In response to the high turnover and severe shortages seen sector-wide following the pandemic, the healthcare industry has had to get creative in order to keep workers satisfied and get new applicants in the door. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the healthcare industry will hire at a much faster rate compared to other industries, expecting more than 2.6 million healthcare jobs added by 2031. From state-wide campaigns to bonus checks, healthcare systems, hospitals, and clinics across the country are rethinking how they recruit and retain their staff.

Perhaps the biggest change in how healthcare organizations are viewing workforce engagement is that they’re now taking notes from the gig economy. The “gigification of healthcare” doesn’t mean that every healthcare professional is going to become a contractor, but underscores the need for greater flexibility and speed within the industry. To address shortages and meet the expectations of the next generation of healthcare professionals, the sector is embracing certain trends pioneered by gig work, focusing on agility and autonomy. Here are three strategies inspired by the gig economy that healthcare organizations can embrace to mitigate burnout and boost workplace satisfaction.

The app as the office

Gig workers have long relied on individual apps to help them gain control over their schedules, swap shifts, complete work, and receive payments. The healthcare sector can support their workers by not only leaning into this technology but also optimizing mobile experiences that allow healthcare professionals to use their mobile devices to work smarter and in more nimble ways.

A recent survey found nearly two-thirds of millennial and Gen Z respondents prefer digital communication over one-on-one conversations and phone calls. Additional research has found that physicians use an average of 4.1 mobile apps for work, while nurses use an average of 3.2 work-related mobile apps. Successful healthcare organizations are also leveraging smartphone technology to deliver better patient care, allowing physicians and allied health professionals to receive patient vitals and wellness checks via mobile devices. The rise of telemedicine has made app-based technology even more important for healthcare workers’ day-to-day lives.

It’s not just about enabling mobile devices for work, but creating and delivering mobile-first experiences that can help healthcare workers access information more easily, complete tasks, and pick up new work opportunities. These tools—paired with well-defined “bring your own device” policies—can offer additional autonomy to workers who seek careers that allow them to work on their own terms.

Flexible work, flexible pay

Given the complex interwoven structures, relationships, and unique patient needs, the healthcare industry has become notorious for lacking speed and flexibility. But with the gig economy accelerating the pace of work—and payments—healthcare companies must embrace new technologies to make work more agile and getting paid easier for generations of workers expecting flexibility in the workplace. Facilities are starting to adopt newer scheduling systems and tools that deliver greater self-service and control to clinicians, offering ways for professionals to swap or pick up shifts more easily. The rise of telehealth and other app-based options have also allowed more healthcare professionals to work remotely.

Another digital gig trend for the healthcare sector to embrace includes instant payments. The gig economy has modeled what it looks like to be paid instantly for hours of work completed. With over half of Gen Zs (51%) and millennials (52%) living paycheck to paycheck, the ability to access earnings quickly and more easily can help young healthcare professionals better meet personal finance needs and provide greater peace of mind. The stakes are higher than ever in healthcare right now, and simply put: it can pay off to pay your people faster. Faster payments can incentivize more workers to stay within their organization and attract more applicants too. It’s become an increasingly popular tool for healthcare companies and facilities, as they’re often able to adopt payments technology and accelerate payments without any additional costs and actually discover additional cost savings.

Healthcare systems have also turned to the gig economy to meet the demand for talent faster, including leveraging staffing companies and marketplaces. Filling in the gaps with this talent pool has allowed businesses to combat staff shortages and use the rise of the gig economy to deliver better patient care.

Growth-based perks and benefits

Many workers flock to gig jobs for the potential to earn more money on their own terms and receive additional resources that support their day-to-day work. Offering adequate, timely pay is the first step, but there are also benefits you can offer to keep healthcare workers happy in a highly competitive sector. From cash back on gas to car maintenance discounts, platforms have attracted talent by providing perks that help them pick up and complete work more easily. Especially among clinicians, additional training and continuing education opportunities have become highly sought-after benefits. A study from the Ultimate Medical Academy found that prospective employees cited “on the job professional training to support new skills development” (61%) and “employer-paid educational opportunities related to the field” (61%) as the most impactful training reasons to apply for a job in the healthcare industry. Unique rewards and benefits such as financial literacy/coaching, tuition coverage, and other offerings can not only support healthcare professionals in pursuing their careers, but also give companies a substantial advantage.

With burnout a major driver of turnover within healthcare companies, mental health benefits and resources have become increasingly popular perks to offer healthcare professionals and help them better manage their professional and personal lives. Incentivizing your workers with these tools can pay off in stronger retention for facilities, which trickles down to better patient care and higher morale, too.

The healthcare industry is still in the early stages of embracing the gig economy, but hospitals and clinics that lean into the trend are setting themselves up for success in the years to come. By leveraging technology and strategies used within the gig economy—and even tapping into the talent pool of gig workers themselves—healthcare organizations can address staffing shortages, retain and motivate more workers, and ultimately deliver better patient care.

Photo: Parradee Kietsirikul, Getty Images


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