Background: Oncology nurse navigators and administrative staff reported spending more than half their daily shifts in some way managing incoming calls and the backlog of voicemails. They often neglect their lunch breaks and/or leave the clinic late, attempting to return the backlog of voicemails by the end of the day. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, oncology care teams find themselves even more overwhelmed with managing patient communications. For many practices, there is no efficient way to triage communications without listening to or reading all of them to determine the appropriate callback sequence based on urgency. With this aim, we present preliminary evidence for the implementation and adoption of technology innovations to address this challenge.
Objectives: Implement a pilot program to determine what impacts communication workflow automation has on levels of care team burnout, staff engagement, and patient response times and satisfaction. As a secondary objective, we seek to identify impacts to resource utilization and workload allocation for care teams, which will provide valuable insights for operational improvements.
Methods: Whereas our study is currently transitioning from beta testing to the pilot phase, our goal is for at least 2 ambulatory oncology practices to participate in a 60-day pilot. During the pilot period, clinics will implement a technology solution designed to automatically transcribe and triage routine practice communications (calls and voicemails) based on urgency rather than voicemail’s default of first in, last out. We are interested in collecting and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data using direct observations, discovery interviews with clinical and administrative staff, analysis of current operational key performance indicators, and workflow process documentation. There is also existing research that details how the increasing administrative burden on cancer care providers leads to staff burnout and decreases in patient satisfaction.1
Results: Preliminary anecdotal results indicate that there are positive impacts on care team burnout and engagement due to the reduced time required to transcribe and manage voicemails. There is a reduction in the voicemail backlog and faster response/resolution of most urgent patient contacts. Users expressed that the time saved was able to be spent on more value-added services and activities. We will also document lessons learned and recommendations for implementing this type of technology in oncology practices.
Conclusions: Based on testing of our prototype, our preliminary conclusion is that automating communications workflows is a direct way to reduce the levels of burnout on oncology care teams and improve staff engagement and key aspects of the patient experience.
- LeNoble CA, Pegram R, Shuffler ML, et al. To address burnout in oncology, we must look to teams: reflections on an organizational science approach. JCO Oncol Pract. 2020;16:e377-e383.