Study: Clinical Support Staff Burnout Linked to Patient Communication Challenges

Reaching out, responding to, and reassuring patients at every turn during COVID-19 — whether about how to join a telehealth visit or new waiting room protocols — have increased the workload and stress of clinical support staff.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many clinical support staff had to manage antiquated patient communications systems (e.g., robocalls) that frustrated patients and failed to deliver the positive experience provider organizations desired.

Unfortunately, both patients and staff have lost — and continue to lose — valuable time due to these outdated ways of communicating, such as holding for minutes on end, playing ongoing phone tag, or missing each other altogether. COVID-19 has exacerbated these situations — jeopardizing patient health and experience, as well as staff well-being.

A new WELL™ Health study of 320 frontline clinical support staff, all of whom communicate and coordinate directly with patients outside of the office, found:

88% report moderate to extreme burnout, with more than half (56%) rating it on the high to extreme end.

82% believe the patient communication process is a direct cause of their burnout. A majority of survey respondents (96%) indicate phone-based communication is their primary method of patient communication.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) report they have considered quitting or switching jobs because of the stress caused by patient-communication processes.

Read the full study here.

KEY STUDY FINDINGS

Clinical Support Staff Are Overwhelmed and Burned Out – Reporting Patient Communications Is a Direct Cause

88% report moderate to extreme burnout – with more than half (56%) rating it as high or extreme

82% believe the patient communications process is a direct cause of their burnout

Which Part of the Patient Communications Process is Overwhelming Staff?

96% of survey respondents say that phone-based communication is their primary method of patient communication

82% report frustration with communicating and coordinating with patients over the phone – with more than half (54%) reporting their frustration is consistent

Clinical Support Staff Burnout and Patient Communication Challenges Affect Patient Care

58% believe that their burnout has negatively affected a patient’s quality of care

60% report that poor or ineffective patient communication has negatively affected a patient’s health outcome

The Good News? Staff Are Speaking Up About Burnout And Management Is Responding

According to the study, 70% of respondents have reported their mental health challenges to their supervisors

80% of those who discussed their mental health challenges with management said that management took some efforts to improve their situation

Ineffective phone-based communications is one of the contributing factors to clinical support staff burnout.

To combat this growing trend, health systems should leverage the latest patient communication innovations to reduce clinical staff burnout and improve patient care.

Here are the key factors to look for when considering a patient communications technology solution:

Meet patients where they are

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Meet patients where they are
Connect securely with patients anywhere, anytime (and in real-time) through today’s most accessible communication: text messaging.

Unify patient communications with a platform-level solution

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Unify patient communications with a platform-level solution
Ensure various patient touchpoints — sent via text, email, phone and live chat — are connected into a single conversation thread. This way, staff can have one cohesive view of the patient’s communication history across their digital health ecosystem.

Empower clinical support staff

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Empower clinical support staff
Enable staff to quickly customize and disseminate messaging — without relying on IT tickets or third-party vendors — so they can quickly engage patients in real-time.

Prioritize security

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Prioritize security
Look for vendors who are committed to deploying and enforcing the latest information security frameworks and are HITRUST certified.

Amplify existing IT investments

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Amplify existing IT investments
Partner with a vendor that integrates with existing clinical and administrative systems (such as patient portals and payment platforms) to multiply the value of your investments.

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Leverage the latest patient communication innovations to reduce staff burnout and improve patient care.
Read the full study here

Clinical Support Staff Burnout Linked to Patient Communication Challenges