- The COVID-19 pandemic had tremendous impact on clinicians
- Clinician trust in the healthcare system and healthcare leaders declined
- Strategic efforts on behalf of healthcare organizations will be necessary to regain clinician trust and rebound from the impacts of the pandemic
The impact of COVID-19 on clinicians is hard to quantify. Physically, mentally, emotionally… our clinicians have been uniquely, seriously affected and appreciation for their selflessness abounds. Still, one impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinicians that healthcare leaders may not have anticipated is a loss of trust.
According to a poll conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, on behalf of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, physicians lost trust in the United States healthcare system during the pandemic, but some also lost trust in their own organizational leadership.
After all, clinicians during several points of the pandemic were scrambling for sufficient personal protection equipment and were being directed to follow new guidelines almost daily. That kind of environment doesn’t instill a lot of trust.
It will be critical for healthcare organizations to evaluate clinician engagement and satisfaction post-pandemic, to be able to sufficiently address concerns, promote their wellbeing, and continue to provide high-quality care to their communities.
Strategies to Address Decline in Physician Trust from the COVID-19 PandemicHealthcare leaders are unlikely to have much impact on clinician view of the United States healthcare system – that’s out of scope. But internal organizational improvement is well within reach. To re-instill trust in healthcare leadership among clinicians, I have a few suggestions:
- Hear from clinicians directly Healthcare leaders shouldn’t make assumptions as to how clinicians are feeling about their work or organization post-pandemic. It’s imperative to go to the source. Provide an outlet for clinicians to express their concerns and to make requests of the organization. From there, leaders should be able to identify trends and prioritize areas of improvement.
- Address factors exacerbating burnout
It has been well represented that COVID-19 exacerbated burnout amongst clinicians, and there are several ways healthcare leaders can help reduce burnout:
- Reduce Alert and Alarm Fatigue
- Institute hourly rounding
- Inventory all alarm and alert-equipped devices
- Identify proper settings and limits
- Individualize based on patient-specific parameters
- Invest in technology that unifies alarms and alerts, distinguishes between clinically urgent and informal notifications
- Optimize Team-Based Care Evaluate what tasks need to be done by physicians, what tasks need to be done by nurses, and which tasks can be shared among other members of the care team and reassign tasks wherever possible. As AHRQ states, this is the primary goal of medical teamwork to, “optimize the timely and effective use of information, skills, and resources by teams of health care professionals.” It improves quality of care and reduces clerical burden which is a leading driver of clinician burnout.
- Reduce Alert and Alarm Fatigue
- Optimize clinical workflows with technology
- Consolidate Technology Clinicians are constantly juggling multiple communication modalities – pagers, phones, etc. – which adds to the administrative burden and workload clinicians feels and impacts teamwork and process efficiency. Consolidating technology will not only reduce burnout, but it provides organizations with the opportunity to streamline their IT infrastructures which leads to improved fiscal outcomes.
- Deploy Clinical Collaboration Platforms The EHR is our most trusted source of information, but it was never meant to be the clinical communication and collaboration solution some people imagine. Improved communication, again, is central to reducing burnout. Rather than trying to force an EHR module to mimic clinical communication and workflows, Clinical Collaboration Platforms enable clinicians to get the right information to the right person, instantly, to improve teamwork, make processes more efficient and reduce the administrative burden of trying to collaborate with colleagues during patient care.
Clinicians will be recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic for the foreseeable future. Healthcare leaders can help in their recovery and re-instill trust in their organizations by hearing from clinicians directly and making changes that will help make the job of the clinician more efficient and effective.