In the last few years, when I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues who run healthcare practices, the staffing prognosis hasn’t been good. They’ve painted dreary pictures of post-Covid fatigue, steep staff attrition and struggles to refill vacant positions.

I wish I had better news – but the reality is, staffing in the healthcare industry faces a precarious future. The United States will need more than 3.2 million additional healthcare workers to meet rising demand in the next five years.

To put it bluntly, adequately staffing healthcare practices is going to get even harder. The good news is there are technologies that providers can adopt to revamp their hiring practices, thereby increasing the odds of attracting and retaining top talent. And practices implement them properly, these systems can have ripple effects beyond the recruitment phase – improving working conditions for employees already on the job, and raising the standard of care they provide.

Benefits of Automated Recruiting

To attract and retain top talent amid a nationwide healthcare worker shortage, it’s essential that practices streamline their hiring processes. These processes will be put to the test with far more regularity with an influx of hiring temporary healthcare workers, which naturally will lead to more frequent job postings, more interviews, and more offers. This presents a much greater potential for breakdown and inefficiency.

For example, practices can implement automated recruiting techniques, which might leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to sift through resumes and identify suitable candidates. This can save significant time and effort that hiring managers would otherwise devote to manually selecting the best applications from the pile.

Providers can also utilize centralized databases to store comprehensive information about all temporary or rotating healthcare professionals – like traveling nurses – who have previously worked with the organization. The database could include skills, qualifications, certifications, and work preferences. HR representatives can then identify returning candidates either manually or with AI to fill new roles.

These decisions should all be informed by real-time workforce analytics. Hiring managers can use this data to better understand staffing patterns, predict seasonal staffing needs, and assess workforce performance over time. Because when a practice is faced with a contracting labor pool, it’s critical that healthcare offices understand what they want in a candidate, and be ready to act when one applies.

Staffing platforms of the future

Even if healthcare practices manage to recruit adequately in the current labor climate, more bodies in the office doesn’t necessarily mean work will happen more efficiently. In fact, with increased staff sizes, and traveling professionals coming and going, healthcare offices without streamlined operations may only see disorganization and patient dissatisfaction get worse. That’s why it’s critical for providers to be thinking about how they can streamline scheduling – one of the most important office functions in a healthcare practice.

AI-powered, automated scheduling tools can be highly useful here. These tools can cross-reference staff availability, qualifications, and specializations with patient requests and specific health concerns. This technology can also optimize shifts and rounds to ensure adequate coverage while taking into account individual staff needs and conflicts. In fact, by automating scheduling, some healthcare practices may be able to meet certain patient needs without adding to staff headcount.

Automated scheduling tools can also provide real-time updates and notifications about last-minute changes to schedules. This ensures everyone is informed promptly and reduces the risk of miscommunication or missed shifts.

As part of this system, it’s essential that these notifications be sent to staff members’ mobile devices, as they’re most likely to have these devices on hand wherever they are, even on days off. By integrating staffing platforms and mobile applications, healthcare administrators can not only ensure staffers receive these critical communications, but can also allow staffers to conveniently view schedules, swap shifts, and request time off.

Practices can also leverage all of the data that these technologies generate to make staffing platforms improve over time. AI-powered tools for forecasting demand, for example, can analyze staffing patterns alongside patient needs. They can then make suggestions for optimizing staff levels throughout the week, around atypical periods like holidays, or cold and flu season.

Streamlining care

Healthcare practices should be just as concerned with leveraging technology to improve patient outcomes as they are with improving staff working conditions. Fortunately, innovations in improving the employee experience have coincided with some exciting developments in patient care.

Since the onset of Covid-19, telemedicine and digital health have become indispensable elements of care, including remote consultations, virtual follow-ups, remote patient monitoring, and more. While during the pandemic these mechanisms were implemented to reduce providers’ exposure to the virus, nowadays telemedicine and digital health consults have caught on, encouraging more people to seek regular care.

In a bigger picture sense, healthcare practices should also adopt comprehensive electronic health records (EHR) systems. These systems should support secure and standardized data exchange among different healthcare providers. Utilizing EHRs streamlines care coordination, decreases errors through accurate data access, and facilitates evidence-based decision-making, ultimately improving patient outcomes.

Finally, healthcare providers should strive to deliver a high-tech, high-touch standard of care even after patients have left the office and in between appointments. They can do this by encouraging active patient involvement through care portals and mobile apps. Patient care portals are great ways for patients to store and track their own vital health information, and again, mobile apps offer highly convenient ways to set appointments and receive reminders. Engaged patients are more likely to follow treatment plans, return for checkups, and ultimately achieve better health outcomes

Final thoughts

The last few years, both during and after the pandemic, have been turbulent times for healthcare providers and patients alike. For now, although it appears that healthcare staffing shortages will continue, providers are not without practical strategies for attracting and retaining talent.

It’s entirely possible we’ll face another public health emergency in our lifetimes that tests the limits of our systems and infrastructure. But we can take comfort in the knowledge that steps we take today to make the healthcare experience better for all – from hiring to actual patient care – will prepare us to better handle the next crisis.

Photo: siraanamwong, Getty Images


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