The game-changer in reducing behavioral health provider burnout: three telehealth strategies you should adopt
For behavioral health providers, burnout has always been a very real risk of an intensely focused and stressful job. Even before the pandemic, in 2018, the American Psychological Association estimated that up to 61% of mental health practitioners were experiencing burnout (APA). A 2020 study found that 78% of psychiatrists were positive for signs of burnout (Psychiatry Online).
Not surprisingly, the increase in provider burnout follows an unprecedented surge in need for care, resulting from the global health crisis, economic uncertainty, social and civil unrest, and increasingly severe natural disasters. A chronic shortage of skilled professionals is making matters worse, both by limiting access to much-needed care and straining overworked providers even further. Currently, there are only enough providers to meet 28% of the need for mental healthcare in the U.S. (Kaiser), with the shortage expected to exceed 250,000 behavioral health professionals by 2025 (Accenture).
Rising adoption of telehealth solutions is helping providers and behavioral health companies meet the challenge. The U.S. federal government reported that telehealth visits for behavioral health provided to Medicare beneficiaries increased by 32x—or by 3,090%—in 2020 compared to 2019 (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services).
As impressive as these results have been for patients, companies looking for innovative ways to reduce on-the-job provider stress and burnout should consider how their telehealth strategy can also better serve their staff.
How burnout impacts behavioral health companies
Burnout is a state of exhaustion and apathy that may result from prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress at work. If not addressed, it can lead to chronic mental and physical health issues and seriously impact quality of life. For behavioral health companies, burnout directly impacts quality of care, employee engagement and churn, and the bottom line. (“Addressing Healthcare Worker Burnout: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce,” May 2022)
How companies can impact provider burnout with technology
All too often, telehealth adoption for behavioral health companies has simply meant adding EHR to a growing tech stack. But solutions that don’t easily integrate into a provider’s day-to-day workflow can add tedious, manual tasks to an already long list of to-do’s. Point solutions don’t deliver a truly digital-first experience that empowers providers to engage more fully and meet patient needs throughout their journey. They fail to give providers data-driven insights that can help them understand how to improve outcomes. Data can also help providers be more proactive in how they plan schedules and improve their overall day-to-day experience. By implementing a technology like a telehealth operations platform, companies can create a truly end-to-end, digital-first experience that engages and empowers providers to efficiently deliver high-quality care while reducing burnout.
Free providers to focus on client care by simplifying and automating workflows
For most providers, delivering high-quality care means spending most of their time with patients, while minimizing administrative tasks and paperwork. With the right technology, companies can simplify how providers care for clients at every step of their journey. Point solutions like an EHR only enable providers to do one thing at a time. Schedule an appointment in this system. Chart in that system. Bill in another system. Run a remote session in the video conferencing platform. Track metrics in a spreadsheet. All the manual processes required to get the work done are clunky and frustrating, and take time away from client care. According to Medscape’s most recent survey, 60% of physicians surveyed rank having too many administrative tasks as the number one factor most likely to contribute to burnout.
By simplifying the workflows and reducing the amount of manual tasks required, you can free up providers to do what they love doing most—focus on helping their clients.
Engage providers more deeply by engaging clients beyond video calls
In one recent study, 25% of surveyed workers report feeling tired after video calls, a condition often referred to as Zoom fatigue (Pew). For behavioral health providers already feeling stress and disengaged at work, shifting their primary client interactions online may increase the risk of burnout.
Technology such as a telehealth operations platform can address this issue by empowering providers to re-imagine care and create an end-to-end virtual treatment experience to support clients beyond a video call. With features such as group virtual therapy, instant messaging, homework assignments, content, and subscription programs, providers can serve clients across state lines, who may be seeking unique treatment not available locally. Innovative organizations like Trafalgar Addictions Treatment Centers and Pyramid Healthcare have leveraged OnCall’s a telehealth platform to deliver complete, end-to-end virtual treatment and superior experience that improves client outcomes as well as provider experience.
Acknowledge and educate providers about the impact of their work
Many providers cherish the positive feedback they may receive from clients about the impact of the work they do. In addition to providing the company with data-driven insights about the strength of telehealth programs, a telehealth platform with a strong analytics and reporting tool can help reduce provider burnout by creating a feedback loop that lets providers see—and others acknowledge—the impact of their work. You can give providers information they can use to adapt the care they provide to better serve clients. For example, you can share how and when clients engage, which digital interactions are most effective, how many appointments have been completed, and changes in scheduling trends.
Turning the tables on behavioral health provider burnout with telehealth
For behavioral health providers, burnout has always been a risk. With the stresses of increased demand and chronic staffing shortages, provider burnout has become a critical concern for everyone in the industry. Telehealth has proven itself a game-changer in making behavioral health accessible to more people, and it can also be a game-changer in helping companies reduce provider burnout. By simplifying workflows to limit administrative tasks, enabling providers to extend care beyond the video call into an end-to-end virtual care experience, and providing companies and providers with data-driven insights to optimize care, companies can significantly improve the provider’s experience and reduce the risk of burnout.