May 19 2023

How Digitally Enabled Solutions Can Help with Healthcare Staff Retention

Healthcare organizations look to streamline HR and IT processes to improve employee experiences.

Most healthcare leaders will readily attest that employee retention is everything. If an organization’s mission is to provide top-quality patient care, it must first care for its staff.

For many health systems, supporting evidence can be found in the rising rate of clinician burnout. By one estimate, 1 in 4 medical professionals are considering leaving healthcare for other careers, and nearly 9 in 10 of those clinicians say burnout is the primary cause.

At the same time, those who are content with their professions are increasingly looking for new employers. In a continuously growing industry where many health systems are struggling to fill open positions, employees realize they can shop around for better opportunities.

With this in mind, healthcare organizations across the U.S. are focused on improving work experiences for employees, and some are leveraging digitally enabled tools to streamline HR and IT processes.

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Phoenix-based Banner Health is one of the country’s largest nonprofit health systems, operating in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. To enhance life at work for its employees, it turned to ServiceNow to improve contract management.

Before 2018, Banner Health IT Director Joseph Heinzman says, “there was no real automation behind contracting” at the organization. Whether it was bringing on a new provider or securing a new technology for patient care, “it usually entailed spreadsheets and a lot of emailing back and forth with little visibility into the process,” he says.

He and his team previously had “great success” deploying ServiceNow in IT for request fulfillment, Heinzman says, and they realized they could use it for other purposes as well. “We had the workflow engine already there and ready to be built out. It just made sense to piggyback off the same technology and apply it to our contract management system,” he says.

At the time, Heinzman says, the Banner Health legal department was managing about 98,000 contracts per year. It was also fielding about 2,000 new contract requests annually.

EXPLORE: Clinical automation offers relief amid staff shortages and rising burnout.

“Handling everything over email wasn’t a great way to go about it,” he says.

Senior IT Product Owner Monica Johnson, who worked on the project as a consultant before joining Banner Health full time, says the new system has paid dividends across the organization. Among the key benefits she cites are tracking functions to easily monitor where contracts are in the fulfillment process and automated alerting that helps ensure required forms are completed and signed. The IT and legal teams can use the system’s dashboard to make modifications and crunch contract data. From day one, everything is visible in real time to all of the parties involved.

Since the platform “has made contracting a lot more seamless,” it’s also helped Banner Health maintain its position as an industry leader, she adds.

“We’re onboarding doctors faster and making it easier for them so we can get them into hospitals and helping our patients,” Johnson says. “I think it has made us a better organization and a better place to work.”

Monica Johnson
We’re onboarding doctors faster and making it easier for them so we can get them into hospitals and helping our patients.”

Monica Johnson Senior IT Product Owner, Banner Health

Improvements in a ‘Decentralized World’ of Healthcare HR

A few years ago, Sanford Health’s HR department looked a lot like the ones at many other large organizations. Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., the rural health system’s HR team covered 240 locations across multiple states. Though its HR services were often exemplary, they didn’t always meet high expectations, says David Long, director of Sanford Health’s Employee Service Center and HR operations.

“Our HR world was a decentralized world,” Long says, which led to inefficiencies. The other major issue is that Sanford Health’s HR program was typically available only during traditional business hours. “That’s not good enough at a healthcare organization where people are working 24/7.”

Long and his team agreed there was room for improvement. “We knew we had to do a better job of providing HR information to our employees when and where they needed it,” he says. “That’s when we decided to use ServiceNow and to go down the path of creating an employee portal.”

The portal is an online tool that employees can use to get help with requests and questions across HR and IT, Long says. The platform combines two ServiceNow modules, HR Service Delivery and IT Service Management, and users can access it through a mobile app.

“At your desk, on your smartphone, in the middle of the night, on a Saturday or Sunday, it doesn’t matter,” Long says. “You can get information on just about anything.”

DISCOVER: How Atrium Health’s virtual nursing observation program mitigates clinician burnout.

If new employees have questions about their benefits or how to set up direct deposits, for example, they can log in to the portal and search by keyword to find an answer instantly.

What about a clinician who needs to take a leave of absence but doesn’t know where to begin? “All they have to do is type ‘leave,’” Long says, “and the search engine will get them everything they need.”

Brad Schoenfelder, who manages IT for human resources at Sanford Health as vice president of people solutions, says the tool’s self-service functionality is what makes it so valuable to the organization. Members of the HR department’s “knowledge” team produce custom content for the platform. The articles are then regularly edited and updated based on feedback from ServiceNow users.

The result is that the more the platform is used, the better it gets for everyone, Schoenfelder says. HR and IT alike benefit from automation, spending less time fielding routine calls and requests. And clinicians and other employees now have more freedom to help themselves at a time and place that’s convenient for them.

“Now they have what they want: information at their fingertips,” Schoenfelder says.

Meet Healthcare Employees Where They Are

Premise Health in Brentwood, Tenn., is using ServiceNow IT Service Management and other platform modules to consolidate and facilitate project management. “For us, it’s about supporting our team members so they can do their best work every day,” says Angela Maternowski, Premise Health’s vice president of service strategy and planning.

The organization has done so by making its technology stack easier for employees in two ways. First, Premise Health standardized and simplified workflows to reduce friction and improve efficiencies. Second, Maternowski says, it ensured that incidents and requests “reach the right people and the right teams at the right time.”

This helps minimize any potential miscommunication between end users and IT. It also leads to faster resolutions, she says, which improves end-user satisfaction.

READ MORE: Learn why ServiceNow is your enterprise engine for strategic IT.

Similar to Sanford Health, Premise Health relies heavily on the knowledge articles that team members have developed in ServiceNow. Its documents include tip sheets and how-to guides and are commonly used by a wide range of employees.

The IT team, for example, has a library of internal articles detailing the steps to follow in various incident management scenarios. For clinicians, the articles address common workplace pain points, including the electronic medical record.

“We all know the EMR can be frustrating for providers,” Maternowski says, explaining how her team met with clinicians to better understand the issues that concerned them most. Now, with the ServiceNow platform up and running, it’s become an easily accessible EMR information resource that providers use “on a daily basis,” she says.

Alex Nabaum/Theispot

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