Mar 14 2024
Digital Workspace

HIMSS24: How Health Systems Are Changing to Enhance the Staff Experience

Healthcare leaders discuss their journeys in operational transformation and look at new tools to improve workflows.

Healthcare worker burnout remains a critical issue in the industry amid ongoing concerns over current and projected shortages and growing patient expectations.

The U.S. surgeon general’s office issued an advisory in 2022 on the burnout crisis, highlighting statistics such as nurses spending 41 percent of their time on the electronic health record and documentation, and physicians spending two hours on the EHR and other administrative tasks for every hour of direct patient care.

And the year before that, a symposium led by the American Medical Informatics Association released recommendations and calls to action to reduce documentation burdens on clinicians by 75 percent by 2025.

Healthcare leaders at the 2024 HIMSS global conference and exhibition shared their perspectives and lessons learned from addressing burnout, highlighting technology solutions and key operational changes that are likely making a difference in improving clinician experience — which can ultimately boost the patient experience.

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Healthcare Organizations Can’t Shy Away from Change

The connecting thread throughout these educational sessions was the need for healthcare organizations to rethink operations and improve work experiences across the board.

Children’s Hospital Colorado shared its arduous journey in transforming its approach to data analytics and building its stand-alone Analytics Resource Center. The effort required a culture change that affected key team structures and standardized its data governance.

LEARN MORE: Get the details on the updated INFRAM from HIMSS.

Kerri Webster, vice president and chief analytics officer at Children's Hospital Colorado, discussed how the health system’s previous transactional analytics approach was not scalable and that moving away from that produced some friction.

“Analytics isn’t about data, it’s about problems,” she said. Now that the health system has shifted from shadow analytics toward more big-picture thinking, Webster said that has led to work with impactful outcomes, including a highly accurate predictive census that improves real-time hospital staffing and can even support long-term planning.

Be Intentional with New Solutions and Optimize Existing Investments

In discussing the addition of new technologies, Imprivata Chief Nursing Informatics Officer Claire Reilly stressed the importance of engaging nurses early on. After all, the tech that nurses use can often influence interactions with patients.

“If we get it right with nurses, then patients are taken care of,” Reilly said.

Sherri Hess, vice president and chief nursing informatics officer at HCA Healthcare, said that professional development should include technological solutions, such as offering virtual nursing roles to retain experienced members and support newly trained nurses. “What can we do to make our nurses more efficient?” she asked.

Click the banner to discover how health IT solutions can help create an integrated care experience.

At a session about UNC Health’s inventive mobile app, Dan Dodson, system director of digital health and innovation, discussed the app’s evolution from a patient-facing wayfinding tool to a resource also used by the health system’s staff.

Because new and temporary staff members were having issues navigating the sprawling UNC Health campus, they also relied on the app to navigate. Now, the UNC Health app is incorporated into new employee orientation.

EXPLORE: Here's how health systems are using telehealth and data to transform access to care. 

The health system is piloting a “team experience” version of the app that can be logged in to using the same credentials as members would use on other work devices and can be accessed only through an internally distributed QR code.

“We’re trying to maximize the value of what we’ve already invested in,” Dodson said.

Use Automation to Personalize Care and Delight Team Members

Leaders from California-based El Camino Health and New York-based Northwell Health discussed their experiences in deploying patient-facing chatbots that have transformed workflows and provided a more personalized touch-to-care delivery.

Kathleen Mazza, clinical informatics consultant at Northwell Health, shared an anecdote about a patient who was surprised when he got immediate contact with a nurse through the chatbot system when he couldn’t get as timely of a response as a patient within hospital walls.

DIVE DEEPER: Catch up on the HIMSS24 keynote address on the future of care.

That’s why Northwell Health leaders stressed the importance of an automated solution that drives action — patients do not want to answer all these survey questions only to be met with silence from their clinical teams. The chatbot helps patients receive the right care at the right time.

“We’re trying to overcome these fundamental problems,” said Dr. Zenobia Brown, senior vice president and associate chief medical officer at Northwell Health, as she talked about how depersonalized healthcare has become.

El Camino Health CIO Deb Muro echoed that goal. She described how deploying a chatbot requires defined operational workflows and clarity on the problem that must be solved — “rethinking the way we’ve done healthcare in the past,” she said.

At another session, Dr. Ann Cappellari, chief medical information officer at Missouri-based SSM Health, discussed the health system’s adoption of ambient clinical documentation in 2020.

Because clinicians have so much to do during the day, they often push documentation down their list of tasks and end up completing it after hours. Ambient clinical documentation is helping alleviate those administrative tasks and has become even more meaningful with the advent of generative artificial intelligence.

Since SSM Health has deployed Nuance DAX, Cappellari said, clinicians have shared positive feedback. One clinician said that using the solution has returned valuable personal time.

WATCH: Best practices to boost connected device security from a Cleveland Clinic leader. 

In a highly regulated, risk-averse industry, Cappellari said, the EHR is a fitting starting point to try new technologies. And it’s better for health systems to test new solutions than stew in their problems. “The only wrong is doing nothing, because that will just leave you further and further behind every year,” she said.

Ambient technologies have the potential to help with myriad administrative tasks, such as coding, prior authorization, lab orders, prescriptions, imaging translation and cardiology referral. Reducing administrative burdens will help clinicians reconnect with patients so that the idea of healing can return to its human context.

“Use the technology to bring the humanity back,” Cappellari said.

Keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing coverage of HIMSS24. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #HIMSS24.

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