Working Smarter, Not Harder. Ideas for Physicians struggling with “Waste”

susanlaneseyBy Susan Lanesey, RN, MBA, Founder, President & CEO, Stone Health Innovations
Twitter: @slanesey

Forbes posted a recent article discussing the length of time doctors “waste” on paperwork. One may more aptly call this electronic documentation instead of paperwork to be more correct in most cases. The article points out that for every one hour a doctor spends with a patient, (he/she) spends two hours on documentation. We’ve all read these types of articles and reports before but as I read this time, I wondered to myself, “Is this fact just the sad reality of healthcare today or is there some other reason for this “waste” of time. As an entrepreneur and in speaking with myriad of providers, I often hear from them that they cannot take on another thing. I feel their pain as the owner of a healthcare company, myself.

Years ago, as a young clinician and executive, I was told by one of my mentors that I needed to learn how to delegate more. I struggled with that. I was after all a highly capable and competent individual with the experience and skill set needed to run my department effectively and that was after all why I was consistently promoted to higher and higher levels in the organization, right? I thought hard about this night after night as I realized more consciously that I was one of the few still working at their desk for 12 hours a day or more while the lights dimmed rapidly cross the office enterprise and my peers would wish me good night as they walked out to jump in their car to see their families. “What am I doing wrong”, I thought. Then, I went right back to doing the pieces of work that had now become urgent deadlines-all because I didn’t delegate them to my team of highly capable people or find others that could do it better, quicker and for less.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hard work and I work–hard. But, I learned something priceless from that experience and if the company I worked for at the time had taken away all of my salary and all I was left with was this one lesson-it would have still been one of the best learning experiences of not only my career but my lifetime. Running a department or company or firm or practice takes more than hard work. Yes, hard work is important but learning and then knowing how to take the time to SEE how to make processes more efficient and how to delegate and find the right people to help to make a project, company, event, or program successful is INVALUABLE. It not only leads to better practice, efficiency and profitability but also to sanity and health for the leader which in turn creates health for the team.

I don’t pretend to have all of the answers in healthcare, and I without hesitation respect physicians and the work that they do every day, but I think there may be something in this lesson I learned so many years ago that is applicable to the challenges physicians are encountering with excessive charting and also in their satisfaction with their career choice and their health, as an individual and as a practice.

Wouldn’t it be great if physicians actually had, at their fingertips, a way to better delegate certain functions in their offices reducing their burden of care and “wasted” time, while driving improved care to their patients, and driving new revenue and outcomes into their practice?

My guess would be that the answer might be found in working smarter, not harder and in providers allowing themselves the time to SEE and then find the right team member or partner to help them be their most healthful- physically, mentally and financially while reducing “waste” in their most valuable time, direct patient care- the definitive reason we went into healthcare.