More than ever, physicians are under stress to excel not only in patient care, but virtually every other facet of practice management.
Filling daily schedules, improving patient engagement, maximizing documentation, and interpreting EHR data are just a few of their challenges. Although not necessarily surprising to those in the field, a recent study found that 46 percent of physicians are severely stressed.
Here are 3 ways physicians can reduce stress while boosting patient care and satisfaction.
1. Opt for realistic patient scheduling.
Depending on the practice, physicians may see as many as thirty or more patients per day. The majority of practitioners utilize a schedule that consists of 15- or 30- minute intervals.
While a patient visit for an allergy shot may be completed within 15 minutes, an elderly patient needing a physical evaluation and medication review might take 30 minutes…or longer.
And if the patients haven’t been properly screened and then scheduled accordingly, physicians will be behind schedule before the day even begins.
Instead, evaluate your patient population. If a majority of your patients are at the end of either spectrum – very young, or alternately, elderly – or present with co-morbidities or complex medical conditions, the longer timeslots are likely necessary.
Revamping your schedule to accommodate the unique patient demographic will probably mean fewer patients seen daily. However, the drop in stress levels combined with the improved patient care and satisfaction may be worth it. Each physician will have to make that decision.
2. Balance staff and office layout.
Ensure that you have enough staff to handle the practice’s patient load. For example, if nurses are rushing to answer the phone or greet patients at the front desk, then that’s a pretty good sign that you need more front office staff.
Arguably, the nurses’ time would be better spent handling more complex patient issues.
Or, if teammates are vying for office space, that may prove detrimental to the practice’s stress levels as well. Let’s say that nurses’ workstations are located within the small front desk area. The stress of having several people in a small space might be negatively impacting workflow as well as morale.
3. Become an expert on at least one healthcare platform.
The ever-increasing reliance on technology was supposed to make things simpler. But the reality is that, for many, it hasn’t.
Stressed with learning every new healthcare platform or application that comes out, physicians are feeling discouraged. Instead of trying to master each technology, assign staff to become the internal “experts.”
While physicians obviously need to know a fair amount of EHR navigation and utilization, some of the less urgent – and often more technical – components can be delegated to other teammates.
Outside of EHRs though, there are plenty of applications that physicians can learn in-depth and develop expert-level skills more quickly. Apps, like voice recognition software, are easy to learn and can be used for streamlining patient interactions.
Plus, the benefits of front-end speech trickle down to both patients and providers, specifically in the availability of documentation for timely clinical decision-making.
Learning to navigate the software is straightforward and physicians can become experts in a much shorter period of time than, say, EHRs. By delegating expert technology roles as well as learning one or two themselves in greater detail, physicians may feel less burdened by new healthcare platforms.
The Reality of Stress
Stress levels are a very real problem for physicians. Not only can it lead to burnout and physical and emotional side effects, it also can present the following issues too:
- Loss of revenues
- Reduced patient care
- Diminished patient safety
It’s worth taking the take to implement some of these steps, thereby lowering stress levels and improving patient care too.
What steps do you take to reduce stress? Please join the conversation below.