Technology Should be Part of Your Staff Retention Strategy: Here’s Why

Years of labor shortages and surging patient demand have left behavioral health organizations struggling to meet staffing needs even as they prioritize recruitment and retention. Leaders work hard to take care of the people who are the heart and soul of delivering high-quality care by prioritizing investments in workplace wellbeing. To boost staff retention and recruitment, executives have prioritized workplace wellbeing and employee benefits programs. Many organizations have discovered that technology plays a major role in their staffing strategy, as it significantly impacts employee experience while improving care outcomes and finances.

In this article, we’ll review the challenges facing behavioral health organizations with employee engagement and retention and provide clear guidance on how to use technology to improve your staffing strategy.

It’s complicated: why employee engagement and retention are so hard

Healthcare employees have worked the front lines through several tough years recently, and they’re exhausted. 47% percent of healthcare workers plan to leave their current role within the next two to three years, and direct care behavioral health organizations report a 43% turnover rate. Organization leaders overwhelmingly agree that burnout is doing the most harm–93% of the C-suite report burnout negatively impacts their organization, a startling 14% increase from 2018. It’s not surprising that 53% of organizations cite burnout specifically as the cause of the current labor crisis impacting the healthcare industry.

Many factors have led to this trend, but the emotional demands of healthcare work and low pay make it difficult to attract new workers. The tight labor pool can only meet a fraction of the current need; add in the scarcity of available labor combined with the surging demand for behavioral health services means that most organizations now have long wait lists for services. This imbalance between supply and demand unfortunately results in patients going without necessary care. Providers feel pressured to cover some of the gap by working longer hours to see more patients. Care providers respond to this pressure by working longer hours to serve their patients, worsening the original problem.

Already vulnerable to the emotional demands of working with patients who have mental illness, trauma, and substance use disorders, overworked providers become less engaged and more stressed, leading to higher levels of burnout. Among psychiatrists, self-reported burnout rates hover at 78%; for psychotherapists, it’s almost 50% of psychotherapists. When not addressed, prolonged stress and burnout can lead to people leaving the field altogether. This turns an already dire staffing situation into a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.

How technology can help you keep engagement and retention on track

A typical retention strategy addresses specific elements of employee experience, including culture, learning and development, performance management, recognition programs, employee communication, and compensation. However, most organizations overlook a key retention enabler: technology. To understand how technology can impact engagement and retention, you need to consider what contributes most to employee stress and burnout.

In a recent survey, 61% of healthcare providers report that an overload of administrative tasks is the number one factor contributing to burnout. Also on their list: too many working hours (37%) and too little control or autonomy over what tasks they do and how they do them (31%).

By automating tasks and integrating technology solutions, like virtual care and a digital patient portal within an electronic health record (EHR) system, behavioral health organizations can reduce some of the burden put on staff. These powerful tools improve the day-to-day experience of staff members, and employees are increasingly recognizing this. A recent Microsoft’s Work Trend Index found that 63% of respondents are “excited about the job opportunities tech creates.” Respondents also ranked technology tools third among 12 factors that reduce workplace stress. Healthcare leaders need to recognize that technology has a direct impact on staff burnout and recruitment.

Forward-thinking behavioral health organizations have discovered that technology can improve their retention strategy in the following ways:

  • Prioritize direct client care by standardizing processes and automating time-consuming tasks
  • Empower employees with remote work flexibility
  • Extend patient care beyond office walls to increase patient and provider engagement
  • Close the feedback loop by sharing care outcomes with providers

Let’s go over each of these capabilities.

Prioritize direct client care by standardizing processes and automating time-consuming tasks

Most employees enter behavioral healthcare because they want to work directly with patients, not to do paperwork. By integrating virtual care, a patient portal, and task automation within an EHR, you can reduce the time providers spend on administrative tasks and manual documentation, while increasing the time spent with patients. Qualifacts’ virtual care solutions makes it easy for providers to record session notes, track and update patient information, and engage with patients using clinically validated files and forms. Administrative staff can reduce their workload by automating admissions through digital forms with eSignature capabilities and schedule documentation at specific intervals throughout the client journey. In addition to tools for providers, patients can self-schedule appointments, easily access their information at home, engage with care-related digital content, and communicate with their provider at their convenience. These integrated tools reduce administrative burden and improve both patient and employee engagement.

Empower employees with remote work flexibility

Remote and hybrid work can also strongly influence employee engagement. Gallup notes that 60% of remote-capable employees, prefer hybrid work. Offering this flexibility can dramatically improve recruitment, with 79% of organizations reporting they lost job candidates because of the lack of flexibility in work hours and locations. Virtual care integration through the Qualifacts platform unlocks the possibility of hybrid employment and functions as a key differentiator for your practice.

Our end-to-end behavioral healthcare platform provides insights to optimize clinician and staff schedules that match patient preferences for virtual or in-person care, leading to balanced workloads. This model benefits both staff and patients as hybrid flexibility makes it possible for providers to deliver care to patients living in underserved areas or those you are unable to attend in-person appointments during regular business hours.

Extend patient care beyond office walls to increase patient and provider engagement

When you enrich patient engagement, you also improve the work experience for providers and staff, creating a positive feedback cycle. Integrating virtual care solutions within your EHR empowers end-to-end treatment journeys that encourages healthy behavior outside of the confines of a clinical setting. Access to features like virtual group therapy, instant messaging, homework assignments, and subscription programs, extends care beyond scheduled one-on-one physical sessions. Trafalgar Addictions Treatment Centers and Pyramid Healthcare have used Qualifacts’ telehealth and online patient portal solutions to deliver superior end-to-end virtual treatment programs that improve patient outcomes as well as provider experiences.

Close the feedback loop by sharing care outcomes with providers

One of the most powerful and cost-effective strategies for improving engagement and retention is employee recognition. This is important in healthcare, where just 18% of workers say that teams and groups of people are recognized appropriately. Employees working at healthcare organizations that recognize teams and groups are 3.9 times as likely to feel connected.

Integrating virtual care solutions within an EHR featuring analytics and reporting capabilities enables you to create a data-driven feedback loop. This information includes how and when patients engage with your practice, which digital interactions are most effective, how many appointments have been completed, and changes in scheduling trends. These insights create impactful opportunities for staff recognition, allowing everyone to celebrate successes and discover ways to improve even more.

Take the lead in improving staff retention and outcomes by using technology

There’s never been a more critical time for organizations to tackle the complex challenges of employee engagement and retention in behavioral healthcare. To attract and retain the people that are at the heart of your organization, you should leverage technology throughout your retention strategy. Investments in improving employee experience through technology create a powerful win for providers, staff, partners, and patients.

Contact an EHR Software Expert

At Qualifacts, we are committed to serving behavioral health, rehabilitative (PT/OT/SLP), and human services organizations by providing top-rated EHR solutions and services. Our team consists of seasoned professionals with hands-on clinical and administrative experience in these vital service areas. We understand the unique challenges you face and are here to assist you in selecting the most suitable solutions for your organization’s needs. Let’s kickstart the conversation that can transform your services. Complete this brief form to get started.