Utilizing Digital Health Technology to Reduce Healthcare Burnout

COVID-19. We’ve all heard it, and we’re all continuing to live through it. However, no one knows it better than our healthcare professionals (HCPs). Day in and day out, they work tirelessly to navigate a new world filled with challenges and, believe it or not, opportunities.

Since March 2020, Canadian HCPs have faced more burnout than ever. Between vaccine rollout, misinformation in the media, and a move to virtual care, HCPs everywhere have seen their mental health impacted. Throughout these months, HCPs analyzed the challenges they have faced and worked together to make improvements that are guaranteed to impact areas in healthcare positively for years to come.

Dealing with burnout

Long before the pandemic, Canadian HCPs showed signs of burnout. When asked, Dr. Ravi Ramjeesingh shared that burnout is the most pressing issue facing physicians in Canadian healthcare today. With jam-packed workdays and the emotional intensity that comes with being on the frontlines, many have lived with overwhelming feelings of exhaustion, and negativity, just two of many examples of burnout. Many HCPs fear that with burnout on the rise, the healthcare system will become ever more fragile than it already is.

COVID-19 has highlighted many issues previously faced in healthcare. HCPs have had no choice but to face these issues head-on while also dealing with external uncertainty and stress. They have had to adopt a digital practice and keep up with their patients through a time of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. With new information released each day, HCPs must keep up with the latest vaccine and variant information while focusing on their mental health.

There is no denying the global shift that every industry, especially healthcare, has faced from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of COVID-19, health clinics across the country were forced to adopt a virtual care model, at least partially, to provide care that was safe, timely, and accessible. Clinics had to change methods for patient scheduling rapidly with little to no support while managing other aspects of their clinic, such as daily administrative tasks, business operations, patient interactions, and new COVID-19 staffing pressures and policy requirements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pressured Canadian HCPs and shook the industry to its very core. The pandemic has put pressure on HCPs to adopt new ways of working. This pressure propelled digital solution integration into mainstream healthcare and changed how healthcare is offered and received in Canada – now and in the future.

Tool and resource development

As stated previously, while HCPs and clinics tried to navigate COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine rollouts and virtual care, many saw existing gaps in healthcare become larger. These challenges, in turn, had many people in healthcare relying on the development of various tools, resources, and processes:

  • Vaccine access and delivery

Timely vaccination access is the key to maintaining population immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases. Technology, or lack thereof, is a barrier. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of infrastructure was available to support widespread vaccinations. If someone wanted to book a COVID-19 vaccination, they had to call multiple clinics, be added to waitlists, and follow up on their appointments by calling clinics directly. These processes were frustrating, stressful and time-consuming for patients, clinicians, and administrative staff.

Digital tools such as EMPOWER Health’s MyVaccines.ca make managing vaccinations easy for HCPs. Technology that allows someone to search for available vaccines online, join a waitlist, and book appointments make vaccinations easier to access, manage, and administer. Healthcare administrators can even automatically schedule booster or secondary shots, send automatic email reminders and easily manage vaccination catch-up programs, thus making it as easy as possible for HCPs to deliver quality care. Solutions like MyVaccines.ca helps improve healthcare navigation as a whole system, thereby increasing effectiveness and efficiency across health teams and networks.

  • Supporting primary care practices

Founded in 2012, EMPOWER Health is an online appointment management platform and health service directory that helps Canadians find and access the care they need. The national locator is a feature that any healthcare provider in Canada can utilize. Healthcare practitioners can update important information about their clinic, such as hours of operation, services provided, languages spoken, and whether they are accepting new patients. These features are searchable and viewable by anyone using the platform. This tool helps health clinics attract new patients and update the community without additional administrative work.

However, many clinics see the benefit when combined with online scheduling. Online appointment booking goes beyond reducing call volumes and optimizing staff time. Every time a patient cancels or reschedules an appointment, a health clinic loses money. Research shows that patients who schedule their own appointments are more likely to show up and achieve their unique health goals. Automating the appointment booking process takes the administration burden off clinical teams, improves patient outcomes, and produces notable cost savings for clinicians.

For instance, one clinician who implemented EMPOWER Health’s EMR-integrated online appointment scheduler into their clinic reduced call volumes by 2/3rds and significantly boosted the productivity of administrative staff. When staff spend less time answering the phone, managing appointments and fixing scheduling errors, they, in turn, have more time to focus on activities that improve patient experience and increase clinic revenues, such as patient referrals and follow-ups.

EMPOWER Health’s EMR-integrated online appointment scheduler helps clinics reduce time and revenue loss in their clinics while boosting productivity and efficiency. 

  • Online collarboration networks

The Rounds is a secure network for healthcare professionals. Founded in 2012, The Rounds modernizes how healthcare professionals access and share information because sharing knowledge saves lives. At the height of the pandemic, physicians relied on The Rounds to share the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 across Canada. The network broke down geographic barriers to ensure physicians from British Columbia to Nova Scotia could connect in a world that turned virtual overnight. 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a riskier workplace environment for physicians, and it has become essential to protect their mental health and overall well-being. In April 2021, The Rounds highlighted the need for more support for physicians with the launch of their ResilienceRx community, which aims to provide that necessary outlet. ResilienceRx is a physician forum for discussion, sharing, learning, laughing, and growing. Physicians come here for support, reprieve, and personal growth and can be accessed for free with a complimentary The Rounds membership for physicians.

It is clear that burnout is something HCPs and clinics have faced and will continue to face in the world of healthcare. However, if COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is the development of various tools, resources, and long overdue processes. Myvaccines.ca, EMPOWER.ca, and The Rounds have helped reduce burnout among our HCPs and clinics, and future improvements will continue to mitigate the issues facing the Canadian healthcare system for years to come.

The views and opinions of those physicians featured in this article do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Rounds. Any physician or HCP featured on our website has an active voice in the Twitter Medical Community. If you have any questions or concerns please contact hannah@therounds.com