From the ‘silver tsunami’ to provider burnout, here’s a look at what’s driving the trend and what HCOs can do to protect themselves.
A shortage of doctors and other health care workers was an issue even before COVID-19 added to the problem. An employment report released in September 2021 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a loss of 17,500 health care employees that month alone. Hospitals across the nation lost approximately 8,000 jobs, and nursing and residential care facilities lost even more.
Many factors are contributing to this loss of important health clinicians, including retirement of baby boomers, but labor specialists tout burnout as a primary driver.
How can health care organizations cope?
When you’re facing burnout due to a high workload and lack of staff, it’s not a question of asking staff to work harder, but rather smarter. Clinics in many cases already are at capacity, but a careful analysis of productivity and efficiency using hospital medicine performance analytics can reveal strategies that can add up to significant relief.
As a patient moves through the health care system from admission to discharge, many potential patient-flow barriers come into play. For example, an increasing population of behavioral health patients must be evaluated by psychiatric services before leaving the ED. A shortage of behavioral health physicians results in increased ED boarding — patients in the ED waiting for a bed — which in turn causes long wait times.
Delays in discharging patients from medical floors also can create a bottleneck in the ICU of patients waiting to be transferred out. This gridlock is a common scenario and uses even more staff resources.
These throughput pain points impact hospital metrics like LWBS and cause more patients to leave against medical advice. Heavy workloads and crowded conditions are stressful for staff members and create added pressure to already demanding work.
Bringing in backup staff in the form of virtual resources can provide welcome relief to hospital EDs. ED telemedicine programs have grown across the country and are being used in innovative ways to relieve hospitals that are at capacity or short-staffed.
Teleconsultations for behavioral health assessment in the ED are a viable way to reduce length of stay, facilitate admission processes, reduce overall costs, and free up ED staff to care for other patients. These virtual providers are often more productive at certain tasks than their on-site counterparts.
Telemedicine triage services also can help hospitals manage surges and prolonged periods of high volume or short staff. This service can help direct patients to the correct level of care, thereby reducing noncritical ED visits, and reducing wait times and resource requirements.
Data-Driven Insights Using Advanced Data Analytics
Could your facility benefit from teleconsultation or teletriage services? The answer is in your data. Using performance analytics solutions, a careful analysis of throughput, staffing, bottlenecks, and volume trends over time can help determine the impact that adding additional resources might have.
Staff recruitment plans, clinician training programs, and retention strategies have their place, but often take a lot of time to see movement. Meanwhile, it’s important to maximize the effectiveness of existing staff with an action plan backed by concrete, individualized data.