4 ways to get help cutting the stupid stuff at your health system

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

Increasing administrative tasks take away from physicians’ time interacting with their patients and delivering care. One way to reduce those administrative burdens is by getting rid of “stupid stuff.” To do so requires five key steps as outlined in an AMA STEPS Forward™ module. The second step in the module focuses on engaging appropriate departments.

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Hawaii Pacific Health—a nonprofit health system in Honolulu—launched a program called “Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff.” In just a year, the system’s physicians and other health professionals have nominated more than 300 time-wasting EHR activities for the chopping block.

Melinda Ashton, MD, executive vice president and chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, is the brains behind ditching the dumb things. She shares how health systems and practices can engage appropriate departments and get them involved in the process for reducing administrative burdens.

The key to establishing a program that aims to eliminate “stupid stuff” is by including other departments to support the initiative.

It is important to talk “about the program and maintain close relationships between all teams,” said Dr. Ashton. “We were not going to go out and say we were going to call things stupid without having a conversation with the different departments first. It was a lot of laying down the groundwork to start with.”

Engaging common stakeholders ensures the initiative will have greater success especially if other departments can significantly improve their processes and work toward a common organizational goal.

Learn more about how to ditch the stupid stuff that drives doctors crazy.

Organizations should also pay attention to other departments that would be key to the initiative and include them at the beginning of the planning stages. This can help to prevent any potential barriers or delays to implementing a solution.

For example, “we also made sure that our compliance and legal folks knew what we were going to be talking about and that they were OK with it,” said Dr. Ashton. “I’ve heard from other organizations that that system would block changes sometimes.”

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“We often find that although things have been set up with the intention of being more compliant or trying to meet some regulatory need often the actual execution of it isn’t necessarily hitting the mark,” she said. “It might be overcomplicated or somehow well-intentioned but not exactly meeting the need.”

“Rather than saying we need to do that because somebody says, let’s examine it and see what they really said and whether we’re actually doing what is needed,” said Dr. Ashton. “Although it might be done for all the best intentions, it may not have been done as well as we now understand what the need is.”

Learn more about five steps physicians can take to get rid of stupid stuff.

“The most important team to engage with in the beginning was IT,” said Dr. Ashton, adding that a strong partnership with IT is critical for fixing issues related to the EHR. This is because a main source for “stupid stuff” is often issues with EHRs.

Health systems and organizations should involve and engage the IT team early in the process as partners before kicking off the initiative. It might even be helpful and necessary to evaluate and prioritize existing IT work to ensure that the stupid stuff can be addressed promptly.

Learn more about how to create better EHR usability to enhance physicians’ lives.

With many new programs, there may be conflicts or concerns that are brought up throughout the process. This might be because one group of physicians or health professionals advocate for a change that another group finds problematic.

For example, in the emergency department physicians might prefer to order a single dose of an antibiotic for a patient. However, for a hospitalist, they might prefer that emergency physicians write continuous orders for as long as the patient is physically in the department to prevent dosing delays.

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To overcome this, health systems can create a separate leadership group such as a clinical guidance council. This group can oversee and address any issues that require multiple groups or where there is conflict in general.

Committed to making physician burnout a thing of the past, the AMA has studied, and is currently addressing issues causing and fueling physician burnout—including time constraints, technology and regulations—to better understand and reduce the challenges physicians face. By focusing on factors causing burnout at the system-level, the AMA assesses an organization’s well-being and offers guidance and targeted solutions to support physician well-being and satisfaction. 

The AMA’s STEPS Forward open-access modules offer innovative strategies that allow physicians and their staff to thrive in the new health care environment. These courses can help you prevent physician burnout, create the organizational foundation for joy in medicine and improve practice efficiency.

The CME module, “Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff,” is enduring material and designated by the AMA for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit

The module is part of the AMA Ed Hub, an online platform with top-quality CME and education that supports the professional development needs of physicians and other health professionals. With topics relevant to you, it also offers an easy, streamlined way to find, take, track and report educational activities.

Learn more about AMA CME accreditation