Tackling the healthcare burnout epidemic: Analytics antidote

Hybrid working in the healthcare industry can make burnout indicators hard to spot, says Gabriela Mauch, VP of Productivity Lab, ActivTrak

Gabriela Mauch, VP of Productivity Lab, ActivTrak is passionate for the analytics that help us understand workplace productivity — and the people who bring it to life. She shares her expert insight with Healthcare Digital about the issues surrounding burnout and wellbeing in the healthcare industry.

What is one of the most pressing workforce issues in healthcare right now? 

You don’t need a study to explain the widening gap between healthcare demand and healthcare workers. But the numbers underscore an alarming trend: Over half of all healthcare workers are overworked, stressed and ready to leave the industry. In other words, they’re burned out.

In fact, many have already walked off the job at a rate not seen in years. In 2023, nearly two dozen strikes were recorded around the country, with the largest US healthcare strike in history taking place among Kaiser Permanente workers. 

What do you think are the major contributors to healthcare industry burnout?

Burnout was a challenge before the pandemic, but recent social and job-related factors have only exacerbated the issue. While burnout has multiple causes, heavy workloads over an extended period are a major factor, leading to diminished engagement, decreased productivity, increased process breakdowns and widespread turnover. These are serious issues in any industry; in healthcare they can have dire consequences. 

What can be done to remedy the burnout epidemic?

Healthcare leaders must first arm themselves with data about how people work. 

Vertical industry benchmarks comparing the work habits of financial services, insurance and healthcare workers found that healthcare employees exhibit exceptionally high rates (40%) of over utilisation (when an employee's productive hours a day are at least 31% higher than their productive hours per day goal), outpacing other industry sectors by a significant measure. These workers also log the most screen time (7.9 hours) and spend the most time focused on productive activities (5.2 hours). 

All of this adds up to the lowest number (57%) of healthy (when an employee's productive hours a day are within 30% (+/-) of their productive hours a day goal) employees when comparing healthcare workers to their cross-industry peers. 

What other factors or burnout indicators should be considered in hybrid work environments? 

Hybrid work only makes these issues more difficult to unravel. How employees work, how technology is used and how processes are implemented are some of the leading indicators that can help leaders maximise performance and results without jeopardising employee well-being. 

Take revenue cycle management — the time-intensive process of identifying, managing and collecting patient service revenue. The goal is to increase provider revenue while decreasing the time spent on administrative and clinical functions. Yet moving these functions offsite — and out of sight — in hybrid work environments has significant implications.

What are some examples of how this can become a bigger issue? 

When one of the largest and busiest public hospital systems in the Northwest implemented a hybrid workforce model, its IT department faced numerous challenges including ensuring office space compliance with HIPAA, monitoring internet speeds for reliability and analysing daily activities for productivity. 

This last one was particularly revealing as it related to workload balance and burnout. Upon further analysis, the hospital system found employees consistently working two to three hours longer than they should just to keep up with demand. But just because they worked longer didn’t always mean they were more productive. Interruptions and distractions were a constant issue, and it was hard to understand who had more capacity vs. who needed more help.

The challenge facing the organisation was, how to capture this data in the first place, and then how to normalise, compare and contrast the findings across more than 5,000 widely dispersed employees. That’s when they turned to workforce analytics.

What kinds of tools and metrics can help healthcare organisations do better?

Workforce analytics provide a powerful mechanism to help healthcare organisations answer critical questions about workplace operations, and establish benchmarks and best practices for ongoing success. This includes data about individual employee behaviour, as well as patterns and trends that can be compared across teams and organisations. Examples include:

  • Average productivity based on workers’ active, inactive and passive time
  • Measurement of individual and team performance against predefined productivity goals
  • Correlation of employee location to productivity and work habits, as well as compliance with hybrid work policies
  • Engagement and schedule adherence, including activities that affect worker focus, such as collaboration and multitasking
  • Shifts in workload balance related to under- and over-utilization, and resource allocation

What are some proactive ways to help employees once you have these kinds of insights? 

Armed with these insights, healthcare leaders can have coaching conversations with employees about how to implement process improvements and fine-tune personal work habits before burnout becomes a bigger issue. 

The healthcare industry is at a critical point. By using workforce analytics data, healthcare leaders can address some of the most chronic challenges facing essential workers and providers — improving both organisational and patient outcomes.


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