What's needed in a physician champion to ditch the stupid stuff

Sara Berg, MS , News Editor

Unnecessary tasks have led to administrative burdens and increased the daily workload of physicians and other health professionals. These unnecessary tasks are partially responsible for physician burnout. One way to tackle physician administrative burdens is by learning how to eliminate stupid stuff, which means eliminating small annoyances.

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This requires five key steps, as outlined in an AMA STEPS Forward™ module. The first step in doing so is by appointing a high-level champion to lead the getting rid of stupid stuff initiative in your organization.

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.

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Melinda Ashton, MD, executive vice president and chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, spearheaded the getting rid of stupid stuff initiative at her organization. She shares how health systems and practices can appoint a high-level champion to lead this initiative in their own organization.

The most appropriate champion may vary among organizations. However, the person should be high enough in the executive chain that they can make eliminating the “stupid stuff” a serious organizational initiative. For example, a chief medical information officer might be a good choice for a champion.

While the champion does not need to be a person in leadership, it does help. At Hawaii Pacific Health, the decision was simpler than it might be elsewhere.

“That was easy for us, because it was me—and I’m the one who started it. It would be different if you were doing that in another organization,” she said. “But I think it needs to be someone who has visibility in your organization and credibility.”

Having a leader with visibility and credibility is important because saying, “Hey, we’ve probably got stupid stuff around here; might be a little bit surprising to people,” said Dr. Ashton. “That sort of thinking is important to keep in mind.”

Learn more about four ways to get help cutting the stupid stuff at your health system.

There may be instances where there might be more than one champion. It can be beneficial to have the chief medical information officer, chief wellness officer, CEO, or chief operating officer on the board.

This has happened at Hawaii Pacific Health. While Dr. Ashton created the program, “it was quickly picked up by other leaders around the organization who had a different span of control,” she said. “Then it actually has become a leadership initiative across our managers and directors this year.”

Everyone has become involved in trying to eliminate administrative burdens because “there’s lots of different versions of stupid,” said Dr. Ashton.

Additionally, a practicing physician who uses the EHR should be included as a partner in leading the cause. By including physicians, it gives credence to leadership’s commitment to understanding the burdens that need to be improved.

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“It depends on what you’re looking at, but we had originally started with looking at stupid stuff in our EHR and having that physician leadership was helpful,” said Dr. Ashton, adding that they included a physician leader who was on the EHR and IT side.

The physician leader “and the CIO [chief information officer] both were onboard at the beginning and continued to support the program,” she said.

As the initiative continues to expand across an organization, many champions may begin to view their work with more passion.

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

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.