If you work at or manage a private healthcare practice, and feel like you barely made it through 2020, you’re not alone. The year was incredibly challenging for everyone, but particularly for healthcare workers. The burden on private practices has been extraordinary.
New reasons for private practice burnout since the COVID-19 pandemic
While burnout is nothing new for healthcare workers, the pandemic has escalated the issue with a wide variety of new stressors and hurdles to overcome. While hospital workers and frontline care teams have dealt with the sickest COVID-19 patients, private practices have had their share of challenges, too.
In 2020, many practices faced massive losses in patient volume and revenue. Some are still not back to pre-pandemic levels of business today. On the administrative side, rescheduling missed appointments to close the gap in lost revenue has been an ongoing need. Adjusting to deliver care via telehealth, and getting patients accustomed to the experience, has required significant adjustments, from scheduling to communication to technology implementation. Practice staff have had to learn the ropes of billing and coding for telehealth, information about COVID-19 testing, and what it takes to keep colleagues and patients safe during in-person visits.
Practice managers have taken on immense responsibility. Medical and dental offices have had to completely modify workflows and processes, redesign (and even redefine) waiting rooms, establish new employee and workplace policies, and implement health screenings for both patients and staff.
Frequent cleaning and disinfecting has required adjustments to schedules and routines. Securing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies hasn’t been easy.
To put it mildly, this is a lot to simply keep your practice running. It’s understandable if more focused communication outreach has been overlooked.
But distributing regular, thoughtful communication to both staff and patients is a component of practice management that should be on every practice’s priority list since COVID-19 hit. As we’ve detailed in previous posts, the provider-patient connection is more important now than ever, especially with the level of trust patients place on their local healthcare providers.
An already-long list of practice management needs and tasks is now more expansive. With recent research indicating the risk of staff burnout is directly correlated to a provider’s workload, it’s no wonder burnout is a growing issue.
Top strategies to address burnout at a healthcare practice
If your practice is feeling a year’s worth of COVID-19 stress, we recommend implementing a few proven strategies to address your team’s imminent burnout. Give these five tips a try:
- Engage and communicate.
When in doubt, ask your staff what’s causing them the most stress. Include them in conversations to identify possible solutions by brainstorming together. Establish daily team huddles to improve operational communication, and send out regular emails from leadership to keep staff informed and engaged during tense times.
- Take morale boosters seriously.
Don’t forget to remind staff how important they are. This may look different for every practice, but reinforcing your team’s worth can be invaluable. While some practices may be able to offer financial bonuses, no practice should underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”
- Engage and communicate.
This has been a focus of workplace research for the better part of the last 10 years, with many results showing the power of regular recognition. Ideas can include an impromptu staff lunch delivery, a ‘kudos’ board to thank standout staff and peers, and weekly email “shout-outs” — all of which require very little investment.
- Consider “recharge days.”
This is a PatientPop favorite for our teams, especially during times when stress is mounting. Whether you can offer a full-day off on a rotating or as-needed basis, or even a half-day with other staff teaming up to cover, a few hours off can help your people catch up on life or just get a much-needed break from the office.
- Automate and go digital.
Cutting down on tedious, administrative tasks can help reduce stress in a busy practice. By automating certain front office functions like scheduling and appointment reminders, or digitizing processes like registration and patient intake, you can free up staff time and reduce inefficiencies.
- Shift job functions as needed.
So much has changed that job roles and duties may need to change, too. If leadership is overwhelmed with managing operational changes, charge a senior staff member with leading a project that can be easily delegated, such as creating and deploying your practice’s email newsletter. By shifting some responsibilities, you may be surprised to find a future practice leader.
Supporting your practice staff
Remember that an exceptional staff is one of the most valued assets a private practice can have. Each person plays a key role in patient satisfaction and, therefore, your practice’s reputation. Helping your team through difficult times will position your practice for continued success and growth, as we come out on the other side of the pandemic.
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Top tips to manage your practice during another pandemic peak