How can we mitigate the burnout affecting the healthcare industry?

The burnout crisis continues to sweep across the healthcare industry in the United States, even as we begin to close out the year.  

Physician burnout reached its highest level in 2021 since studies began in 2011, with 62.8% of physicians reporting being burned out. This marked a stark increase from the lowest recorded rate of 38.2% in 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, burnout cost the healthcare system about $4.6 billion a year. The pandemic has likely exacerbated this cost​. It’s no secret that clinician burnout is wreaking havoc on the healthcare industry.

So how can healthcare organizations mitigate burnout?

Here are three burnout mitigation strategies, according to Brian White, Co-Founder of DoorSpace.

1. Create A Streamlined Credentialing Process

Healthcare organizations can Implement a software system that streamlines the credentialing and recredentialing process. This can reduce administrative burdens on clinicians, allowing them to focus more on patient care and less on paperwork. A user-friendly, efficient system can significantly reduce stress and burnout.

To create a streamlined credentialing process, healthcare organizations could benefit from integrating their credentialing software with other systems like HR databases and external verification sources, thereby reducing manual entry and expediting the process. Continuous monitoring and updating of credentials can prevent lapses, making recredentialing more efficient. Additionally, offering training and peer support for clinicians in using these systems, along with a feedback mechanism for continuous improvement, can make the process more clinician-friendly.

2. Workload Management

Organizations need to ensure that healthcare professionals have reasonable workloads and schedules. This may involve adjusting staffing levels, implementing workload caps, and providing adequate time for breaks and rest between shifts. It’s important to avoid excessive overtime and long hours.

When it comes to workload management, organizations should explore the use of predictive analytics to forecast patient influx and staffing needs, which can aid in preemptively managing workloads. Flexible scheduling options and employee wellness programs focusing on stress management and mental health can significantly contribute to the well-being of healthcare professionals. Regular assessments of staff workload and satisfaction are also crucial in identifying and addressing areas of concern.

3. Optimal Staffing Ratios

It is critical that healthcare facilities maintain optimal staffing ratios for different units and departments. This involves assessing patient acuity levels and workload demands to determine the appropriate number of nurses, physicians, and support staff needed.

Regarding optimal staffing ratios, healthcare facilities should develop staffing models tailored to the specific needs of different units, taking into account factors like patient complexity. Employing temporary staff or ‘float pools’ during peak times or in high-turnover units can help maintain adequate staffing levels. The implementation of technological aids in routine tasks can reduce the workload on clinical staff. Moreover, providing opportunities for professional development and career progression can improve job satisfaction, indirectly contributing to better staffing retention and ratios.

Incorporating these refined strategies into their operations, healthcare organizations can effectively tackle the issue of physician burnout, creating an environment that supports both clinician well-being and the delivery of high-quality patient care.

White explains, “Physician burnout is a critical issue in healthcare, and it requires a multi-faceted approach for mitigation. Strategies should include promoting work-life balance, fostering a supportive work environment, encouraging open communication, providing access to mental health resources, and implementing effective time management and workload distribution to ensure physicians can continue to provide quality care while maintaining their well-being.”

The burnout crisis in the healthcare industry demands urgent and comprehensive action. The alarming rise in physician burnout rates, compounded by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the need for systemic changes within healthcare organizations. By implementing a streamlined credentialing process, managing workloads effectively, and maintaining optimal staffing ratios, healthcare institutions can take significant steps towards mitigating burnout. These strategies, alongside a culture that promotes work-life balance, open communication, and access to mental health resources, are pivotal in creating a supportive environment for clinicians. Ultimately, the goal is not only to alleviate the burden on healthcare professionals but also to ensure the sustainability of high-quality patient care. The healthcare industry must recognize that addressing clinician burnout is not just an ethical imperative but a critical component in the resilience and effectiveness of our healthcare system as a whole.