How Can HR Leaders Help Healthcare Achieve the ‘Quadruple Aim’?
Many health systems have improved their performance by focusing on what is called the “Triple Aim.” These include three dimensions:
- Enhancing patient experience;
- Improving population health; and
- Reducing costs.
Unfortunately, provider and staff burnout and low job satisfaction can put all three of these factors at risk. Burnout can contribute to employee turnover, which can disrupt workplaces and increase costs for facilities. Burnout also is potentially harmful to patient safety, not only because of the previously mentioned disruptions, but also because it can lead to increased medical errors and compassion fatigue.
Because of widespread burnout and its potential effects, experts recommend that health employers also focus on improving the work experience for clinicians and healthcare support staff. This creates a new “Quadruple Aim.”
Has COVID-19 affected this objective?
Burnout has been a concern for healthcare workplaces for years already. The COVID-19 public health emergency, however, has exacerbated burnout in many facilities.
The effects of COVID-19 on healthcare workplaces include:
- Care providers and other health staff working under increased expectations;
- Greater workloads in areas with high viral infection rates;
- Financial difficulties and disruptions to both facilities and individuals due to shutdowns and patient backlogs; and
- Increasing staff shortages causing greater workloads.
Healthcare workers have reported high rates of burnout in the last two years, although not all workers are experiencing the same types or levels of stress.
What role does HR have in reaching the Quadruple Aim?
Healthcare HR leaders have a vital role to play in helping to reduce burnout and thus achieve the Quadruple Aim. There are many ways that HR staff can identify, prevent, or manage burnout in the healthcare workforce.
Encourage burnout prevention by understanding risk factors.
Preventing burnout is more effective than fixing it, and there are ways that HR can manage and prevent stress in their workplaces. This includes understanding burnout risk factors and contributors, such as being a newer or younger clinician, or requiring high amounts of administrative work for clinicians.
Focus on retaining and engaging staff.
Hiring and onboarding employees appropriately can also encourage employee retention and engagement. HR should ensure that staff receive high quality, thorough training to help their job performance and understand their role in the organization. Creating a culture of recognition can help employees feel appreciated, letting them know that support is available to them and that their work, while still stressful, is meaningful.
HR leaders should not be afraid to get creative or flexible in the way they manage their workforce to help address or prevent workplace burnout. This may involve rethinking employees’ schedules, vacation time, or full-time vs. part-time status. This may require different approaches to attracting and hiring top talent. HR departments should request feedback from their existing staff to understand the causes of workplace stress and whether employees can recommend ways to mitigate burnout.
Provider burnout affects patient care and workplace efficiency. By helping to reduce and prevent burnout among healthcare staff, HR leaders can have a ripple effect throughout the organization that can help improve all four elements of the Quadruple Aim.