Can Technology Help Alleviate Health Care Worker Burnout

Healthcare workers are in crisis: According to a March 2021 study by the American Association for Nursing Leadership, approximately 35% of nurse leaders surveyed — typically a clinical specialist who supervises other leaders and registered nurses — say the Low morale and burnout are their biggest challenge. An astonishing 16% said they were not emotionally healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on our healthcare workers, exacerbating burnout and staffing shortages that predate the pandemic. Even with recent increasingly relaxed regulations around COVID-19, the number of hospitalized patients remains well above normal levels, and staffing shortages continue to require medical professionals to spend more time and more energy at work than ever before. And they continue to risk their personal safety and that of their loved ones by exposing themselves to the virus and resulting infections at higher rates than the general population.

Unfortunately, the stress continues to grow. The large resignation, driven by exhaustion and external factors such as lack of childcare and low salaries, is reducing the number of health professionals in the workforce, forcing the remaining staff to take on additional responsibilities. According to Morning Consult, almost 20% of healthcare workers left their jobs during the pandemic, 31% considered leaving and almost 80% said the shortage of workers in the industry had had an impact on them and their office.

As we have seen in recent years, technology can play an important role in improving patient outcomes and supporting healthcare workers, and we believe it plays an important role in emergency management. current staffing.

First, some background: In 2010, with the passage of Obamacare, health systems across the country were required to implement electronic health records (EHRs). At the time, many hospitals still relied on paper records or used basic records management systems that were not integrated between systems or even between departments within the same system. Widely adopted EHR systems have improved patient outcomes by creating a common platform that shares critical information between providers. Today, electronic health records have reduced bureaucracy and improved the overall healthcare experience.

More recently, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has produced a second inflection point in the advancement and adoption of health technologies. As COVID gained momentum, many standard medical appointments shifted to virtual appointments to protect healthcare providers and patients and limit potential exposure. Doctors’ offices and healthcare systems have invested in telehealth options, giving patients the ability to connect and communicate with healthcare professionals without leaving their homes. Two years later, this expansion of telehealth infrastructure means that minor issues are routinely diagnosed and treated over the phone or through digital platforms, with only more serious issues requiring an in-person visit, making healthcare more efficient, more practical and more accessible for everything.

Today, we are on the cusp of a third wave of health technology innovation through improved healthcare operations. Healthcare operations deals with the fundamentals of running a hospital, from workforce management to ensure you have enough staff for every patient, to credentialing systems that identify doctors, nurses and other health professionals and their specialized expertise.

In the past, innovation in this part of healthcare technology has lagged. Outdated technology and ad hoc piecemeal solutions caused headaches for administrators and employees, but were generally not seen to have a negative effect on patient outcomes. Only now has the strain of the pandemic on our healthcare systems made it clear that when technology fails to do its job, quality of care, patients, nurses and doctors suffer. At best, an extra week to check the credentials of a physician joining a new healthcare system or scheduling confusion wouldn’t necessarily have a tangible, lasting effect on worker morale or patient outcomes. But the cumulative stress and strain of the pandemic, with overwhelmed hospitals and workers, has meant that these delays and confusion translate into overworked and overworked healthcare professionals, and the worst outcomes for patients.

Here’s just one example of how technology-enabled healthcare operations can fundamentally improve patient outcomes. Advocate Aurora Health, a system of 26 hospitals across the Midwest that implemented symplr’s software, leveraged its workforce management tools to effectively respond to the ongoing fluctuations of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, Advocate Aurora created a virtual workforce pool, allowing nurse leaders to request and reassign staff 24/7 to adapt and respond quickly to unexpected staff shortages when workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Around 5,000 furloughed staff were quickly reassigned through this dynamic new scheduling system, acting quickly to meet growing patient needs.

A comprehensive and lasting solution to the breakdowns in our healthcare systems, which have been exposed by the pandemic, will require significant investments to support our healthcare workers and recruit, educate and deploy reinforcements. It’s not a quick or easy fix, and additional federal funding is an important first step.

Additionally, as nurses and nurse managers continue to struggle with mental health issues like depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital management must prioritize frontline workers. listening to their concerns, encouraging them to take breaks when needed, and properly staffing them to avoid additional stress and burnout.

But just as important as providing emotional support is the continued investment in healthcare technology that improves efficiency and supports healthcare workers. It is something that can and should be done today. It’s time for us to invest in the tools and support they need to succeed and serve them as well as they serve us.

Deb Zimmerman is president of the Association of Nursing Leaders and a registered nurse. BJ Schaknowski is the CEO of symplr, which provides workforce management and governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) software to the healthcare industry.

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