15 Nov Providing Grace in Times of Stress: Solutions for Pediatric Practices
One common thread that comes up often in conversations among pediatric providers and their staff is how exhausting the last several years have been. Pediatricians in cities, suburbs, and rural areas alike are burned out and they’re facing what seems like an insurmountable combination of increased expectations and decreased practice resources.
It’s very difficult to scale your way out of the current demand. Instead of using the same strategies you’ve relied on in the past, you need to innovate and think creatively to thrive today and in the future. If you don’t, you run the risk of making your work life even more challenging.
So, how can you provide care with grace in the midst of these stressful times? Facing these challenges while continuing to thrive requires new ways of thinking.
The Challenges Pediatric Practices Face
To develop a better road map of where innovation is needed, you must first understand the common challenges you face.
Healthcare worker shortages. While as many as 1.5 million healthcare jobs were lost in early 2020, now many job openings have returned as demand has spiked. However, according to recent research from the American Hospital Association, healthcare worker shortages have reached critical levels. Now, it’s projected there will be a shortage of between 17,800 and 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.
Some physicians have quit, exhausted by the long hours and increased demands of their jobs, which have generally not been accompanied by a corresponding rise in pay. Others have sought out less stressful disciplines, or cut down their available hours.
Increased patient expectations. Even if your practice is fully staffed, chances are it still feels like you’re short a few staff members. That’s because practices are now being asked to provide services like telehealth visits on an ongoing basis, which can be an additional strain on providers and practice staff. While patients love the simplicity and convenience of a telehealth appointment, providers may need to alter their operational workflows to make virtual care as seamless as possible.
Burnout. So many pediatric professionals are drained and burned out. In a 2022 survey, 62.8% of physicians reported at least one symptom of burnout, compared to 38.2% in 2020. This continual worry, stress, and anxiety ends up having a direct impact on your own health.
Challenges in pediatric mental health. In addition to physicians experiencing poorer mental health, it’s important to note that their pediatric patients have gone through a similar struggle. Healthcare organizations and government agencies alike have been unanimous in their message: there is an ongoing pediatric mental health emergency facing our children. According to a 2022 survey, 15% of children experienced a major depressive episode, and 60% of youth with major depression received no care at all.
This has placed an incredible burden on pediatricians, who have been tasked with helping families navigate these circumstances while they work to find a referral for children that offers appropriate care.
What Can You Do Differently?
Despite these challenges, pediatricians are fully capable of meeting the needs of their patients and supporting their own mental health. But the first step is to stop trying to conduct business as usual and permit yourself to think creatively.
By innovating new solutions to the problems pediatric practices are facing rather than trying to scale your way out of it, you can learn how to serve patients in a more sustainable way.
Here are some ideas of where to start.
Ask for help. Many pediatric practices are overwhelmed by demands related to flu season, booster shots, and more. Instead of trying to tackle them all, ask for help. This could be anything from recruiting gap-year medical students to fill in necessary holes in your team schedule to offloading all upcoming booster shots to a local community health clinic or pharmacy.
Streamline well visits and other non-urgent screenings. Instead of trying to get everything done, focus on what really matters. Well visits and other treatments can be streamlined, and unnecessary screenings and surveys postponed until things begin to normalize a bit more.
Think about connecting with families en masse. One absolute reality is that we’re all struggling. Instead of trying to offer resources to patients and their families one-on-one, start thinking about ways to connect with families en masse. You can refer questions to a once-weekly Facebook Live, or put resources on your website so they’re more accessible to families without them having to call your front desk and ask.
Consider a virtual assistant answering service. An answering service is a great way to triage after-hours calls when your practice is closed, but did you know you can also use live agents to help you cover lunch breaks or during your busiest times of the day? It gives your staff some breathing room while allowing someone to be there for your patients when you can’t be.
Outsource your billing. One of the most significant benefits of working with an external partner for your RCM and billing needs is getting the expertise of an entire financial team to take the burden off your own staff. With skilled labor shortages in the healthcare sector today, it makes sense to outsource this to a team of experts who can hit the ground running, and frees up your staff’s time to focus on other administrative tasks. An added bonus: if your on-staff biller gets sick or has an emergency, you don’t have to scramble to fill the gap and worry about losing weeks of lost revenue.
Getting Through Challenges with Kindness, Patience, and Grace
While there are many new and innovative ways to serve patients, the best way by far is to concentrate on being kind to yourself and others. With kindness, patience, and grace, you can focus on what matters most – your patients and their families.
EHRs are the key to streamlining operations, identifying efficiencies, and freeing up valuable time for clients. Our EHR and Revenue Cycle Management solutions offer features designed to help keep your practice’s financial and clinical operations running smoothly, so you can focus on what you do best – taking care of your patients. To learn how Office Practicum can help your pediatric practice operate at its best, contact us today.