Becker's 12th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 4 Questions with Helen Riess, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Empathetics, Inc.

Helen Riess, MD, serves as Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Empathetics, Inc. 

Helen will serve on the panel "The Impact of Empathy on Burnout: Building Foundations and Shattering Myths that affect Engagement and Profitability" at Becker's Hospital Review 12th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place in Chicago from April 25-28, 2022. 

To learn more about the conference and Helen's session, click here.

Question: What are your top priorities for 2022?

Helen Riess: The parallel epidemic of burnout has affected healthcare workers globally, leading to an increase in plans to abandon the profession, depression and moral injury. My top priority is to introduce the concept of Institutional Empathy, shifting the emphasis of empathy from clinicians towards patients to institutional leadership towards their employees. This shift will help healthcare systems increase job satisfaction and reduce costly events such as staff departures and malpractice claims. Clinicians cannot effectively care for others if they are depleted themselves.We must prioritize empathy for both providers and patients to reignite the passion, purpose and meaning that drew our colleagues to the healthcare profession originally.

Q: What technologies and innovations are you most excited about in healthcare right now?

HR: I’m excited about the pivot to elearning in medical education. With self-paced online education becoming increasingly interactive and effective, we can now combine “just in time learning” through short-form courses and our mobile application to provide 'always on' reinforcement to empathy education. We're proud that we can effect meaningful improvements in patient provider experience, and recognize the cascading impact it generates in revenue growth and risk mitigation.

Q: What will be the lasting legacy of COVID-19 on the healthcare system?

HR: The COVID pandemic has unmasked undeniable challenges in healthcare. These include health disparities, unequal access to care, provider burnout, and malpractice claims. The best outcome of the pandemic would be the collective recognition and resolution of these problems to establish equal access for people of all backgrounds. An additional legacy would be the evolution of healthcare systems who value and invest in the health and mental health of their employees. These investments in employee wellness will also decrease the likelihood of malpractice claims by decreasing tensions and communication breakdowns between patients and providers, which are key drivers of claims in more than 80% of cases.

Q: What advice do you have for emerging healthcare leaders today?

HR: Today’s healthcare leaders must put their employees first. For too long, the medical profession has encouraged and relied on selflessness, stoicism, and institutional loyalty from the workforce to provide good patient care. Healthcare workers are human beings who need replenishment, support, and gratitude for their service in order to perform at the top of their license and maintain their passion for the work. Today’s leaders must invest in the wellbeing of health professionals and understand that there is no health system without them. We’ve proven that such investments pay off immediately for patients, clinicians, and healthcare organizations.

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