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Health Systems Look For New Strategies to Support Their Providers

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   January 24, 2023

With stress and burnout rampant within the healthcare industry, health systems are looking for new ways to use surveys and social media to boost morale and highlight positive news.

In today's social media-saturated landscape, healthcare organizations need to stay on top of their brand to ensure a positive public image and address any negative publicity quickly. But health systems can also use that platform to improve patient engagement and, more importantly, tackle clinician stress and burnout.

Several health systems from across the country have joined a Clinician Retention Workgroup launched by Feedtrail, a North Carolina-based company focused on experience management technology. The goal of the workgroup is to study how patient experience data, coming from surveys and social media channels, can be used to combat burnout and disengagement, and boost clinician engagement and morale.

"We've been focused for so long on patient satisfaction," says Dennis Lamb, chief experience officer for Texas Tech Physicians, the medical practice network for the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, based in Lubbock. "It's time we started looking at our physicians and focusing on them. They want to hear how they're doing, too."

Paul Jaglowski, co-founder and chief strategy officer for Feedtrail, says health systems have typically focused on a generic post-discharge survey to keep track of how they're doing. But with the growth of social media and consumer-centric care, alongside increased competition in the primary care space, savvy healthcare executives are developing better programs that allow patients to rate and comment on every aspect of their healthcare journey.

"Engagement shouldn't end with surveys," he says. "There are many more opportunities now to engage with [consumers and patients], and healthcare organizations can choose their own thresholds. They can get visibility into what is being said and even guide [commenters] to the right person or department."

Aside from monitoring a hospital's or health system's public image, the technology enables administrators to address critical or negative comments by communicating with the commenters and connecting them to resources to resolve complaints. Administrators can also address those issues within the organization, identifying areas where improvement is needed.

These strategies aren't entirely new. Organizations in many industries have used surveys and social platforms to both highlight the positives and address the negatives. The same is true in healthcare, with platforms such as Google, HealthGrades, and Yelp all offering opportunities to rate and offer comments on a healthcare provider.

But with the pandemic and a sour economy causing a wave of stress and burnout and pushing doctors and nurses to their breaking point, health systems are turning the technology around to focus on provider and staff engagement.

"Looking across our patient experience data, 80% of patient comments are positive and complimentary in nature, and this feedback can be an essential component to a healthcare organization's culture of gratitude," Jaglowski said in a December 2022 press release announcing the launch of the Clinician Retention Workgroup, which includes, alongside Texas Tech Physicians, Cedars Sinai, First Health of the Carolinas, and Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California.

"Best in class organizations are connecting clinicians back to their purpose and battling burnout through the sharing of patient gratitude and we want to help them measure and operationalize this beneficial practice," he said. "Based on demand, we will continue to bring providers in to participate on a rolling basis as the industry continues to build a new blueprint for employee engagement and retention.”

At Texas Tech Physicians, Lamb says his doctors and nurses need this positive reinforcement.

"Physicians want to hear these things, too," he says. "Too often they only hear the negative things. We have to be better at communicating the positive things."

Lamb says the health system has protocols in place to address any negative or critical comments within five days, so that patients know their concerns are being addressed, but there's nothing on the books to pass along good comments. In fact, in one previous survey, more than half of the providers who responded said the health system doesn't do enough to emphasize good news.

"They're the ones on the front lines," he says. "Patients don't schedule an appointment to see your front desk people."

While health systems can gather this information through surveys and online comment portals, many don't know how to use the data. Efforts like the Clinician Retention Workgroup will give them a chance to share innovative ideas on new programs and resources aimed at not only passing along the good news, but boosting engagement and retention.

"Working in the emergency department is stressful, now more than ever, so as a staff member, hearing how you made a positive impact in the life of a patient or family can really give a needed morale boost," Claude Stang, executive director of emergency services at Cedars Sinai, said in the Feedtrail press release. "It is also an opportunity to thank the employee for upholding the values of the profession and the organization. We're looking forward to sharing more patient gratitude, learning from our colleagues in other organizations across the country, and, ideally, replicating this best practice across the organization.”

"It's going to be positive and it's going to mean more," says Lamb. "It's going to make a huge difference in how we can support [staff] because we'll be doing more than just relying on surveys."

“We've been focused for so long on patient satisfaction, it's time we started looking at our physicians and focusing on them. They want to hear how they're doing, too.”

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Patient surveys and social media are typically used to enable patients to comment on their healthcare experiences, with health systems using that data for patient engagement.

Now, faced with high rates of stress and burnout, due in large part to the pandemic, health systems are turning those strategies around to focus on staff and provider engagement.

One such effort, the Clinician Retention Workgroup, will bring together a handful of health systems from across the country to discuss how they can use new tools and programs to boost morale and improve the workplace.


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