How real-time feedback can help tackle staff burnout

We speak to Steve Peltzman, chief business technology officer at Forrester and head of FeedbackNow, about the role of real-time feedback technologies in helping to address staff burnout across the healthcare industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested global healthcare frontline workers to their limits.

In the UK, NHS staff with mental health concerns have quadrupled as frontline health care workers bore the brunt of the mental health impact of the pandemic.

And, despite life ‘returning to normal’, 33% of UK consumers remain worried about workplaces not taking enough health and safety precautions, according to Forrester’s data.

Additionally, over a quarter of UK consumers (29%) remain worried about workplaces not protecting employees against potential healthcare risks.

Capturing real-time feedback data can help operational teams to identify, prioritise, deploy, and measure the impact of changes to reduce workplace stress around healthcare facilities

And, fostering feelings of a lack of control and connection to the workplace; the impact of heightened health and hygiene concerns is contributing to staff burnout.

Urgent action is needed to alleviate anxiety relating to work environments.

Capturing real-time feedback data can help operational teams to identify, prioritise, deploy, and measure the impact of changes to reduce workplace stress around healthcare facilities.

In-the-moment information

Extremely-low-friction, single-question feedback opportunities offer a simple half-second way to express whether an experience has been good, bad, or in between.

Consider, for example, a nurses’ staff room, where employees should be able to take a mental and physical break from the stresses of their job, but which can also be a source of anxiety over cleanliness and hygiene.

A simple Smiley Box on the way out asks, ‘Do you feel like you took a quality break?’ with the chance to ‘vote’ Green, Yellow, or Red for yes, sort of, or no.

What can such a simple feedback tool accomplish? The answer is, quite a lot.

The old way of operations management is to schedule recurring services and then react to problems when they arise.

This approach was widely adopted across healthcare facilities, but its major downside is that it creates inevitable periods of dissatisfaction, disruption, and stress if services happen when scheduled, rather than when needed.

On the other hand, if more than enough resources are applied, there are periods of waste.

The speed and simplicity of real-time feedback mechanisms means the response rate is likely to be very high – even more so if staff know the data is being analysed and acted upon

The speed and simplicity of real-time feedback mechanisms means the response rate is likely to be very high – even more so if staff know the data is being analysed and acted upon.

This, in turn, contributes to a feeling of control over the working environment.

With so much data, curious patterns quickly emerge and opportunities to act reveal themselves that can influence healthcare facility design and management.

Increasing insight

A simple pulse check in a cafeteria heavily used by the staff – #How was your dining experience today? – might reveal that the percentage of red votes typically rises half an hour prior to a regularly-scheduled cleaning.

And a simple adjustment to the work roster could mitigate that daily period of dissatisfaction.

Alternatively, response rates mirroring footfall through the cafeteria might highlight opportunities to redesign traffic flows or adjust shift patterns to avoid peak visiting hours.

Moreover, healthcare managers might tailor the question to measure the success of staff initiatives targeting employee wellbeing, such as healthy eating options in the vending machine, training, staff rotas, and routines, or new awareness and support initiatives.

With responses and trends showing in real time, the impact of even quite small changes can be picked up quickly and initiatives tweaked for success.

Adding environmental context, such as weather or traffic information, enables real-time feedback to act predictively.

A feedback point in a staff area asking ‘How was your shift today’? might reveal that red votes accumulate at significantly-higher rates after successive days of rain.

Maybe this reflects the mental toll that gloomy days add, or maybe it’s an increase in accidents and workload that the rain is anticipated to cause.

While traditional surveys still have a role to play, survey fatigue and the time lag on data makes them less effective

It may be hard to tell exactly what’s causing the correlation, but predictive action when multiple days of rain are forecast (e.g. shortening shift lengths, reducing overtime, or timing motivational initiatives) can be monitored using the latest real-time feedback data.

Similarly, it’s possible to analyse data alongside footfall in different areas to organise cleaning rotas and ensure that high-footfall areas are cleaned more regularly at predicted peak times.

A pre-eminent hospital in New York City is successfully using this approach to optimise when to clean employee and patient restrooms, and address issues in waiting areas and lobbies.

Control and connectivity

Beyond the reactive and predictive operational options, real-time feedback provides an opportunity to create an emotional connection with healthcare workers, as well as patients and visitors.

Forrester’s research shows that emotion has a bigger influence on loyalty to a brand than any other dimension.

So, by asking staff to help contribute to the daily operations of the healthcare facility, and showing them how their feedback is being used, you are increasing their emotional connection – they feel more in control and more invested in the outcomes.

With so much data, curious patterns quickly emerge and opportunities to act reveal themselves that can influence healthcare facility design and management

While traditional surveys still have a role to play, survey fatigue and the time lag on data makes them less effective.

Real-time feedback mechanisms help today’s patient, visitor, or staff member, leading directly to a better, more-efficient overall experience.

As well, in these high-anxiety times, feedback to improve experiences in real-time gives everyone more control and eases those feelings of apprehension that contribute to burnout.

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