The events since early 2020 have made it glaringly obvious that for healthcare organizations to find success, they will need to move from traditional to contemporary ways of working. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of change in all industries and pointed a microscope at any areas of weakness.
Today, healthcare organizations face a unique challenge of attracting and retaining staff to care for an aging population while ceding more control and flexibility to the workforce. Over the course of 2023, we anticipate healthcare leaders will focus on reducing risk, retaining talent, redesigning work, reskilling the workforce and reconsidering how they use technology.
1) Reducing risk
As 2022 progressed, many healthcare leaders focused on reducing reliance (and significant financial spend) on agency or travel staff. But mid-way through the year, Kauffman Hall reported that hospital labor expenses were still 37% higher than pre-pandemic levels. We expect to see health systems continue working to decrease their spend on contract labor while looking for innovative ways to combine their existing people with new technologies.
2) Retaining talent
One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic was the renewed focus on the health and wellbeing of the workforce, as the subject of “burnout” took center stage in healthcare. Deloitte has spent considerable time evaluating this topic, and found that healthy employees typically have a better quality of life overall: reduced risk of illness, disease, and injury; lower stress levels; and improved mindset. Importantly, there are benefits to the organization too as healthy employees are more productive, use fewer sick days and participate in more organization and community engagement.
3) Redesigning work
In order to compete with the control and flexibility that other industries now offer, we expect to see the expansion of internal mobility programs and float pools to move people around based on both their preferences and the needs of the organization. As a large number of nurses are now nearing retirement, it may be time to rethink conventional 12-hour shifts in favor of shorter shifts and more part-time roles to offer their aging staff more choices. The advancement of EMR’s and monitoring systems can decrease the negative impact that was previously problematic when patients had multiple care providers, and greater flexibility in shifts and schedules could result in nurses retiring later and fewer leaving the bedside. We anticipate these changes to reflect many of the trends we see today with the rise of gig work as hospitals work to offer more options to meet employees’ expectations.
4) Reskilling the workforce
Not all nurses will remain at the bedside, but that does not mean they need to leave the field of nursing as we expect the growth of virtual nursing programs to expand in 2023. Many hospitals are already utilizing virtual nurses to provide care to patients in ways that do not require a physical presence, which can greatly decrease the workload for the on-site nurse. Virtual nurses can help with admission assessments, medication reconciliation, patient education, and even answering call lights. Virtual nursing could provide the opportunity for an experienced nurse to teach and support newer nurses or provide additional support to a department through various tasks such as follow-up with patients, interdepartmental communication and more.
5) Reconsidering technology
While the delivery of care involves a very personal and human approach, we are just scratching the surface in utilizing technology to automate, augment and advise our care givers. They still spend too much time on administrative and transactional tasks that could easily be handled by new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation. Real time location services can help quickly find equipment and supplies, while self-service scheduling can give them a sense of control over their lives. New technologies can help healthcare organizations personalize each individual’s experience while giving them time back to focus on what truly matters.