The Hidden Reason Why Improving the Employee Experience in Healthcare Seems so Difficult
Maybe the last place you’d want to encounter someone having a bad day at work is in the operating room or doctor’s office in any healthcare facility.
Yet, around the U.S. and beyond, healthcare providers are facing burnout and disengagement. From first-year medical students, to nurses and physician assistants, and even doctors with decades of experience, they feel a lack of motivation due to things outside of their control.
It’s not like this isn’t the only challenge healthcare organizations face, either. Organizations are trying to control the rising cost of care while improving the quality of patient outcomes. Administrators, managers, and practice supervisors find themselves engaged in adversarial relationships with health plans and their own employee groups.
Healthcare organizations and their employees feel stuck while patients get caught in the middle.
In this case, the lack of control is a significant driver of dissatisfaction and burnout. Healthcare providers can feel like they are having to enforce policies that they didn’t choose, the need to show outcomes that they don’t control, or unwillingly engage in the politics of running a complex medical practice.
While the reason seems hidden, dissatisfaction isn’t a surprise. In fact, it is related to one of the most researched behavioral science frameworks in the world: Self-Determination Theory.
More than 40 years of research has gone into the behavioral science model, which is referenced by research and commercial publications thousands of times every single month. The reason why is simple: It unlocks the keys for motivation and engagement that drives performance, satisfaction, and well-being.
Autonomy, or being willingly engaged with our work instead of feeling forced or compelled, is only one of three needs that every employee needs to be successful. The other two are just as important. Relatedness is feeling like you’re connected and supported in the workplace and that you matter. Mastery is feeling effective and successful in your day-to-day work.
When people fulfill their basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and mastery, they can do their best work. In a recent study among healthcare practitioners, it showed that fulfillment of Self-Determination Theory’s basic needs drove:
- Higher levels of engagement
- Greater professional life satisfaction
- Lower exhaustion among practitioners
Control and autonomy matter, but so do the other psychological needs outlined in Self-Determination Theory. Improving those needs, in all kinds of environments but particularly in healthcare, have proven again and again to drive real improvement to the employee experience.
Self-Determination Theory also has another hidden advantage: It can be used to improve the patient experience as well. While most organizations use different techniques to improve their employee experience and the patient experience, Self-Determination Theory can actually do both.
The indirect impact of realizing a provider’s basic psychological needs increases their engagement and they provide better care as a result. Any initiative that improves provider engagement will get the same sort of indirect impact.
There is also a direct impact of applying Self-Determination Theory to patient care. When patients feel heard by their provider, have the ability to make informed decisions, and know their provider cares about their health and well-being, it has positive impacts, including
- Better patient experience, well-being, and physical and mental health
- Improved patient satisfaction and health outcomes
- Increased treatment adherence, including disease containment
For example, we recently collected data showing that patients who experience higher need support from their healthcare practitioner report a:
- 59 point increase in confidence in medical advice
- 56 point boost in visit satisfaction
- 45 point increase in adherence to their treatment plan
- 34 point improvement in health since last visit
Healthcare organizations are in the seemingly impossible position of trying to constantly improve patient outcomes, controlling their budget, and fighting disengagement and burnout all at the same time.
Self-Determination Theory can optimize employee engagement and patient experience in a proven but remarkable way.
We will go into more detail on how you can put this model to work in our upcoming webcast, to air Jan. 29 at 2 p.m. EST. Please join us by to learn more about how Self-Determination Theory can improve the experience for both providers and patients: CLICK HERE to register.