The risks for burnout, exhaustion, and stress have always been high for health care professionals, but the additional challenges presented by the pandemic both exposed and exacerbated the inherent problems. As ApolloMD continues to focus on the tenets of our vision statement — Healthy Clinicians, Healthy Patients, Healthy Communities — we search for better strategies to manage those pressures through mindfulness techniques that build self-awareness and resilience. To address those concerns for our own teams, we push forward in our exploration of innovative ways to support and encourage wellness in our colleagues.
We intuitively understand that certain elements of shiftwork and daily life can impact how we feel and how we perform. With our exploration into the wearable space, now we have the data points to quantify those impacts. Through a partnership with WHOOP, individuals receive personalized data at their fingertips. Our hope is to empower clinicians to monitor and optimize health with clinical-grade accuracy, while providing a baseline from which to note actionable changes.
Mind Over Matter
WHOOP is a 24/7, wearable coach most commonly worn comfortably on the wrist via an adjustable strap with the sensor positioned similarly to a watch band. The technology can also be worn at other key pressure points and WHOOP also offers a specialized line of clothing to accommodate wearer preferences. Data read by the sensor transmits to the companion smartphone app, tracking biometric activity as related to the three pillars of the WHOOP program —sleep, recovery, and strain. This fully encrypted data syncs with a private, customized journal set-up in the app by the user, allowing for personal notation of habits and trends.
ApolloMD’s initial pilot included a diverse profile of clinicians — varying ages, shift types, specialties, environments — in order to show multiple perspectives. Dr. Josh Hargraves, Regional President of ApolloMD, leads the charge as we delve into wellness coaching with biometrics technology measuring individual physiology.
As an emergency medicine physician, he’s all too familiar with the role that late shifts and high stress levels play in his overall sense of well-being.
“I think I had some reservations about learning some of the data,” he admits. “But, there’s no reason to avoid it. We don’t expect it to work for everybody, we got pretty good feedback that we think [the device] will be valuable.”
Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make
While many different elements impact biometrics on a daily basis, the WHOOP band concentrates on a core trio of influences or “pillars”. The three pillars of the program are as defined by WHOOP are:
- SLEEP — Quality of rest based on sleep stages and individual sleep needs
- STRAIN — Cardiovascular load and daily exertion
- RECOVERY — Ability to adapt to stress and prepare for performance
The band monitors each data point at 100 times per second. This information married with details of personal input in a personalized journal feature gives the user a full picture of fluctuations in their data output.
Dr. Hargraves likens the process to an individual, blind study or research project.
“When you’re first wearing the WHOOP, it’s a little bit of a process of self-discovery,” he explains. “In science, we always talk about an N meaning the number of people in a study. Well, this is kind of an N of one and you can really do your own self-experimentation. You can ask, ‘What if I eat at 10:00 PM? How bad is that for me? What if I cut it back and don’t eat after 7pm? What does that do? How much caffeine did I have?’ You do that on your own because you have the biometric feedback to confirm how you may or may not feel.”
The feedback remains completely private with no benchmarks to achieve or boundaries to restrain activity. It’s a tool for users to learn more about themselves and increase awareness.
To guide the process, the journal function of the app presents an additional outline for studying the user’s unique data set.
“The journal feature is customizable, so you get out of it what you put into it,” Dr. Hargraves notes. “It’s really personal and individual to everybody. The first thing I do every morning is wake up and knock out the journal entries. It takes 30 seconds and it’s become a habit. There are questions about hydration and work schedules and irritation and stress, so you can be aware of how those things impact you.”
“If you have some stressful case right before your shift ends it might not be surprising that your sleep wasn’t great. Maybe that helps you realize that you need to rest a little bit more the next day … or to do something that helps you mentally recover …to kind of recharge your batteries. It’s nice to have a device to quantify that and correlate with how you feel. It’s behavioral change without really having to make conscious decisions to change the behavior.”
Dr. Hargraves speaks to the advantage of facilitating this type of project as a company and acknowledges the overall benefits.
“We’re doing this because we care,” he reveals, “because we want to have healthy clinicians, and because we want [them] to figure out how to make small steps and improvements in their lives.”
Encouraging teams, groups, and practices to participate in WHOOP trials puts a spotlight on mindfulness and pulls together peer support. As we surround ourselves with a network of colleagues also committed to this level of self-awareness, we increase our personal motivation, find accountability partners, and change the culture of our work environments.
We are most resilient when we feel that sense of community with each other, and the WHOOP results prove we have the power within us to develop a healthier new normal.