March 24, 2022

Intelligent Healthcare Orchestration Can Reduce Burnout

In a recent Leader Dialogue Radio podcast, ABOUT Healthcare in partnership with the Baldrige Foundation, continued to explore the issue of workforce burnout in healthcare. The episode, titled Best Cost/Benefit Opportunities, provided information on the tangible costs of employee burnout in healthcare facilities, outlined possible solutions, and considered the positive impact these solutions could have on workplace stress by easing the burden on healthcare professionals.


Causes and Costs of Workplace Stress


Podcast host Dr. Charles Peck set the stage for the episode by stating how burnout is more a reflection of the work environment than the individual employee. From Peck’s perspective, too many organizations attempt to address burnout by focusing on individual stress characteristics instead of making wholesale changes to the workplace. This approach is often ineffective because attention focused on the symptoms of the stressors rather than the root Causal factors.


Dr. Peck went on to list the top 5 root causal contribution to workplace stress according to a survey of employees. They include:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressures

Peck also details how these stressors combine to contribute to burnout and staff shortages in the healthcare workplace.


“According to the American Psychological Association, healthcare costs are actually 50% higher in organizations with high levels of workplace stress,” Peck notes. “It is an issue estimated to cost the U.S. more than $500 billion per year. Employees experiencing burnout are also 2.6-times more likely to actively seek out a different job.”

Address Patient Flow Disconnects to Reduce Workforce Stressors


The podcast then shifted its focus to discussing strategies that healthcare organizations can deploy to reduce workplace stressors and employee burnout. Ben Sawyer, VP of Market Development at ABOUT Healthcare, asked how investments in process automation might help to reduce workforce stressors, lower administrative task burdens, and empower employees.


Sawyer proceeded to share four examples of patient flow disconnects that contribute to staff stress and negative patient and performance outcomes.

  1. Inefficient transfers – When patient transfers are inefficient, the manual processes and fragmented reporting stresses staff and can compromise performance. For example, it can result in patient leakage (i.e., patients leaving the health system to receive care elsewhere)
  2. Highly variable/delayed discharge planning – A reliance on staff to manage estimated date of discharge and patient disposition information adds to workforce stress and perpetuates patient care progression delays, adding excess days to approved patient lengths of stay
  3. Tedious to manage and resolve barriers – Waiting for consulting physicians to complete their assessments while managing multiple open orders creates workforce stressors and contributes to delays that impede patient flow
  4. Post-acute access and transport impediments – A lack of clarity into post-acute care options can also overload care teams and compromise patient discharge and throughput.

According to Sawyer, these disconnects are opportunities to optimize workflow by applying a combination of process strategy and automation technology.


“Healthcare organizations should consider investing in a seamless access and orchestration (A&O) hub,” says Sawyer. “Doing so would allow health systems to establish a set of clear, predictable, and documented processes that improve role clarity, provide best practices for on-call providers, seamlessly manage EMS transport, and support effective care transitions cross the health system enterprise.” An A&O hub includes automated orchestration technology which augments the EMR platform with composable options to effectively empower employees, minimize handoffs, and improve the overall patient care experience. “Health systems gain control with this kind of automation support, helping to drive systemness and the ability to operate as one.”


The podcast concluded by evaluating the real-world implications of success or failure in addressing these patient flow disconnects. The goal is for each patient to efficiently gain access to the right care in the right location at the right time and proceed to a timely and effective discharge. A failure to address these challenges, overloads the workforce, delays the patient discharge, and increases the chance of readmission. Conversely, successfully addressing these challenges decompresses and empowers the staff, improves LOS and avoidable readmission performance, reduces cost, and improves financial margins. Hear more of this enlightening discussion by listening to the entire podcast here.