With burnout as a major cause of turnover, hospices are applying technology to take some of the pressure off of staff in hopes of boosting retention.
A frequent goal is reducing the amount of time spent on documentation. Though complete and accurate documentation is essential to regulatory compliance, patient safety and securing payment, the sheer amount of it is taxing for staff.
Hospice nurses pointed to this issue as their number-one concern about their jobs in a recent survey by The Amity Group. Among the dissatisfiers is the encroachment of documentation into clinician’s personal lives. More than 90% of survey respondents indicated that they spend at home completing these tasks outside of their work hours.
This can put a strain on employee’s home life, which can cause them to leave their jobs, Shelley Henry, president of The Amity Group said in a presentation at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s (NHPCO) Annual Leadership Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“We have access to documentation that has nothing to do with patient care and doesn’t promote communication between the team, it’s just a lot of documentation,” Henry said. “Nurses are saying, ‘I love being a hospice nurse. But my family doesn’t love it because I’m never there. Then when I am home, I’m documenting all the time.’ I think we’re losing a lot of nurses because of this, because their family is so unhappy.”
Employee satisfaction is important not only for its impact on staff retention; it can also influence the quality of care they provide.
A 2009 study found that high levels of employee satisfaction correlates to more positive perceptions among families of the care their loved ones received.
Additional research published in 2020 indicated that factors like burnout can adversely affect quality and patient safety, in addition to employees’ mental and physical health.
Concerns like these have prompted many hospices to look closely at ways to better support staff, including reducing administrative burden.
“We’re really looking at how we engage our staff to create a better patient experience. We know that satisfied staff make satisfied patients,” Cheryl Hamilton Fried, CEO of Blue Ridge Hospice said at the Hospice News Elevate Conference in Chicago. “That’s really a significant investment that we’ve made in innovation and how we care for staff with personal days and recognition. All the things that we can do to make this the most desirable place to work in our communities.”
One of the things that hospices can do is build more efficiency into workflows, and this is often where technology comes into play.
Efficiency is of high value not only for hospice providers, but also for their employees, according to 2022 research by the Transcend Strategy Group. Clinicians seek to work for organizations that offer them tools that help reduce administrative burden, allowing them to focus more on patients themselves as well as improve their work-life balance, Transcend found.
A rising number of providers are turning to emerging technologies to support those efforts including artificial intelligence (AI), telehealth and robotic process automation (RPA), among others.
Systems like AI and RPA can help hospices allocate the appropriate resources for patients’ changing needs as well as reduce redundancies in tasks like clinical documentation. Telehealth, in addition to adding another layer of support to patients and families, can help staff address some needs and concerns without the need to travel.
Some providers are working with partners to develop customized applications designed to improve the employee experience, according to Dr. Faith Protsman, regional medical director for California for VITAS Healthcare, a subsidiary of Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE).
“We actually encourage our employees to identify areas of their workflows and processes that can be improved, and we use low-code technology platforms to create applications that can be used in the day-to-day work that our care team members do,” Protsman said at Elevate. “It takes these thoughts and ideas and maybe even complaints, and it enables our team members to create tangible tools that can actually make their lives easier and help us provide better care.”