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5 steps to a better work/life balance for physicians & staff
Every day healthcare providers are buried under piles of work—add on extra time spent implementing electronic health records, navigating Meaningful Use requirements and implementing and updating ICD-10 codes, it may seem like there isn’t a moment to spare. No matter the time of year, private-practice physicians and staff, are acutely aware of their time, or rather the lack thereof.
A 2012 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that physicians are nearly twice as likely to be unhappy with their work-life balance as other workers.1 The average general-practice physician, according to a 2013 survey, works approximately 51 hours a week, with younger doctors clocking 59 hours.2 But some physicians far surpass this average.
With planning, you can achieve a better balance between your professional and personal life. We have gathered a few of the best work-life balance hacks to help you get out of the door on time.
Conduct a time audit.
We often get to the end of the day wondering how it went by so fast. Understanding how you spend your time is the first critical step to making necessary adjustments.
Conduct a weeklong time audit by writing down the time you take to complete each task (email, after-hours calls, time with patients, checking messages). This can help you determine how you are spending—and wasting—your time. Asking office and clinical staff in your small practice to do the same could lead to a major eye-opener. It’s a hassle, but well worth the time.
Invest in modern solutions.
Reviewing time audits is the best way to find ways to improve processes with modern solutions. If your systems have been around for years, or even decades, it’s probably time to update your practice.
For example, the time spent pulling paper charts can be eliminated with electronic health records. Automated reminder calls can help your staff focus on patients while they are in the office. Smarter billing solutions can eliminate the hours wasted on claim denials and follow-up calls. Front office staff can auto-assign intake, consent, history and demographics forms to patients who can complete forms at home through a patient portal or at the practice using our patient check-in kiosk on an iPad.
Find smarter ways to work.
Maintaining the status quo often seems the easiest way to run a practice. After all, change can require a lot of time and energy. But the investment in finding smarter ways to work will pay big dividends for physicians and office administrators down the road.
Today’s EHR systems have automated features that can help your work differently. Improve your on-call experience with systems that allow you to access records on the go. Ditch your desk with the mobile solutions that allow you to complete charting or update schedules at home. Streamline patient workflow and financial outcomes, from appointment scheduling to filing notes in the patient record, and expediting the billing process, by adding virtual patient visits or telemedicine. This could mean fewer missed family and personal obligations and no more late-night trips to the office.
Be willing to delegate and trust.
The pressures on independent physicians and private-practice office administrators are daunting—but others can help carry the burden. It may difficult, but delegating tasks may be the fastest way to take back your time. If the task does not require a medical degree or advanced training, there’s probably someone else who could do it.
If you find that you don’t trust your staff’s skills, you may want to consider additional training or software that can automate tasks. For example, reporting features from EHR and practice management vendors allow anyone to pull and analyze financial reports, like provider productivity, payer reimbursement, collections per total RVU, A/R trends, trend revenue-driving KPIs, and benchmarking data to compare amongst your peers, among others. Taking time now to improve the abilities of office staff will allow you to focus on tasks that require your attention.
Stop stressing about things you can’t change.
It seems like every other day there is a new announcement from CMS about a new regulation or deadline. Insurance companies are finding new ways to deny claims. However, being frustrated or angry about the ever-changing demands on independent physicians can cause undo stress for you and those around you.
Try to channel the frustration into discovering ways to meet these demands in smarter, innovative ways. Educating yourself can also help you take action.
Be committed to taking a break.
This may mean different things for different people, but the key here is taking time away from the demands of busy independent practice to take care of yourself.
Scheduling in short ten-minute breaks for a cup of coffee or a short walk can do wonders. If escaping to a beach is what you need, mark it on a calendar and commit that you won’t cancel or postpone. The 2013 survey also revealed that 40% of physicians who were experiencing “burnout” symptoms had taken less than two weeks of vacation in the prior year. Maybe the beach is in order.
Curious how AdvancedMD can save you time? Schedule a personalized demo to discover how smarter software can make the difference.
Visit us at ACOG booth #134, May 14-17, to see how these solutions will improve your practice.
1Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Shanafelt TD, Boone S, Tan L, et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172:1377-1385.
2Productivity in primary care is geared for a revival. Donna Marbury. Medical Economics. November 25, 2013.