How a Regional Health Group Is Working To Improve Clinician Well-Being and Fulfillment

Leveraging the power of assessment data to guide wellness tactics and support staff

Well-Being Index Case Study

Recent statistics on clinician well-being paint a clear and concerning picture: more medical professionals are suffering every day from the effects of burnout, fatigue, and other dimensions of distress. Throughout the world, healthcare providers’ quality of life and professional fulfillment are being severely impacted by increasing work demands, inefficient system processes, and many other factors. This distress can prove devastating for individuals and organizations, leading to lower patient satisfaction, increased medical errors, higher clinician turnover rates, and even physician suicide.

Like many organizations, the regional health group that is the focus of this article began to sense a decline in the mental health and well-being of their providers. With over 800 physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants practicing at over 240 locations, leadership knew they had to increase efforts to protect their employees from the epidemic of distress that has been ravaging the medical community. It was time to Go Beyond Burnout.

Type of organization:

Group practice

Number of employees:

800+ physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants

Versions of the Well-Being Index:

Physician, Advanced Practice Provider

Note: the organization highlighted in this case study has been kept anonymous to protect confidentiality.

A Desire to Change

Wellness leaders within the organization recognized the alarming trend of physician burnout in the healthcare industry and were determined to support their staff. Results from an initial internal survey found that only 27% of staff felt that their work had meaning and only 33% felt that their work made a difference. These numbers confirmed the organization’s fears and provided an early indicator that they were following the industry-wide trend of significant levels of clinician distress.

Motivated by their commitment to staff and patient well-being,
wellness leaders established a number of goals to guide their efforts:

    • Help providers regain a sense of fulfillment and meaning in work

    • Create an environment that cares for providers so they can care for patients

    • Create individual approaches and resources to achieve wellness

    • Identify and correct systematic processes that attribute to less-than-optimal well-being

    • Focus on positive terminology like ‘well-being’ rather than the negative term ‘burnout’

    • Ensure that no one dies of suicide

To achieve these goals and get organizational buy-in, leadership needed to create a shared desire to change. To help accomplish this, they turned to the Well-Being Index.

The Physician Well-Being Index and Advanced Practice Provider Well-Being Index were rolled out to bring awareness to management and individuals on the scope of provider distress, elevate conversation on the importance of well-being, build a desire to implement meaningful change, and support staff by reaching leadership’s strategic goals.

Identifying Opportunities

The initial objective upon launching the Well-Being Index was to get as many providers to assess their well-being as possible and determine a baseline measurement of the distress and well-being levels throughout the organization. To identify what opportunities there were to strengthen support and what groups were most in need, collecting accurate data was essential in the first stages of their new wellness campaign.

However, leadership knew that they didn’t want just one measurement. Their strategy was to encourage participants to reassess on a continual basis and utilize the tracking functionalities within the Well-Being Index to see how distress levels change over time. This tracking would allow individuals to remain aware of their own well-being and provide leadership with insight into the performance of specific initiatives and overall progress. In addition, they wanted to see how exactly the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting staff well-being.

Through this reporting, wellness leaders were able to identify the most at-risk populations and develop customized support and outreach tactics based on the anonymous Well-Being Index data.

Implementing Strategic Tactics

Leadership understood that while accurate measurement is vital in supporting staff mental health, it’s only one piece of the overall wellness effort. After launching the Well-Being Index, the focus shifted to how they would utilize the data to its fullest potential and support their staff’s well-being.

Reducing Risk of Suicide
Along with gathering a general baseline measurement, the deidentified aggregate reporting also showed leadership that there were individuals within the organizations who were at a high risk of suicidal ideation. From these new insights, they were able to immediately implement resources specifically aimed at reducing the likelihood of tragedy, including a forum and discussion about suicide prevention.

In addition to these resources, other proactive measures were put in place to normalize the conversation, remove the stigma of seeking help and utilizing resources, and increase awareness and discussion regarding suicide.

Supporting Individual Well-Being
A major goal that the organization set was to create individual approaches and resources to help their staff achieve wellness and regain a sense of fulfillment and meaning in work. To do this, they used the Well-Being Index and a variety of external initiatives to provide the most comprehensive support possible with a variety of options for employees.

One of the reasons why the Well-Being Index was implemented as their survey tool was that along with invaluable reporting, it also offers a variety of participant benefits to help individuals improve their mental health. With the Well-Being Index, physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants at the organization have been able to monitor their well-being on a consistent basis, see how they are doing compared to their peers and national averages, access customized local and national resources based on their well-being scores, and track their progress over time. Resource categories include stress and resiliency, relationships, work-life integration, alcohol/substance abuse, and many more.

As part of their wellness programming, employees were also provided access to personalized support solutions such as physician coaching and counseling services to help improve well-being and regain direction and fulfillment.

Improving Systemic Processes
While providing excellent resources for individuals to maximize their well-being is extremely important, leaders also understood that the internal system processes and culture play a large role in staff well-being and mental health. To reach their goal of identifying and correcting system factors that have historically led to less-than-optimal well-being, they once again turned to the data and feedback collected for initial insights and direction.

To round out their holistic wellness effort, they developed several strategic initiatives aimed at improving organization operations. These were designed to foster the most healthy culture and environment possible and promote well-being starting with the most basic system processes. Initiatives included an updated code of conduct, enhanced two-way communication throughout the organization, onboarding policy updates, and leadership training and collegiate programs.

'From these new insights, they were able to immediately implement resources specifically aimed at reducing the likelihood of tragedy.'

Continuing the Fight

Through their journey, leaders at the organization have found that wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s an ongoing initiative that is vital to the health of employees, patients, and the entire institution. It takes a shared understanding of the issues and a desire to change. Improving the lives of providers requires more than a wellness committee deciding what needs to happen; it needs awareness throughout the organization and participation from all.

Key Indications of Progress
While wellness is a constant drumbeat that must be kept going, there are noticeable signs of progress. As mentioned, one of the organization’s goals was to ensure no staff die of suicide. Using the insights provided by Well-Being Index data, leaders were able to anonymously measure the risk of suicidal ideation and implement strategic initiatives to support their clinicians, successfully resulting in no employee suicides to date.

This and other key indicators, such as improving well-being scores, show leaders and staff that their efforts are working. They are creating an environment that protects providers, encourages reaching out for help, and equips individuals and managers with the tools they need to maximize their mental health.

Advice for the Journey
Often, organizations are paralyzed by not knowing where to start. Uncertainty, mixed with the concern that wellness initiatives might not be achieved, can cause leaders to freeze or avoid starting on the path to protecting well-being. The group health organization highlighted here encourages all institutions that may be experiencing these fears to simply start something. As seen in their experience, awareness of the issues and infrastructure development occurring simultaneously can produce initiatives and tactics directly informed by those in need of support.

This development does take time and resources, however. Wellness leaders in this case were able to succeed by being proactive, gaining leadership support, and fighting to get wellness in the budget by measuring the state of well-being at their organization and showing the need.

Supporting staff mental health is a continuous effort that is not only vital to the well-being of employees but to the patients they serve and the overall organization. Using the Well-Being Index, leaders can spread awareness of distress, foster a desire to change, identify where to allocate resources, measure the effectiveness of initiatives, improve well-being, and Go Beyond Burnout.

Access The Demo Account - Try It For Yourself!

You will get instant access to the Well-Being Index demo account to test the software as different types of users. We will also send you a confirmation email with the link to the demo account for future access.

Go Beyond Burnout

Transforming the Approach to Well-Being.

Watch the 2:22 min. Video