Unfortunately, clinician burnout remains a widespread issue in the industry, even as the pandemic winds down. According to approximately one-third of clinicians, chronic staffing shortages and unfavorable financial margins contribute to this problem, making burnout the biggest threat to healthcare. Now that COVID is morphing into a variety of Long-COVID disorders and anxieties about global warming are on the rise, cures for burnout are increasingly relying on telehealth.
In mental health, clinician burnout has been documented well before COVID. Dreison and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 35 years worth of research in 2018. They concluded that “person-directed interventions were more effective than organization-directed interventions at reducing emotional exhaustion… and that job training/education was the most effective organizational intervention subtype.” A 2022 systematic review article published by Lluch and colleagues was intended to determine burnout, compassion fatigue, and compassion satisfaction, as well as their associated risks and protective factors, in healthcare professionals during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. As can be expected, all factors skyrocketed.
Telehealth Cures for Burnout
Well-educated and proficient clinicians, supported by practice sessions using telehealth platforms, can minimize errors during patient interactions, improving patient experience. For a granular look at these realities, it may be helpful to consider how telehealth and telemedicine offer a way forward for organizations and individual clinicians.
Clinician Cures for Burnout
- Flexible scheduling and reduced commuting. Telehealth allows clinicians to have more control over their schedules by eliminating the need for extensive commuting between different healthcare facilities. This flexibility can help reduce stress and fatigue associated with long commutes, allowing clinicians to achieve a better work-life balance.
- Remote team collaboration. Telehealth platforms enable clinicians to collaborate with their colleagues remotely, eliminating the need for in-person meetings or consultations. This can help reduce time spent on administrative tasks and increase efficiency, freeing up more time for direct patient care and reducing burnout.
- Enhanced access to mental health support. Teletherapy or telecounseling services provide clinicians with convenient access to mental health support, including counseling and therapy sessions. This can be particularly beneficial for clinicians experiencing burnout, as it allows them to seek professional help without the added burden of scheduling and commuting to in-person appointments.
- Peer support networks. Telehealth platforms can facilitate the creation of virtual peer support networks, where clinicians can connect and share experiences with colleagues facing similar challenges. Peer support effectively mitigates burnout by providing a safe space for clinicians to discuss their struggles, seek advice, and receive emotional support.
- Self-care and wellness programs. Telehealth platforms can host resources and wellness programs specifically tailored to support clinician self-care and well-being. These resources may include educational materials, stress management techniques, mindfulness exercises, and access to wellness programs such as yoga or meditation sessions. Providing easy access to such resources can help clinicians proactively manage their stress and prevent burnout.
- Workload management and patient triage. Telehealth platforms can assist with workload management by providing tools for efficient patient triage. Clinicians can use telemedicine to conduct initial assessments, determine the urgency of cases, and prioritize their workload accordingly. This can help prevent feeling overwhelmed and allow clinicians to allocate their time and energy more effectively.
- Remote monitoring and follow-up care. Telehealth technologies, such as remote monitoring devices or virtual follow-up appointments, can reduce the need for frequent in-person visits for certain patient populations. This can help clinicians optimize their time and resources, reduce their workload, and potentially decrease the risk of burnout associated with excessive patient visits.
- Increased job satisfaction. Telehealth can allow clinicians to engage in diverse and challenging cases, regardless of geographical barriers. This exposure to a broader range of patients and conditions can enhance job satisfaction, as clinicians can experience professional growth and maintain interest in their work.
- Improved work-life balance. Telehealth allows clinicians greater flexibility in managing their work schedules. By providing the option to work remotely or set flexible hours, telehealth enables clinicians to balance their professional responsibilities with personal commitments better, reducing burnout caused by long working hours or an imbalance between work and personal life.
- Employee Retention. Working from home retains experienced clinicians in the workforce for longer. Remote work flexibility contributes to the longevity of clinician careers, ensuring that their valuable expertise and skills continue benefiting patients and the healthcare system.
- Enhanced peer collaboration and learning. Telehealth platforms can facilitate virtual peer consultations and multidisciplinary team discussions, allowing clinicians to seek advice, share knowledge, and learn from each other’s experiences. Collaborative learning and support systems can help combat feelings of isolation and provide a sense of community, which are important factors in preventing burnout.
- Access to specialist expertise. Telehealth enables clinicians to consult with specialists or receive second opinions remotely easily. This access to specialized knowledge and expertise can help clinicians feel more confident in their decision-making process, reducing stress and burnout associated with managing complex cases without sufficient support.
- Personalized self-care resources. Telehealth platforms can provide clinicians with personalized self-care resources, such as stress management tools, resilience training programs, and mental health resources. These resources can empower clinicians to prioritize their own well-being and actively engage in self-care practices, mitigating burnout and promoting overall mental health.
- Efficient communication and coordination with patients. Telehealth platforms enable secure messaging, video conferencing, and real-time patient communication. Clear and efficient communication channels can reduce miscommunication, improve patient-provider relationships, and minimize the risk of professional dissatisfaction or burnout resulting from misunderstandings or conflicts with patients.
- Continuous professional development. Telehealth platforms can offer clinicians access to webinars, and online courses, allowing them to stay updated with the latest clinical advancements, training certificates and engage in continuous professional development. Keeping clinicians well-informed and equipped with the latest knowledge and skills can enhance job satisfaction and reduce burnout stemming from feelings of professional stagnation.
Organizational Cures for Clinician Burnout
These telehealth burnout remedies are particularly relevant to organizations:
- Accomplishing more with limited resources. Implementing telehealth strategies enables healthcare facilities to expand their reach to a broader patient population while managing their workforce efficiently. By utilizing telehealth, specialist support can be distributed across multiple locations, benefiting caregivers and providers. Additionally, a small group of clinicians can provide coverage at various hospitals throughout the state.
- Serving more people with fewer staff. Adopting telehealth visits helps clinics tackle the issues associated with staffing shortages, which have become a critical and escalating national crisis. According to findings from Elsevier, a survey suggested that nearly half of US clinicians plan to leave their positions within the next few years. Encouraging clinicians to explore virtual care career opportunities can help address this crisis. Embracing a “virtual-first care” approach, where the client or patient’s care journey begins with telehealth, allows the clinician, group, or other organization to efficiently assess the patient’s needs before determining the most suitable care setting—virtual, in-person, or a combination of both. Such a stepped-care model streamlines care delivery and enhances access to healthcare services.
- Reduced administrative burden. Telehealth platforms can streamline administrative tasks by automating documentation, appointment scheduling, and billing processes. By minimizing paperwork and administrative burdens, clinicians can allocate more time and energy to direct patient care, reducing burnout caused by excessive administrative responsibilities.
- Telehealth education for all parties. To fully harness the benefits of telehealth, comprehensive education should be provided to staff and patients. Clinicians, doctors, and other healthcare providers need training on telehealth software, including functionality, integration into their workflow, effective communication during consultations, and where to seek technical assistance. Addressing patient concerns about virtual visits is also essential.
By leveraging the cures for burnout offered by telehealth, telemedicine, and teletherapy, healthcare organizations and clinicians can promote increased efficiency, work-life balance, collaboration, professional growth, and access to support and resources.
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