May 04 2022

ATA2022: Tips to Reduce Clinician Burnout and Improve the Patient Experience

While virtual care technologies and other digital health tools aim to improve care delivery, they can lead to frustration or additional work if not implemented with clinicians and patients in mind.

Physician burnout costs the U.S. healthcare industry an estimated $4.6 billion a year, and 34 percent of nurses plan to leave their current role by the end of 2022. In addition to staff shortages, clinicians increasingly must spend time outside of working hours going through their inboxes and filling out documentation, all of which contributes to burnout.

As healthcare systems continue to adopt digital health tools, it’s important to take measures to mitigate clinician burnout while also considering ways to improve the patient experience with these technologies. These topics were covered in sessions at the American Telemedicine Association’s ATA2022 conference in Boston.

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How to Best Support Clinicians and Reduce Burnout

In the session “Coping with Burnout: Supporting Clinician and Workforce Engagement, Wellness and Resiliency,” Marlene McDermott, vice president of therapy services at Array Behavioral Care, said many clinicians are resigning because they have more choices, especially in behavioral health where recognition of the field’s importance is growing.

“We have to take care of our clinicians really well. Many are leaving because private practices are booming as a result of telehealth,” she said. “We have to take care of them to keep them.”

Peter Yellowlees, professor of psychiatry and chief wellness officer at UC Davis Health, said that while UC Davis has experienced nursing staff resignations, especially within the ICU and emergency department, he hasn’t seen many physicians leaving. He expects that could change in the near future. However, he thinks most will stay in medicine and the resignations will result in movement throughout the system, creating disruption for patients but not necessarily reducing clinical hours.

three people participate in ATA2022 panel discussion

Tania Malik, Co-Founder of Virtual Medical Services; Marlene McDermott, Vice President of Therapy Services at Array Behavioral Care; and Peter Yellowlees, Professor of Psychiatry and Chief Wellness Officer at UC Davis Health discuss tips for mitigating clinician burnout during an ATA2022 session.

To help support clinicians, UC Davis Health developed a peer responder system that trained 600 nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other staff to be peer responders. Yellowlees said the responders are identified on their buddy badges and are trained to listen and offer to support to those who need it. They can also escalate a response if needed.

Another way to mitigate clinician burnout is to reduce the documentation burden and the amount of emails physicians have to read and respond to. UC Davis Health has employed people to triage inboxes and also reduced the number of administrative emails.

To help with the documentation burden, McDermott suggested implementing technology that allows for concurrent documentation. Clinicians can remain in a session while documenting the encounter.

DISCOVER: Learn how partner-delivered IT services help mitigate the effects of staff shortages.

“Patient and staff experience and engagement need to be part of an organization’s strategic planning. It’s important to consider staff at the same level as the patient,” said Yellowlees. “We should be patient-centered, but we also want to be staff-centric.”

He recommended organizations set up a way to let any staff member directly submit ideas or feedback. A method for responding and following up on submissions also needs to be implemented so it’s clear to clinicians that leadership is listening to them.

Tips to Improve the Patient Experience with Telehealth

Ensuring patients have a good experience with telehealth and virtual care is key to its long-term success. In the session “The Telehealth Experience: What Is It Actually Like on the Other End?”, panelists discussed how to build more inclusive, accessible and equitable telehealth programs.

Dr. Lisa Levine, strategic adviser for the MAVEN Project, explained that it’s important to communicate with patients prior to an appointment so they know what vitals they need to check. If they don’t have that information ready for the appointment, then a diagnosis could be missed or they might need to schedule a second appointment.

“People sometimes can’t afford a scale to measure their weight before an appointment. If a clinician needs a patient’s weight, they should give them time to get that metric from somewhere that has a scale,” she said. “It sounds basic, but in every experience, I’ve been almost embarrassed at how unprepared I was for an appointment, and all I do is telehealth. I’m busy, and I didn’t get any reminders. If it’s happening to me, it’s happening to a lot of folks.”

five people on stage for panel discussion at ATA2022

Marc Bard, CEO and Founder of MB2; Damayanti Dipayana, CEO and Co-Founder of Manatee; Michelle Turner, National Director of Clinical Talent and Delivery at Hazel Health; Dr. Claritza Rios, Medical Director of National Palliative Care Strategy and Operations and Associate Medical Director of Virtual Care for Cityblock Health; and Dr. Lisa Levine, Strategic Adviser for MAVEN Project discuss how to improve the patient experience on telehealth visits at ATA2022.

Dr. Claritza Rios, medical director of national palliative care strategy and operations and associate medical director of virtual care for Cityblock Health, emphasized the importance of building out training and protocols for setting up telehealth visits, such as conducting technology checks prior to the appointment to ensure a good telehealth experience for both patients and clinicians.

“We want to build a product that makes clinicians amazing. If I have to keep clicking through things, I’ll be distracted during my time with the patient,” said Rios. “We want to make it so clinicians can do what they do best.”

Michelle Turner, national director of clinical talent and delivery at Hazel Health, said telehealth can give healthcare organizations the opportunity to better match patients with providers who share their language, ethnicity, military affiliation, gender or religion. She often works with schools and said that she immediately asks about their demographics and uses that as her marching orders for hiring therapists.

“The great thing about telehealth is you can match much better when dealing with a pool of providers from around the state rather than a therapist who has to be in that school,” she said. “It’s incredible. Every single child and patient should be able to see themselves in their provider or provider team. Representation is important and deserves attention and intentionality.”

Damayanti Dipayana, CEO and co-founder of Manatee, agreed. She added that it’s important to discuss these things, as well as hobbies, in consultations to create a match that will best serve the patient.

Keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing coverage of ATA2022, which took place May 1–3 in Boston. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #ATA2022.

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