Addressing Physician Burnout with Clinically-Focused Health IT Tech Support

The rapid rise in physician burnout has become a significant setback for the U.S. healthcare industry, with nearly 63% of physicians reporting burnout symptoms. Although clinician burnout has remained a top concern for healthcare organizations, IT leaders are not often seen as responsible for addressing this issue. Yet IT inefficiencies contribute to burnout's trickle down impact on organizational efficiency and patient care. With an inundation of digital transformation priorities, it's understandable that IT efforts to optimize provider support may have fallen on the backburner. However, health IT leaders must advance EHR support programs to facilitate an engaged, effective clinical workforce. Let's take a closer look at how providing meaningful, clinically-focused tech support can offer four key benefits to hospitals and health systems:

  1. Boost physician well-being and job satisfaction
    According to a recent survey, clerical duties and inefficient EHR systems are among the top contributors to clinical job dissatisfaction. In fact, an AMA playbook addresses how 50% of a physician's day is spent on EHR and administrative work. Alongside already demanding workloads, clinicians are responsible for using a myriad of digital health offerings that are continuously evolving. Pressures to constantly learn new technologies and applications can quickly become overwhelming, especially without effective tech support.

    By prioritizing clinically-focused support, health systems can reduce tech-related burnout and create higher job satisfaction among physicians. Without tailoring EHR optimization toward clinicians, providers can spend significant amounts of time on documentation afterhours. Conversely, with clinically consultative IT resources deployed, hospitals can address end-user workflow issues and deliver personalized EHR training, granting physicians personal time back. As the face of the IT department, through meaningful clinician-analyst interactions, the IT help desk can resolve provider issues on the first call, reducing repeated end-user errors. Reliable resolution minimizes frustrating care delays and disruptions, increasing clinician productivity.

    Improved EHR system support not only boosts physician satisfaction, but also increases physician loyalty to a health system. Remarkably, 89% of clinicians reported that their hospital loyalty was influenced by an excellent EHR end-user experience. In ongoing times of significant staffing shortages, effective IT support can offer a tangible way to reduce clinician turnover.

  2. Enhance organizational efficiency
    When clinical EHR usability is poor, organizational inefficiencies pile up. One major barrier to EHR use is "click fatigue," where more clicks than necessary are required to complete clinical tasks. This poor workflow not only causes burnout, but leads to issues in patient care processes and even care safety. One study suggests that the quality of clinical documentation decreased as the number of dialog boxes needed to record information increased. Expert IT support analysts can work with clinicians to bolster workflow management. Analysts should have significant clinical workflow experience and true understanding of the care journey to effectively reduce repetitive tasks or redundant practices. Clinician super user input across varying departments is vital when designing and testing applications, processes, and workflows, so IT can gain clinical perspective. Such tactics will ultimately enable clinicians to do more with their time and drive operational cost savings.

    Another way to improve organizational efficiency is to onboard new hires with proper EHR training from the start. Hospitals and health systems should dedicate time specifically for EHR orientation prior to clinicians ever seeing patients. One best practice is to establish an EHR peer mentor program that will continually support new users, allowing them to comfortably field questions and concerns to fellow peers. This can be especially helpful for younger physicians with limited bandwidth as they complete both medical and EHR training. With continued support from peers and expert IT resources, physicians are more likely to successfully utilize IT systems throughout their careers. This boosts organizational efficiency by allowing providers to see more patients each day, thus increasing revenue generating opportunities.

  3. Improve patient care experiences
    As physician burnout trickles down to impact patient care, health IT support programs need to drive more positive patient experiences. Unsurprisingly, survey results found that 85% of clinicians believe that lackluster technical support negatively impacts their ability to deliver effective patient care. Physician-patient interactions constrained by technical support issues or cumbersome EHR system requirements greatly impede a patients visit, making them more transactional or rushed.

    Obtaining more personalized, customized IT support allows providers quick data access and utilization for more informed care decision making. To accomplish this, some hospitals and health systems utilize a physician-only concierge line as a tool for eliminating clinical care delays. When providers receive priority IT response with no call backs, long wait times, or failed reroutes, physicians can engage in better quality care interactions. With such effective tech support, appointments, including virtual telehealth visits, run more smoothly, increasing time for vital patient care interactions.

    Ideally, health systems should aspire toward seamless continuity of support from Tier 1 to 2 needs, so even complex end-user inquiries are handled efficiently. However, this tailored support must extend around the clock, so clinicians working overnight aren't left with frustrating — potentially harmful — delays. By securing 24/7 flexible support, analyst staffing levels can adjust immediately based on project or operational demands. This offers providers optimal IT responsiveness for consistently positive patient experiences.

  4. Develop clinician digital literacy and know-how
    While IT departments juggle multiple priorities, they are also responsible for ensuring provider adoption, usage, and satisfaction when it comes to technology solutions. However, studies have found that nearly 95% of clinicians believe their ability to use EHRs could be improved. To bolster user know-how for greater EHR system ROI, health IT leaders must prioritize customized clinical support.

    It is important to seek out clinically consultative help desk resources, like clinical nurse analysts, who can empathetically communicate with providers. On the help desk, agents should understand clinical jargon and hospital workflow to provide efficient support and eliminate ticket bottlenecks. Health systems should also look for vendors who offer one-on-one provider sessions with an EHR-certified team. Such programs can address individualized EHR issues, education gaps and customization requests in virtual at-elbow appointments for clinicians' convenience. For continued support, personalized how-to instructions should then be available for physicians to use as future reference. This approach transforms the ticket-taking help desk into a true support desk.

By elevating clinically-focused tech support, hospitals and health systems can reduce clinician burnout and related turnover, prompt more efficient patient care interactions, and elicit more revenue generating opportunities. Despite competing departmental priorities, IT teams must lean into their responsibility to promote effective provider support for long-term organizational success.

To see additional health IT support program practice tips, visit the Stoltenberg blog. Stoltenberg Blog.

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