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Cut Administrative Burden by Eliminating the “Stupid Stuff”

Published on: Dec 4, 2020


Senior AMA News writer Sara Berg reports on an ongoing battle to fight physician burnout and improve well-being that is especially crucial during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. As health systems continue to search for ways to cut administrative burden and workloads, one way is to eliminate “stupid stuff,” or, unnecessary tasks. 

This requires following five key steps outlined in the AMA STEPS Forward™ module, “Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff: Reduce the Unnecessary Daily Burdens for Clinicians.” The third step in the module focuses on engaging teams and physicians to gather information on administrative burdens deemed “stupid.” 

Melinda Ashton, MD, executive vice president and chief quality officer at Hawaii Pacific Health, is the brains behind this initiative to reduce administrative burden and work overload. She shares how health systems and physician practices can engage doctors and other health professionals to share their thoughts on what tasks they deem stupid. 

Choose a Catchy Title 

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. 

According to the program, the use of the catchy title draws the attention of physicians and other health professionals. While calling things “stupid” can be offensive to some, it does create a type of shock value that can help grab attention and promote change. 

Invite Others to Participate 

Begin by letting everyone in the organization know that this initiative is underway. While the purpose is to get rid of poorly designed, unnecessary, or burdensome work, health systems must first identify where this work lies. 

“It’s really for all clinicians, not just physicians,” said Dr. Ashton. When “gathering information, we basically put out an invitation to people to say, ‘Please tell us what you’re experiencing that you would call stupid.’” 

“We had an intranet site where people could submit their ideas for stupid stuff,” she said. 

Some other ways health systems can advertise for this initiative is through internal newsletters and in department meetings. 

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

Discuss Suggestions 

Once the initiative is advertised, ask physicians and other health professionals to take a closer look at their daily documentation and other tasks. After careful review, encourage them to nominate tasks that they believe fall into the “stupid stuff” category. 

“We've had lots of conversations that started from submissions and pointed out what might be considered stupid or unnecessary,” said Dr. Ashton. “We’d say, ‘That seems kind of like it might fit into stupid stuff. What do you think?’” 

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

Spread the Word 

It is very helpful to have a physician champion to spread the word and get more doctors and other health professionals to participate. 

“Once the article was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, different members of our physician workforce would pick up information and then spread [the initiative] among their friends,” said Dr. Ashton. 

“That’s the best—when people start to talk to each other about something like that,” she said. 

Create an Easy Submission 

While a lot of it is “word of mouth,” the program needs to make the process “an easy submission” for doctors and health professionals, said Dr. Ashton. 

A simple online platform that can be used is an email inbox where suggestions are received. Another option is to have a standardized form that can be used to collect feedback. The STEPS Forward module offers a downloadable, basic template that health systems and practices can use. 

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: Reduce the Unnecessary Daily Burdens for Clinicians,” is enduring material and designated by the AMA for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category. 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.  

Click here to read the full article and see other AMA resources on the topic.