Getting rid of stupid stuff - Towards more staff-friendly healthcare systems


Overstretched systems with irritating but tolerable inefficiencies under normal conditions can, during a challenging situation, suddenly become contributory factors that tip the whole thing into crisis. Few systems have been asked to endure the kind of pressure healthcare experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Available resources were stretched to breaking point, physically and emotionally, by unprecedented and unrelenting demand. 

The fallout has been profound, especially among hospitals' doctors, nurses, and support staff. A recent article in Forbes estimated U.S. healthcare has lost "20% of its workforce, including 30% of nurses." It quoted figures from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2022, which indicate "nearly 1.7 million people have quit their healthcare jobs—equivalent to almost 3% of the healthcare workforce each month". 

In Becker's Hospital Review, Christine Sinksy, MD and V.P. of professional satisfaction for the AMA, described the steps the AMA, in collaboration with others, are taking to create a work environment that better supports staff, alleviates stress, and reduces burnout. One focus was the need to streamline workflows. Healthcare I.T. systems are notoriously fragmented and often include a high proportion of manual steps. They have workflow and process complexity levels, perhaps even greater than the average business. The fact that mistakes could result in patient harm, rather than a missed shipment or an incorrect invoice, makes the need for simplification even greater.

 Systems Should Help, Not Hinder

We believe Sinksy's comments in the Becker's Hospital Review article are so important we wanted to repeat them here verbatim - "It means reducing the number of EHR clicks for common workflows or reducing the number of inbox notifications. There's a lot of sludge in the healthcare system that is weighing physicians and others down on a daily basis. It can be so hard to get through the mundane tasks of care because what could be done in two clicks, takes 30 clicks, and when it happens over and over again, the cumulative effect can be very dispiriting." 

The recommendation to streamline workflows appeared in an AMA report entitled "Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff." If you do an Internet search using the terms "healthcare" and "getting rid of stupid stuff," you'll be surprised (perhaps horrified would be a better word) at the number of hits you'll get back. In our blog on Employee Experience, we discussed the debilitating effect pointless, repetitive tasks, inefficient processes, and poorly designed customer touchpoints can have on employees. And that's in industries that don't expect employees to make life-and-death decisions twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. 

Effective Change Requires Detailed Insight

Before you can streamline a process to improve your employee experience, you need to understand how it interacts with your people and technology. BusinessOptix gives health and life science organizations clear visibility and an intimate understanding of what's happening today – what works well and where the pain points are. It also enables you to design a more effective and efficient model that will allow your people to devote more time to healing and less to mindless administrative overhead. 

Broadly speaking, this transformation is a four-step process:

  • Step 1 - Our process discovery tools enable you to gather current, complete information about how your organization works today. Without this information, you cannot successfully create a seamless, frictionless employee experience.
  • Step 2 - Our process mapping tools use the discovery information to build a visual representation of your end-to-end patient journey and then overlay your people, processes, and systems to understand how these affect your employee experience.
  • Step 3 - Our scenario modeling and digital simulation tools help you identify problem areas, design improvements, and test changes - quickly, cheaply, and without risk to your day-to-day operations. You can not only balance employee experience improvements against operational metrics like cost and resources to understand the trade-offs and make informed decisions, but you can also create a principle of "do no harm" for changes intended to improve operational metrics (to reduce costs, for example) by checking they don't inadvertently make things worse for doctors, nurses, and patients,
  • Step 4 - Once you have a working model of your improved future state, our Digital Twin capabilities enable you to continuously repeat the improvement process to ensure your employee and patient journeys remain optimized, no matter how circumstances change.

Learning From Our Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic placed an exceptional strain on healthcare systems around the world. Even though it appears to be receding, we must address the weaknesses it highlighted in our systems. Staunching the flow of people leaving the profession must be imperative to improving the daily lives of those who remain. BusinessOptix gives you total operational transparency into how your processes, people, and technology interact. The insights it provides can guide you through your transformation process, identifying opportunities for optimization or automation. Operational transparency, and the digital transformation it drives, will enable you to create a more resilient organization better able to weather future storms. 

The pressures on healthcare systems worldwide are many and varied. Although streamlining workflows won't make them disappear, making the systems doctors and nurses use day-in-day-out less cumbersome will remove a significant source of frustration and stress. As the Becker's Hospital Review article concludes, "health systems do not need to make their staff more resilient, but instead need to themselves become more resilient to be able to protect and care for their staff." 

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