Employee satisfaction is a big issue for many industries, but none more so than healthcare. Burnout can affect in-office productivity, but for healthcare professionals it also can impact patient well-being and safety.
On the reverse side, studies show that strong employee satisfaction is linked to better patient care and fewer healthcare-related complications.
But improving staff happiness is not always as simple as giving employees a pat on the back. In order to create sustained engagement, it’s important that healthcare offices take the necessary steps to help staff members feel properly valued.
If you’re not sure exactly how to do that, here are a few ways you can engage staff members, improve productivity, and keep patient satisfaction high in the process.
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According to Gallup, the number one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. Even something as small as a handwritten note or a verbal “thank you” can help staff feel appreciated, but there are also more ways to recognize staff that can lead to higher levels of satisfaction.
A formal rewards program that offers larger incentives and benefits, like raises, a better parking space, or an extra vacation day may be beneficial in certain cases, though not all healthcare offices may be able to participate.
Career opportunities or public recognition programs are considered to be top engagement drivers, but even thoughtful or inexpensive gifts for staff members, like gift cards, memorabilia, or a box of donuts can also improve engagement.
It’s also important for staff members (especially leadership) to spot levels of dissatisfaction or burnout in other staff members or departments. The signs could include things like increased sick days, less socializing, mood swings, decreased quality of work, negativity or noticeable fatigue and exhaustion.
Reduce Tedious Tasks
Healthcare staff is often bogged down with time-consuming paperwork and other tedious tasks that can reduce overall job satisfaction. While technology makes a lot of these processes easier, many clinics are hesitant to use tech to automate processes.
Improving workflow by minimizing unnecessary tasks can help staff focus on more important things and patients will receive better care. A few of the biggest areas where technology can reduce the tedium include intake forms, appointment scheduling, and patient charting.
For most practices, intake forms are one of the biggest headaches. Even if patients arrive on time, they will still need to take time to complete paperwork. But online intake forms can be sent to patients ahead of time and can be stored electronically for easy access by staff later on. No more digging through files to find important information.
Patient scheduling can be another area of slowdown. According to the University of Minnesota, “Appointment scheduling systems lie at the intersection of efficiency and timely access to health services.” Patient no-shows as a result of forgetfulness or poor scheduling are also a big problem in healthcare, and something that can reduced with electronic appointment reminders and scheduling.
An additional bottleneck for healthcare staff is patient charts and notes. Up to a third of the day can be spent transferring notes into patient charts. Thankfully, electronic medical records (EMR) can assist in digitizing patient notes so that the process is organized and much faster.
Another considerable area where healthcare staff suffers is scheduling. Many healthcare offices struggle with scheduling issues, whether due to being understaffed or experiencing financial issues or simply being busy with patient care.
It can be tempting to squeeze as much time out of each staff member as possible, but expecting staff to work excessive overtime or without breaks or time off can negatively impact employee satisfaction.
Utilizing technology to automate scheduling can help, but something else offices should consider (if possible) is to give staff more control over their shifts. Staff often knows their preferences and availability better than managers, and by giving them the opportunity to choose their own schedule they can enjoy a better work life balance.
If that’s not possible, consider developing a staffing strategy that benefits as many workers as possible, and preferably one that matches staff with patient needs as well.
Scheduling based on who’s available may be necessary during a time crunch, but having a strategy in place to meet both staff and patient needs can improve satisfaction for everyone involved.
Update Legacy Systems
You also want to make sure that your current technology can handle things like automation, online intake forms, or electronic charts. Having an outdated legacy system that can’t handle necessary tasks can waste unnecessary time and frustrate staff members.
Legacy systems can also cost healthcare offices more money over time. According to Bruce Johnson, CEO of healthcare supply chain management organization GHX, $5 billion is lost annually in the healthcare supply chain due to inefficiencies involved in legacy systems.
Upgrading systems to meet newer technology standards can simplify many processes staff deals with on a daily basis, like patient charting or intake forms, but it can also enhance the overall patient experience. Less time spent handling paperwork means more time seeing patients, which means shorter wait times, less time spent in the office, and less hassle related to delayed paperwork.
Clarify Organizational Goals
Even if you had the newest technology and the best recognition program, your staff could still be unhappy if they don’t understand exactly how their job performance is being measured.
That’s why it’s essential for office management to help staff align with organizational goals as well as set goals for themselves for job performance. Leadership should take the time to clarify what those metrics are, however.
For example, if leadership believes that “high performance” means a high number of patients seen per day, but lower management or other office staff believe high performance to be less time spent in the office, those things may be in conflict.
Staff could assume that they’re living up to expectations and wonder why they’re not being recognized. Communicating expectations with staff can help them understand the metrics for success and, in turn, be more successful.
It’s also important for offices to hire staff members that align with organizational goals. While the hiring process can be stressful for understaffed offices, hiring someone just because they meet the minimum criteria won’t necessarily improve office morale.
HR should look for employees that will add benefit to the office and who fit the culture of the organization.
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While keeping staff happy is not an exact science, there are things that can be done intentionally to keep spirits high. General appreciation and recognition is an excellent place to start, and remember that even something simple and inexpensive can go a long way.
As much as possible, healthcare offices should seek to simplify workflow processes with technology to minimize tedium. Tasks like collecting and filing intake forms, processing patient charts, and scheduling (both patient and staff scheduling) can all be done electronically to save time.
Even though many healthcare offices are understaffed and overworked, giving employees time off or finding ways to improve their work life balance can also boost job satisfaction and improve patient care. Because ultimately, whatever you do for your staff, you’re also doing for your patients.