MedCity Influencers, Health Tech, Physicians

Is This the Secret To Combating Burnout?

By properly selecting and implementing the right technologies for your practice you can reduce burnout and increase earnings. Follow these steps to double your reward.

According to the American Medical Association, a record 63 percent of doctors reported burnout last year. The chief culprit: they now spend an average of nearly two days a week buried in administrative work. And they hate it.

Technology can go a long way toward easing this burden, whether automating patient flow or streamlining insurance authorization. Not only that, but it can also turbocharge your practice’s speed and efficiency. Yet it can all seem so expensive and overwhelming. Everyone’s heard the horror stories of new software that won’t integrate with existing platforms. Or major purchases that force you to change the entire way you work, whether you want to or not. The experience is not bad, if you do it right.

presented by

You really have no choice. Burnout threatens your very survival. Moreover, digitally advanced firms generate profits well above the industry average and firms that haven’t invested in becoming digital are seeing earnings decline. The question becomes not whether to invest, but how to do it to your advantage.

An antiquated industry

While the rest of the business world began to digitize mostly around the 1990s, healthcare only began in earnest a decade ago when EHR mandates were imposed. The industry is still in its infancy of the digital learning curve and continues to be far less advanced than other industries. Though we’re making strides on the patient-experience side areas, such as with telemedicine and automated scheduling, we’re still a quarter-century behind when it comes to the back office.

Much of the work with processes like treatment documentation, claim denial, and preauthorization is still done manually or with relatively limited modernization. This doesn’t just add to doctors’ frustrations. It leads to bloated labor costs and endless bottlenecks throughout the operation.

Antiquated analytics tools compound the problem. If you don’t have the data to identify what’s going wrong and where, any improvement is guesswork.

Think about the simple task of getting a new-patient referral. It often starts with a fax. Then someone must enter the information, which rarely happens in a timely fashion. Human error adds to complications. So begins another round of frustration.

The doctor may not know whether treatment is urgent, whether it can be scheduled for next week, or whether the patient should be accepted at all. But with the right automation, the doctor could simply receive an alert with all the information at hand for click-of-a-button action. Headache averted.

Spread this approach across the entire organization and throughout operations, and you’re suddenly reducing burnout, minimizing costs, and slowing the churn of equally frustrated staff. Yes, technology can be expensive on the front end. But if it’s making you more profitable, it’s really a return on investment and not an expense at all.

Here’s how to make the right choices:

Relief from your burdens

Start by identifying the opportunity or problem, map the process you want improved, then ask this one basic question: Does the software do what I want it to do?

Asking this ahead of time avoids the all-too-common problem of getting stuck with highly rated software that forces you to revamp your operation.

You don’t want to make the purchase decision alone: Someone high in the organization should help facilitate. You’ll need to navigate many complexities including ease of use, scalability, vendor support, and integration with existing systems. You need champions to help you along the way. You’ll also need people from business and finance who can negotiate a good contract and calculate return on investment.

ROI is especially important. If it costs $150,000 but produces $200,000 in cost savings and additional revenue within three years, you’re on the right track. But if it falls too astray of these general parameters, it’s better to keep looking. The whole purpose is to make you more money, plus free up your time.

Testing the software in a controlled environment is critical. You want to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do and be certain your people are comfortable enough to use it competently.

Finally, you must decide how to avoid another rollout horror story. You can take the big bang approach by going live with everything at once. Or you can start with certain functions or locales as a pilot test. The key is to implement in a way that best suits your practice, one that breeds immediate success. Get too ambitious, and you end up breeding a fresh round of exasperation that can take weeks to relieve.

Even then, don’t think of tech as a one-and-done proposition. Continually evaluate whether it’s achieved your goals, assessing if adjustments can be made to optimize performance.

It can all seem like a lot of work. And it is. But compared to the manual labor now embedded in your practice, the work done today goes a long way in lifting the burdens of tomorrow, allowing you to look to the future with optimism instead of dread.

Meade Monger, founder of Dallas-based healthcare research company CenturyGoal, is an expert in corporate restructurings, transformations, and digital strategy. He is also currently a PhD candidate in healthcare research.

This post appears through the MedCity Influencers program. Anyone can publish their perspective on business and innovation in healthcare on MedCity News through MedCity Influencers. Click here to find out how.