specialty physicians and practices are currently navigating. Adding to this, McKinsey reported that 36 percent of activities that healthcare employees perform could be automated.

Considering these circumstances, specialty practices have several unique challenges – from profitability and sustainable growth while also providing a high-quality, personalized healthcare experience for their patients. These reports show the importance of having predictable, repeatable and scalable processes in place to alleviate unnecessary burnout of the clinical staff – a critical concern of all healthcare providers today – and build a high-growth specialty practice that remains competitive, agile and profitable.

For specialty practices, having predictable, repeatable and scalable processes act as the foundation for practice operations and enables the business to perform efficiently and smoothly. Furthermore, technology can drastically assist with both the implementation of these processes but also provide additional flexibility to scale and adjust these workflows, depending on the practices demands by staff, local economics and the patient experience. Having the right processes in place is a critical component of making the most out of the technology used. 

Making a predictable, repeatable process

A repeatable process can be replicated with a predictable outcome, and without it, a practice risks inconsistent quality and precision of outcomes. Every repeatable process should include a framework to structure the process spanning the following variables and resources: 

  • • Roles and responsibilities
  • • Policies and procedures
  • • Workflows
  • • Checklist
  • • Templates
  • • Forms
  • • Additional job aids

Providing clarity in these areas enables every team member to interact with this process to be in sync with one another and ultimately help serve the larger business operations and a better patient experience. 

What makes a scalable process? 

As critical as predictable and repeatable processes, scalable processes enable the growth of an organization to maintain or adjust the practice productivity. For a process to be scalable, it needs to be able to withstand various factors and stressors, have no single point of failure, and facilitate growth on or around the process. Some indicators that a process might not be scalable includes having a single point of failure, not being accessible, or lacking a defined process. 

To create a scalable process, current processes must be evaluated to understand how and when the tools and technologies are being used and to understand the dependencies between the tools, technologies and teams. After an audit is completed, an implementation can be done and those processes become integral to its long-term scalability. 

Four keys to a successful implementation

  • 1. Measure: Assessment of metrics and reporting provides insight into how the process is performing and areas where it could be improved. 
  • 2. Communicate: Strong communication with stakeholders to promote understanding of inputs, execution and the results of the process. 
  • 3. Train: Training is crucial for stakeholders to understand their changing roles and responsibilities.
  • 4. Adopt: Implement processes that support your organization’s financial integrity and security.

Being able to produce more of a desired outcome in a timely and efficient manner is what makes a scalable process incredibly powerful. 

Automation of those initiatives – using technology – is a reliable way to strengthen scalable process. Thoughtful and agile practice management solutions can enhance human productivity while reducing human error, limiting human touch and eliminating steps within the process. All these experiences improve the clinical experience of the practice operations and – ultimately – improve the patients’ experience of care. 

The experience of care by patients is increasingly correlated to better health outcomes and scalable processes provide a critical path for improving that overall experience of care. There are several ways in which providers can integrate technology with those processes to also improve the experience of care by the clinical teams as well.

The following are some examples:

Electronic intake forms. Electronic intake forms or electronic health records (EHR) enable an organization to take on new patients without increasing the administrative burden – both for the clinical team and the patient. These forms improve the patient experience by making accessing their health records and registering for visits more accessible. Patients can view their electronic intake forms from their home computer, laptop or mobile device. These forms do not need to be manually scanned; they are automatically stored which eliminates tedious tasks from your admin staff’s to-do list. These forms are also HIPAA compliant and transferrable, eradicating any stress over legal stipulations and enabling easy sharing among other clinical and non-clinical care partners, such as other providers, schools and employers.  

Online scheduling. Online scheduling enables patients to schedule their visits via an online patient portal, sometimes featuring a chat bot to assist the scheduling process, and other tasks patients with which might need help. Most online patient portals enable patients to be able to edit their scheduled appointment as much as 24 hours before visits, making the appointment-scheduling process more convenient and streamlining the administrative process. Online scheduling helps cut wasteful spending by reducing the need to hire additional clerical staff, decreasing the phone bill and broadly makes scheduling more efficient and enjoyable. 

Online portal and private messaging. Alongside online scheduling, online portals with secure message are a streamlined and cost-effective option for patient-provider communication. These HIPAA-compliant messaging portals enable patients to be able to directly message their providers with questions and concerns. Patients also can access their patient information like upcoming appointments, appointment notes, progress reports and payment information. Providers can respond to patient inquiries within their own time, which alleviates unnecessary time constraints for clinicians.  

Offer telehealth and virtual visits. Virtual visits enable providers to administer care via video. This type of care has increased in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to prove clinical advantages. These visits offer efficient and time-effective ways to provide care. Often, these virtual visits are sufficient for initial consultations or additional check-ups. Depending on the type of practice, these visits may even be sufficient in providing ongoing care. 

Scalable, predictable and repeatable processes enable an organization to run more efficiently while creating a better experience for patients and a better work environment for staff, which helps to improve health outcomes for patients while combating clinician burnout. The key to instituting this process is simplicity and flexibility. Provider executives need to concentrate on creating systems that are user friendly and can adapt to the growth and changes of their organizations.

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