Q&A with Jodie Hilliker: Combatting Physician Burnout with Automation Tech & Data

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Tell us about your background and role at DeliverHealth. 

My name is Jodie Hilliker and I am the Senior Director of EHR and Managed Services at DeliverHealth, a global provider of technology-enabled solutions for hospitals, health systems and group practices. In this role I am responsible for the delivery of all services and service teams that work under these two divisions to ensure a smooth implementation of the EMR for hospitals and health systems. 

I started my career in the clinical setting and have over 20 years of clinical experience as a flight paramedic and respiratory therapist. After working in the hospital setting, I joined an EHR services company as a training director, then moved into the role of implementation director, successfully leading over 300 EHR implementations. From there I served as Director of Activation and Training for Nuance Communications before moving over to my current role at DeliverHealth in 2021. 

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What are some of the main causes of physician burnout today?

While there are many reasons for physicians to feel burnt out – increased patient volume, lack of EHR adoption, lack of chart prep, and inefficient service desks to name a few – the primary cause of physician and end-user burnout is the number of administrative tasks each role in the healthcare system has taken on, especially clinicians. A frequent problem is that EHR tools are not being used to their full capacity, which leads to frustration, late nights, note bloat, and reduced ROI on the EHR investment. 

Using EHR tools as intended can increase productivity and reduce burnout. Note templates, order sets and chart prep can all help to reduce the amount of time a physician or clinician spends on a chart, and these processes create a more efficient and effective path for coding.

What actionable steps can healthcare organizations take to reduce staff burnout?

The first step healthcare organizations should take is understanding internal workflows by walking through the daily motions of staff and physicians to identify inefficiencies or pain points and opportunities to streamline them. This can often include encouraging adoption of EHR tools the healthcare organization already has in place to reduce the time spent on a particular task.

For example, once the workflows have been refined, take the time to ensure all end users, particularly providers, have personalized their workspace within the EHR and are using all the tools at their disposal to simplify daily tasks.

It’s also important to verify that for any tech solutions being implemented, there is a means for users to get immediate help if needed. A significant frustration for providers is the time spent on not only learning new technology, but investing time in getting questions answered, so this needs to be a quick and seamless process for them. Many of today’s technology vendors provide service desk solutions that can be quickly and inexpensively implemented. Using such solutions provides a safety net for those who need timely answers, whenever or wherever they are working. Virtual assistants and chatbots are inexpensive and effective in alleviating support issues and decreasing the constant tug on your informatics team.   

You mentioned autonomous processes as a step to reduce staff burnout. What advice do you have for healthcare organizations when it comes to implementing such technologies?

Yes, I recommend autonomous processes as a way to reduce staff burnout. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations hesitate to consider automation for fear it could be time-consuming and challenging to implement. However, the benefits outweigh the potential challenges considering how they can reduce time spent on admin tasks, boost coding accuracy, improve cash flow, and ultimately give coders and physicians more time to manage complex coding in the long run.   

Once a healthcare organization has decided to seriously consider autonomous processes, the next step is to choose an external partner that can guide it through the different processes to ensure success. From there, you need to formulate a systematic approach to automation. 

In order to create this systematic approach, you need to understand your current system fully, then examine how your healthcare organization can integrate with existing processes. It’s also important to ensure that the plan for integrating the new processes is consistent and easy to follow in a step-by-step approach. Once implemented, evaluate and verify you have flexibility if things need to be changed. It helps to have an external partner guide you through the different ways the new technology can improve the organizational efficiency.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, educate the full organization. Without proper training, achieving increased ROI and productivity can be difficult. Staff must understand “the whys” behind the changes and how to get there to ensure success – and framing it in terms of how these tools and processes will help them in their daily work and roles is critical. This is how adoption rates rise and burnout rates drop.

How can data analytics be used to spot signs of burnout in real time, and what benefits does this provide to healthcare organizations?

When used in an organized and frequent manner, data analytics can play a major role in preventing burnout by collecting information that can identify which end user is struggling and when, and recognizing which specialties have the most pain points. Leveraging analytics to follow up on those pain points before they are out of control will help lead to increased adoption of the EHR and streamlined processes and reduce the risk of burnout before it becomes critical.

Organizations can also use data analytics to guide system-wide decisions, such as when to focus on a particular specialty, how to delegate time to optimize providers and how to improve patient and staff experiences. Overall, using analytics for informed decision-making can help healthcare organizations increase their efficiency.

Jodie Hilliker, Senior Director Acute EHR Services at DeliverHealth, a global provider of technology-enabled solutions for hospitals, health systems and group practices.

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