Addressing clinician burnout through unified communications and consolidated scheduling

The systems used by clinicians to communicate and align themselves around patient care, and to set their own work schedules, are in need of an overhaul.

During a June Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by PerfectServe, Ben Moore, chief product officer at PerfectServe, and Nicholas Perkins, DO, associate chief medical informatics officer at Greenville, S.C.-headquartered Prisma Health, discussed how technology can alleviate longstanding clinician communication and scheduling challenges.

Three key takeaways were:

  1. Antiquated clinical communication systems increase medical errors, delays in patient care and clinician frustration. Despite numerous technological advances in the healthcare industry, many of the systems that clinicians use today to communicate with each other are a relic of the past. There is still a reliance on pagers, faxes, telephony and secretaries with institutional knowledge who can get hold of a particular staff member in case of an emergency. But these channels imply time lags, are not HIPAA-compliant and are unreliable when information consistently needs to be conveyed and quickly acted upon. 

"We were constantly reviewing issues where our root cause analysis would point to a breakdown in communication," Dr. Perkins said, describing the situation he observed when he joined Prisma (then Greenville Health System) in 2011. "It put patients at harm, it made them think we were incompetent, it frustrated nursing and ancillary staff and it frustrated physicians."

Mr. Moore added that during a prolonged hospital stay when his newborn daughter was in intensive care, he was alarmed by the cognitive load and time commitment imposed on care teams left to figure out with whom they should be communicating. "It's not uncommon to find seven to eight to twelve different communication systems being used for similar but overlapping purposes within a single health system," he noted. 

  1. Scheduling challenges compound the communication problem and contribute to clinician and staff burnout. Like the non-interfaced, disjointed systems that clinicians use to communicate among themselves, the hosting and management of clinician schedules are often ad-hoc. Some schedules are uploaded to Microsoft Outlook, others to Excel spreadsheets and yet others are circulated via email or fax. As a result, if a clinician's availability changes and there is no easy way to reflect that across the organization, they may end up being scheduled to work or be on call unbeknownst to them, or even disturbed while they are on vacation. "We have to centralize how we host our schedules," Dr. Perkins said.
  1. User-centric technology can unify communications, consolidate scheduling and spot risk of burnout. PerfectServe's intuitive technology suite goes a long way toward alleviating clinician frustration. It achieves this by:
  • Connecting individual providers' preferred communication endpoints (e.g., phones, pagers, email) to a single platform that 'formats' and dispatches incoming inquiries to the provider's endpoint of choice.
  • Providing a bird's eye view of shift and on-call provider schedules.
  • Scanning for burnout risk by assigning a "burnout score" to each task within provider schedules. 

This multifunctional design allows providers to seamlessly contact each other and empowers organizations to detect when clinicians may have worked more shifts than is optimal or fewer but less desirable or more demanding shifts. The ultimate result is more effective communication and a balanced workload.

Learn more here

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