Getting clinicians involved with tech can limit burden concerns

Healthcare organizations’ concerns about an overburdened clinician workforce have been growing, and many are hoping to find a technological quick fix to reverse the course.

Although there’s no such thing as a quick fix, some basic tenets of success, including engaging clinicians in tech development, can help to sculpt solutions that relieve some burdens on front-line caregivers, said presenters at Wednesday’s HDM KLASroom.

The issue of clinician burnout is critical; some 25 percent of clinicians in a recent survey by KLAS Research reported they expected to leave their jobs in the next two years, according to Jason Hess, vice president of provider success at KLAS, an Orem, Utah-based consultancy.

Keys to success

Taking the initiative to involve clinicians in technology development is one key step to ensuring the tech will meet clinicians’ needs and gain their support, said Dawn Walters, system senior director of informatics for The University of Kansas Health System.

The organization has solicited clinician engagement in digital health initiatives, generating copious feedback, Walters noted. “It comes to the point where we had too much engagement, and it ends up paralyzing us,” she said. The organization aimed to be responsive to clinician needs and tried to fulfill every request, but realized that it needed more structure to handle customization requests.

As a result, the health system is refining how it makes tech changes, she said. For example, it classifies them into two categories – small customization requests or larger changes to its records systems that would impact multiple users. It’s using an approach that “adjudicates both the small and large requests,” weighing them against organizational readiness to respond and whether resources are available to make the changes.

The ability to be responsive is crucial in achieving what it sees as three pillars of clinician satisfaction – personalization, shared ownership and governance.

“The question is achieving the right balance, figuring out the right touchpoints to make sure people still feel engaged – how to get them connected to the governance so they still feel they have that voice in the system,” Walters concluded.

Support that wins the day

Clinicians are open to a variety of efforts that can provide relief, said Christine Williams, director of health information management at University of Wisconsin Health.

During the HDM KLASroom event, Williams provided an update about how her organization, a Madison-based system with seven hospitals, is using a “virtual scribe” program based on services from AQuity Solutions that minimizes the need for physicians to extensively document care in EHRs.

A pilot effort involving 100 physicians demonstrated financial benefits stemming from freeing up time for physicians to treat more patients, Williams said. Now, the program is being expanded to provide virtual scribe support to about 300 clinicians.

Benefits of the project are felt throughout the organization because the scribes’ documentation often is more complete than clinicians would provide, meeting information management department requirements for coding and quality data, Williams said.

Clinician burnout is often attributed to EHR documentation demands, said Dale Kivi, senior director of communications for AQuity Solutions. Much of that burden is endemic to the United States, where more documentation is demanded of clinicians to meet reimbursement and quality requirements, he noted. “To address clinician burdens, we really need to look at these requirements on the back end,” he added.

Watch the entire series or individual HDM KLASroom sessions on-demand

Watch the HDM KLASroom on-demand - Improving the Clinician & Care Team Experience

Learn more about Episode 3 - HDM KLASroom episode 3 – Data where I need it, when I need it

Learn more about Episode 2 - Improving the clinician & care team experience – Episode 2 

Learn more about Episode 1 - Improving the clinician & care team experience – Episode 1

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