Three Ways Technology Combats Nurse Burnout in Hospice Care
Article originally featured on Hospice News
Nurse burnout has long been a challenge for hospice providers, as care delivery in the home comes with certain expectations and requirements not typical of other care settings.
Research suggests that hospice nurse burnout in particular is tied to large caseloads; around-the-clock care and the unexpected nature of hospice hours; and regularly witnessing grief and loss. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis that began in early 2020 made in-home hospice care even more challenging for nurses and other care providers who are asked to do more with less in a highly uncertain care environment.
But as hospices begin to adopt technology more rapidly due to the pandemic, they are also starting to use it specifically to address the causes of nurse burnout.
“Technology has been a critical element in managing patient care over the last several months, and many organizations are seeking platforms that can help them solve the nurse burnout issue,” says Rob Stoltz, VP of business development for Citus Health, a provider of care collaboration technology for in-home care providers.
There are three ways in which technology is working to assist organizations toward this effort, Stoltz says.
1: Optimizing IDG coordination
One arrangement that has been linked to preventing nurse burnout is a structured interdisciplinary (or multidisciplinary) group (IDG) that shares responsibility for hospice patient care.
“Multidisciplinary teams are often protective against burnout because staff can support one another through challenging cases and divide up the workload,” Timothy E. Quill MD, professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, Medical Humanities and Nursing at the University of Rochester School of Medicine recently told Hospice News. “Many hospice programs have people within the team that others can confide in. Creating a high-functioning multidisciplinary team is a sophisticated process, but this is the ideal hospices should strive for if they want to sustain their workforce.”
Forward thinking hospices are embracing technology to improve coordination within the IDG and alleviate the stress driven by growing caseloads, and they are expanding beyond the IDG to incorporate outside partners like durable medical equipment providers as well.
Citus Health, for example, has IDG patient discussion groups that streamline IDG communications and can prevent individual caregiver stress.
“Our latest tech can enable immediate actions resulting from the patient discussion group,” Stoltz says. “For example, based on an event or need, an instant video chat can be established to include external partners and even family caregivers to address an urgent issue. This can mean more streamlined flow and fewer phone calls to deliver a bed, for example.”
A single hub that enables a seamless information flow within the IDG can reduce frustration and can lead to a better experience for the patient, family, and importantly, the care provider.
2: Improving work-life balance
The 24/7 nature of hospice care can be a direct cause of nurse burnout, as patient needs may arise at any hour of any day.
One of the ways technology can assist is by providing a platform where all patient-related communication takes place, thus giving all care team members and family real-time information. Technology can leverage the power of the interdisciplinary group to address inbound communications through instant messaging and auto-escalation protocols, meaning the hospice provider can route a message directly to the right person rather than the off-duty nurse having to operate as the single point of contact.
“Family caregiver communication technology can ease the burden and pressure on the nurse, who would otherwise be the single point person,” Stoltz says. “We like to talk about enabling nurses to not have to give their mobile number because with the Citus Health messaging platform, secure inbound messages can be routed to any one or all of the IDG members as specified by the hospice organization. With our auto-escalation feature, the communication is instantaneous so family members in need of a response are taken care of more quickly.”
3: Streamlining family communications
The hospice nurse, typically the point person when it comes to family communication, can be overwhelmed dealing with multiple family members, many of whom may be remote. These family members may differ in their opinions about their loved ones’ care, in the questions they have and in what they hear from the nurse — which can create confusion within the family. And, family members may also be communicating with various members of the IDG. Through no fault of the nurse, these factors can result in family members becoming frustrated, leading to even more phone calls.
Modern technology can streamline the communication with family members through instant messaging and video chats able to include the entire family. Through these platforms, nurses and other IDG team members can provide real time updates to family members on their loved ones all in one communication. This means more family members feel included without nurses and IDG members having to contact them individually, leading to less confusion and a smoother process.
“We provide the ability for our customers to communicate with the entire family at once through secure instant messaging or family video chats,” says Stoltz. “Hospice nurses often spend significant time performing this communication after hours, so this streamlined and consistent approach benefits them by allowing them to engage all of the parties through one action. And through our instant messaging, the IDG can see what has been communicated with families so that everyone is on the same page, so it makes life easier for the IDG, too.”
Any tools that make clinicians’ jobs easier can help reduce burnout and subsequent turnover. A care coordination platform can save precious time so nurses can focus on what matters most — the patient. And, when the care coordination platform easily integrates into the organization’s EHR, as the Citus Health platform does, it means any data captured on the platform can be automatically added to the patient record.
“Increasingly, the focus is on care coordination and efficiency as care organizations are asked to do more with less,” Stoltz says. “Technology can be the critical component to ensure the care team is communicating and coordinating to achieve the best outcomes for the patient, while preventing burnout.”