Reduce Physician Burnout by Becoming a “Dot Connecting” Organization

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Earlier this month, I hosted a webinar about combating physician burnout by shifting to value-based culture.

Although burnout is common in many professions, the negative impact of physician burnout is substantial. Burnout often links to low job satisfaction, a decline in patient outcomes, and an overall decline in healthcare delivery. Recognizing the causes of burnout and implementing the right solutions improves both medical professionals’ outlook and how they tend to their patients.

The Main Causes of Physician Burnout

The first step is finding the root of burnout. According to the 2019 Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report, the top cause (59%) of physician burnout is the bureaucracy involved in their day-to-day. Continuous charting, new government regulations, and paperwork translate to less time spent with individual patients­­­­. The next main cause (34%) is not exclusive to the medical field: long hours that create an unbalanced work-life ratio. This situation worsens over time and can create personal and professional strain. The third major reason (32%) for physician burnout is frustration with electronic health record integration into basic job functions.

Framework for Success: Our 6 “Dots”

With a value-based care mentality, clear communication, and proper planning, physician burnout will decrease while dramatically improving financial and health-related outcomes. During our engagements with a wide range of physician partners, we have concluded that the key to reducing burnout is simple: an organization must be clear in its mission, goals, and expectations of the physician community.

When physicians have clarity on what is being measured and what the expectations are, they align their workflows and best practices with the objective in mind. At Lightbeam, our model for clear, strategic delivery is what we refer to as the “dot-connecting framework.” The dot-connecting framework is built on the philosophy that most organizations have all of the data they need to make actionable decisions. In fact, we have mastered the ability to collect and store these dots. Data aggregated within our population health management platform provides insights on patient conditions, financial trajectory, and care gaps within an organization. What separates successful groups from those that struggle is the ability to turn insights into action; they move from collecting the dots to connecting them.

Our Dots:

Identify

Step one of connecting the dots is the identification stage. This is the starting point where we look primarily at the numbers and direct clinical outcomes of proposed initiatives. Speaking for our process at Lightbeam, we begin by doing a 360-degree deep dive with an organization. We examine the total cost of care and associated opportunities to reduce costs year after year. We deploy a variety of tools and look across operational channels, clinical outcomes, and financial benchmarks to discover total opportunity and determine the best path forward.

Prioritize

After the areas of improvement are established from the data, we zero in on what requires the most attention. The best method I have found to organize potential initiatives is making a comprehensive list. This sounds simple, but it is necessary to understand and make informed decisions on what the strategic focus should be. Once a list is made, we take this down to a deeper level and discern what the most severe problems are—the prioritizing stage of connecting the dots. Picking the top four to five areas of need, we determine the category they fall under, the suggested solution to the problem, the opportunity’s value (both monetarily and its patient impact), and what we need to generate results.

Design

This step is critical to the process and often fast-tracked. Once both preparation stages are complete, we create a cohesive design for how to accomplish the client’s goals. The focus in the design stage is promoting clarity ahead of time so that implementation runs smoothly. We suggest creating educational materials to disseminate across a practice about the initiative, like a brochure or flyer. This resource should restate the problem, why it is a pressing matter, reiterate the opportunities, and list the strategic plans to put into action. A checklist visual helps keep a team on track and motivates providers.

Deploy

When the design aspect of the plan is finished, the client deploys their team. During this action stage, Lightbeam Advisory Services suggests four things:

  • Find a champion. We refer to primary advocates of these initiatives as “champions.” They are medical directors, physicians, chief medical officers, and others who are trusted resources as projects get underway. A team member should feel confident in expressing opinions honestly or addressing any frustrations with these individuals.
  • Ask questions. The only way these initiatives work is when there is open communication. Asking questions is crucial, and different perspectives lead to effective problem-solving. We suggest having meetings daily to keep everyone on the same page and encourage a common communication standard.
  • Cultivate adopters. Cultivating adopters of healthcare initiatives early on leads to a higher rate of success. Start the dialogue as soon as a discrepancy presents itself in the data.
  • Build bridges. Collaborative environments, especially those centered on bettering the lives of physicians and their patients, are poised for success when they work together. Building bridges across areas of expertise and specialties leads to results.

Monitor

To monitor progress, we determine the most logical way of measuring a campaign’s results to uncover the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). In short, the monitor process is figuring out what is working and what is not yielding any results for an organization. Staying on top of the metrics allows for quick correction, which brings us into the next stage: refining and scaling.

Refine and Scale

One of our primary roles as Lightbeam advisors is guiding clients through each dot. We lead successful campaigns year after year, but each one is different based on the objective, the medical team, and the demographics of patients. Oftentimes there is trial and error when it comes to finding the best approach. We refine what we are doing, adjust if necessary, measure, and meet with our clients on a quarterly basis.

Connecting the Dots Benefits Everyone Involved

Physician burnout is a condition that impacts the physical and mental wellness, motivation, and quality of care in healthcare professionals. Connecting the dots provides a physician with not only personal benefits, but greater efficiency in their practices, savings, and healthier patients.

Learn how Lightbeam Health Solutions can help you connect the dots and reduce burnout in your organization. Here are some resources to help guide you through operationalizing value-based care:

Princeton HealthCare System Case Study

RGVHA’s Commitment to Continuous Quality and Cost Improvements

Josh Patten

Read more from Josh Patten, Lightbeam’s Director of Advisory Services.

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