AI Helps Health Care Companies Find Those Elusive Employees

Updated on September 10, 2023
Artificial Intelligence

So much has been written about the life-saving marvels of artificial intelligence, and with good reason. The art of the possible in modern medicine is being taken to new and exciting frontiers as the technology gets smarter.

What many may not know is that AI is quietly working similar wonders on the human resources side of the equation. The behind-the-scenes HR process of recruiting clinical staff to deliver quality patient care is becoming more efficient and more human.

Franciscan Health is a case in point. The Indiana-based hospital operator started using an AI-powered HR platform late last year to augment the work of its recruiters, about 30 in all. Some recruiters are tasked with filling more than 100 vacancies each, so a digital tool was needed to help them do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently.

Quick Fixes Fix Nothing

The typical band-aid approach of hiring more recruiters wasn’t feasible, financially or otherwise.

Instead, imagine a world where:

  • Applications and nurse hires are trending higher.
  • Unfilled positions are down double-digit percentages.
  • Spend on contract travel nurses is reduced since the launch of an internal program.
  • Chatbots work for you 24/7 to automate sourcing, screening, and scheduling while answering candidate FAQs.
  • A career site is more than just a rote, uninspiring listing of jobs and an “apply now” button.
  • People sign up for an online community to receive the latest job listings and company news, so employers don’t lose touch with anyone.

Franciscan experienced all that and more with an AI talent platform. Then HR leaders began seeing something they hadn’t seen in a long time: happy recruiters.

Almost everything in HR recruitment is a manual process. Has been for decades. Unlike the fully automated consumer experience where movies or online purchases are quick and efficient, talent recruitment is slowly getting there. Recruiter burnout remains a serious issue. In fact, 71% of HR leaders say it’s more of a problem now than before the pandemic, a study found.

AI frees recruiters from time-consuming transactions that take up a large chunk of their day (such as interview scheduling) so they can have meaningful conversations with prospective employees. There can never be enough humanness in health care.

Back to Basics

For Franciscan, 2023 was the year of getting back to basics for the talent acquisition team.

But going back to the basics doesn’t mean going backwards. It means redefining the basics with new tools to be more efficient and smarter in a talent economy that’s shifting for the foreseeable future.

The three areas where technology, automation and AI can help are quantity, quality and speed. Get administrative tasks off the recruiter’s plate and let them be that competitive advantage -– that driving force -– for any health care organization.

As any job candidate will attest, the worst part about applying for a role is not hearing back. Something as simple as a recruiter picking up the phone and updating a candidate can easily get waylaid if the recruiter is caught in a downward spiral of coordinating calendar invites.

Labor Costs Are Still Rising

The clinical workforce is essential to quality patient care and is often the biggest expense for hospitals. Even before the pandemic, labor costs — which include costs associated with recruiting and retaining staff, benefits and incentives — accounted for more than 50% of hospitals’ total expenses, according to an American Hospital Association study.

A slight uptick in these costs can sharply impact a hospital’s already razor-thin margins. In fact, labor from contract staffing firms such as nurses were one of the biggest expense drivers between 2019 and 2022, contributing to a 258% rise.

Franciscan Health’s revitalized careers site included opportunities for an internal travel nurse program that was created to reduce agency spend. The target hire was regionally located nurses who would travel between health campuses in northwest Indiana and south suburban Chicago.

Schedule flexibility is a key way to attract nurses, so Franciscan promised them they wouldn’t work more than 24 hours a week. The program was up and running in August of 2022; by December it had hired more than 100 highly experienced nurses. And today, it’s the most searched job on the career site.

That has had a dramatic effect on overall costs. In January of 2023 the company projected a 36% increase in spend compared to 2022. But that projection fell to 12% and is expected to drop even further throughout the rest of the year. 

More Health Systems Embrace AI in HR 

Other health firms are benefitting from AI too.

It used to take Texas-based Baylor Scott & White Health up to a week to connect with graduate nurses. Now, within 24 hours, they’re receiving an invite to schedule a screening. The data-driven AI approach saved thousands of dollars that previously would have been spent sourcing external leads.

Bon Secours Mercy Health, headquartered in Cincinnati, routinely hires 20,000-plus people a year to staff up, which means interviewing hundreds of thousands of candidates to reach that headcount. The company offers personalized experiences to each and every one of those hundreds of thousands at scale through AI and automation.

This is a trend worth watching.

Humans & Co-bots

Doctors dream of a day when AI can write their daily patient notes – saving considerable time – and glean more information from an electrocardiogram than even the most gifted cardiologist. There’s no limit, really, to what the technology can do. But it can’t do it alone. It must work in concert with humans.

It’s the same in HR. AI won’t replace recruiters, but it will make their jobs easier. The tech won’t make hiring decisions either -– that’s a human’s job. It will, however, provide humans with objective data to make those calls. Better outcomes are tied directly to quality of patient care. It all starts by hiring the right clinical professionals at scale.

Ellen Page Franciscan Health
Ellen Page

Ellen Page is the Director of Talent Acquisition at Franciscan Health.