In this space, we talk a lot about burnout. We emphasize the urgency of reducing stress. While this advice is valuable, it was refreshing to see a study published this month in the Annals of Family Medicine focused on how exactly to achieve the opposite of these problems: Joy in medical practice.
"All medical care, and especially primary care, is incredibly complex, creative work that requires willing, engaged participants and strong support to be successful," study co-author Andrew Schutzbank, M.D., assistant medical director of Iora Health in Cambridge, Mass., told American Medical News. "We use silly words like 'joy' and 'love' and 'hope' because that's what we need. We don't need more rules or checklists or regulations."
When researchers from the American Academy of Family Physicians and TransforMED delved into what sets the happy practices apart from the disgruntled, however, much satisfaction could be traced back to solid organization and processes--facilitated by open and clear communication.
According to the team's site visits, 23 high-performin primary care facilities--practices that were best at resolving common practice stressors, such as high administrative burdens and poorly functioning teams--put top priority on the following innovations, many of which we've examined in FiercePracticeManagement:
- Proactive planned care, with previsit planning and previsit laboratory tests: A team huddle, for example, need only take three minutes twice a day to make everyone's day happier and more productive, according to Dike Drummond, a family practice doctor and healthcare career strategy coach.
- Sharing clinical care among a team, with expanded rooming protocols, standing orders and panel management: Previous research from the Annals, in fact, has shown one primary care physician could delegate up to 77 percent of preventive care to nonclinicians and then reasonably care for a panel of up to nearly 2,000 patients.
- Sharing clerical tasks with collaborative documentation (scribing), nonphysician order entry and streamlined prescription management: "Having a scribe is the difference between feeling hopeless and overwhelmed and feeling like it's a doable job and very satisfying," according to a physician quoted in a previous issue of FiercePracticeManagement.
- Improving communication by verbal messaging and in-box management: In a recent commentary, we addressed how to choose and optimize various modes of communication throughout your practice. As the column described, there's a time to talk in person, to pick up the phone and to express yourself in writing, and it's crucial for managers to carefully use these tools to ensure the messages they send employees are truly received.
- Improving team functioning through co-location, team meetings and workflow mapping: Even when managing employees across multiple sites, it's important to facilitate relationship-building and rapport to optimize teamwork, Paula Comm, administrator of a three-site practice near Chicago, previously told FiercePracticeManagement. To do so, she holds quarterly breakfasts with all of her receptionists one day (during which the cross-trained billers cover) and with the billers on another.
I don't know about you, but I always like to hear about what practices are doing right--and how. Do you have any secrets to satisfaction to add to this list? What are some tips for your peers? - Deb (@PracticeMgt)