Sponsored Post

Using Informed Decision-Making to Reduce Staff Burnout and Transform Your Health System’s Productivity

In a recent webinar, Dr. Christopher Newman of Mary Washington Healthcare discussed how utilizing the principles of informed awareness has transformed staff experience and facilitated a more productive, efficient, and engaged workforce.

presented by

Although the worst of the pandemic is behind us, hospitals and health systems are still grappling with some of the long-term effects, including workforce shortages. These shortages mean hospitals had to rely on costly and unfamiliar contracted staff. Additionally, sustained demand for hospitalization, with patients coming to the hospital sicker and staying longer, has exacerbated these challenges. With hospitals trying to meet the demand for care with fewer staff, retaining existing staff is more important than ever.

The American Hospital Association recently reported record levels of healthcare staff anxiety, stress, and burnout amongst the majority of workers. Given the continued challenges, hospitals and health systems need solutions that can help them improve working conditions for staff, reduce stress, and mitigate staff burnout.

A recent Care Logistics webinar highlighted how they’re helping hospitals address these challenges through informed awareness. Unlike situational awareness, informed awareness transcends traditional boundaries, weaving past, present, and future analytics and insights into decision-making. It connects every level and area of an organization, giving decision-makers the actionable insights they need to make more effective decisions for both real-time and future scenarios.

In the webinar, Mary Washington Healthcare Executive Vice President, COO, and CMO Dr. Christopher Newman described the crucial role informed decision-making has played to empower staff, improve performance, and reduce burnout. The Fredericksburg, Virginia health system employs 4,384 people across two hospitals, three emergency departments, and over 50 healthcare facilities. Implementing the principles of informed awareness has allowed Mary Washington to provide more high-quality patient care without relying on an influx of new or temporary staff. 

What is Informed Awareness?

By factoring past, present, and future insights into decision-making, informed awareness gives decision-makers the insight they need to make more effective choices for their organizations. Informed decision-making facilitates simplified, efficient workflows, resulting in a reduction of excess labor, confusion, and chaos for workers across every level of the organization. 

To reduce frustration and miscommunication, Mary Washington sought a higher level of awareness, which would help align the organization from the front lines to the executives. By implementing the principles of informed awareness and positioning the correct technology to support it, the system was able to achieve sustainable, continuous improvement that created a better experience for staff. Informed awareness created the foundation for collaboration, strategic planning, and agility that empowered their staff to achieve organization-wide goals. 

Informed awareness brought wisdom and alignment to Mary Washington, which has ushered the kind of progress the health system has sought, according to Dr. Newman. He commented on the helpfulness of having holistic visibility amongst various roles, saying:

“The staff roles are very well-defined, their people are trained and empowered upfront to be able to address things in real time and before they happen and they’re looking at analytics and they’re making informed, actionable decisions based upon those analytics.”

The holistic visibility and higher level of awareness that Dr. Newman detailed in the webinar enabled the organization to make better operational decisions, benefitting the staff and patients alike.

Utilizing Informed Awareness for an Engaged and Productive Team

Dr. Newman observed that even though managers often work extraordinarily hard, they end up solving repetitive or persistent issues, putting out fires in a reactive fashion, and failing to advance the organization forward. He noted that although many units and departments work efficiently within their own silos, coordinating across those areas can be challenging without the right tools. Situational awareness might allow you to handle a problem in the moment but does little to mitigate inefficiencies in the broader scope.

What informed awareness provides is the ability to prevent problems before they arise, enabling staff to spend less time managing chaos and more time providing the patient care they’re trained for. Because informed awareness includes past, present, and future intelligence, you can use these insights to get to the root cause of your organization’s most impactful challenges and resolve them faster and more effectively than ever before. 

Dr. Newman pointed out that a critical component to facilitating informed awareness is getting buy-in from staff and preparing them for the change. For that to happen, they have to understand the value of the new approach and how it will improve how their day-to-day work. Communication is critical and winning over stakeholders is crucial. 

When embarking on your journey towards informed awareness, it’s important to create harmony not only across all departments of the organizations, but all levels as well, from the frontline to the executive suite. Dr. Newman notes that aligning the frontline staff with their executive initiative played a large role in the overall success, commenting, “It’s very, very important that the entire team is aligned from the CEO to the c-suite all the way down to managers, directors, medical staff, etc. That takes a lot of work to get everybody on the same page, making this a priority, understanding the why, and communicating that why. Bidirectional communication is an essential part of change management as well.”

It’s impossible for those providing the patient care to fully embrace change such as this without understanding the “why” behind it all. Aligning the entire organization on overarching priorities, goals, and strategy not only enables informed awareness to blossom, but also supports successful change management. 

Dr. Newman recalled that creating informed awareness required change for nurses and nurse managers. It was important to bring about change without creating even more work and stress for these valuable employees. When you empower your decision-makers through informed awareness, it creates harmony rather than chaos. With the changes that Mary Washington implemented in partnership with Care Logistics, their staff was able to extend their capabilities and increase access to care without the addition of outside staffing resources. 

Dr. Newman describes this process.

“When we can close 60 beds and take care of more patients, they don’t necessarily think about the downstream effect on margin. They’re looking at their world and when you just take those rocks out of their backpack, you give them that breathing space.” Their staff could do more with less, enabling the organization to achieve their goals without putting excessive strain on their workforce. 

Dr. Newman adds that: “From a staffing perspective, that was a huge win for us and it allowed our nursing colleagues to continue to buy in and double down on these procedures,” highlighting the benefits of informed awareness for communication, team productivity, and staff engagement. 

Communication, Alignment, and Organization-wide Harmony

Achieving informed awareness required a 15-month overhaul of workflows at Mary Washington. It also included setting up a centralized command center for Mary Washington’s hospitals. According to Dr. Newman, the command center enabled hospital staff to have real-time visibility of patient flow. Staff could identify where patients were getting backed up and anticipate those bottlenecks. The higher level of awareness they gained through these changes helped break down silos between departments and facilitate more efficient collaboration across the entire organization. Consequentially, their staff were able to spend less time on operational challenges and barriers to patient progression and focus more on what they are trained to do and passionate about, providing high-quality patient care. 

All organizations strive for this type of improvement, but how do you go about sustaining it on a day-to-day basis? Dr. Newman details that one of the first things the health system implemented was “snap huddles” on the different units. He explained that they focus one minute on each patient with an eye to identifying any barriers to advancing their care and alleviating them. With the increase in patient-focused communication and alignment gained via the snap huddles, Dr. Newman recalled that he and his colleagues started seeing improvements right away. While it seems simple, it was extremely impactful for their staff to be more informed and aware of how their patients were progressing.

These types of initiatives inform the entire team, ensure accountability, and align everyone on a singular path forward. Staff should be working as a collaborative team, not in opposition to each other. Your organization simply needs to provide them with the tools, technology, and processes to empower them to make effective decisions together and deliver the best possible patient care. Not only does it conserve resources, save time, and reduce costs, but it also improves staff engagement and satisfaction. 

Planning for Healthcare Staffing Needs

The ability to project staffing needs has also changed for the better with informed awareness, Dr. Newman commented during the webinar:

“We’re able to anticipate staffing more proactively. There are so many different things that the technology overlay allows us and it gives us that visibility,” he said. “That information is transmitted to every unit in the health system. So as something is happening on the floor, the hub knows it.” 

The aforementioned hub is a part of their Command Center (implemented in their partnership with Care Logistics) where central coordination takes place. The unique combination of people, process, and technology that makes up their command center provides the organization with better awareness of their current operational status, resulting in more efficient operations and a better ability to match staffing to the current and upcoming demand for care.

Dr. Newman explained that Care Logistics technology enables the health system to anticipate staffing in a more proactive manner. When the demand for staffing resources changes, the organization is aware in real time, and the right roles are informed so they can take action and prevent the chaos and stress found in an understaffed organization. Preparedness facilitates harmony in this case, reducing stress for frontline workers and leadership alike. 

Increased Staff Satisfaction 

The results of informed awareness are dramatic to say the least. Conditions have improved so much for staff in response to this initiative that employees recently voted to grant Mary Washington Healthcare certification as a “Great Place to Work”. A case study highlighting the health system noted that 74% of staff said it was a great place to work. In addition, 86% said their work had special meaning and wasn’t “just a job.” Most survey respondents (86%) said they feel a sense of pride when they see what they’ve accomplished. These figures serve as a stark contrast to the AHA data mentioned at the beginning of this narrative, where the vast majority of healthcare workers cited stressful and frustrating experiences. Informed awareness has empowered Mary Washington to rise a step above the rest and create a more satisfied and engaged workforce. 

“In addition to impressive clinical and financial metrics, Mary Washington also enjoys strong staff engagement and satisfaction,” according to the case study. “Despite the burnout and fatigue that many healthcare workers were feeling during the pandemic, MWHC’s staff satisfaction remained strong enough that the system was certified as a Great Place to Work 2021 – 2023.”

Elevating awareness isn’t just a strategic move for healthcare organizations; it’s a commitment to championing staff. By embracing informed awareness as a prerequisite for better decision-making, hospitals not only improve operational efficiency but also foster a culture that empowers staff to achieve their desire to provide the best patient care they possibly can.

The overwhelmingly positive experience at Mary Washington serves as an example to the rest of the industry. As hospitals explore ways to improve patient care, reduce employee burnout, and help healthcare professionals practice at the top of their license, informed awareness can play a critical role in helping them achieve these ends.

Photo: Motortion, Getty Images