How Technology Can Help Hospitals Cope with Staffing Shortages

In the wake of the global pandemic, hospitals worldwide are struggling to cope with many challenges—chief among them, severe staffing shortages.

Clinicians are facing longer hours, fewer resources, more responsibilities stretched between fewer people, the relentless pressure of pandemic stressors and mitigation measures, lack of support or understanding from the general public, and ultimately higher rates of burnout.

As a result, hospitals are grappling with severe staffing shortages. While there will need to be an influx of new nurses to regain balance, not all strategies for coping with the shortage have to do with recruitment. Technology can help make complex and frustrating tasks more simple. And according to a recent Hospital IQ survey, that might just be the determining factor in whether or not nurses decide to stay in the profession.

By streamlining workflows, technology can save a great deal of time and energy for hospital staff, making cumbersome and stressful processes smooth and efficient. Here's how.

1. TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP SIMPLIFY COMMUNICATION FOR HOSPITAL STAFF

Many of the nurses involved in Hospital IQ's study offered suggestions that would make them consider staying with their current hospital. Of those surveyed, 53% of nurses "want streamlined processes that ensure visibility into patient needs and communication." Better communication across departments was also a priority for 45%.

The right communication solution can help care teams seamlessly communicate with one another, transmitting information instantly and eliminating many barriers and frustrations. Platforms like Pulsara allow care team members to upload information about their patients to a patient channel, which is viewable to everyone involved in the patient's care. Care team members can pull in whoever they need to alert, at their own organization or at others, and communicate instantly using key vitals information, instant messaging, photos, notes, audio clips, and even audio and live video.

Improvements to communication also tend to improve nurse satisfaction and have been shown to cut down on time-to-treatment across disciplines. With a system that is quick and easy to use, clinicians spend less time worrying about getting their message through and more time focusing on their patients.

2. TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP MITIGATE MEDICAL ERRORS

Another unfortunate side effect of insufficient staffing is an increase in medical errors. As nurses try their best to cope with severe shortages, attempts to push through exhaustion can result in mistakes they wouldn't normally make.

Improved communication around patient care has been shown to help reduce medical errors by providing clarity and transparency. Using technological tools to help facilitate faster, clearer communication between hospital care teams can help avoid preventable mistakes.

3. TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP COORDINATE AND STREAMLINE PATIENT TRANSFERS

The surges of the COVID-19 pandemic have made patient transfers even more difficult to coordinate. Normal processes for transferring patients often involve a large number of phone calls to a multitude of facilities to try to find placement for even one patient. Bed and resource availability is often in flux and several back-and-forth phone calls are required to clarify the status.

The lack of transparency around hospital availability and patients needing a transfer can now be solved through technology. Pulsara has developed a Virtual Placement Center that allows hospitals to post the needs of each individual patient to a virtual board, allowing hospitals around the state to view and agree to receive patients as they have availability. Rather than attempting to push patients through the system, hospitals can simply post their needs and allow those who have the resources for each patient to offer assistance.

Many of the problems that have led to hospital staffing shortages are not new; the COVID-19 pandemic has simply shed light on them, and in many cases, exacerbated the causes. In order to regain balance in staffing, hospitals will need to not only recruit new staff, but learn to better anticipate needs and solve some of the process issues that cause frustration for staff.

Technology may not be able to solve all of the problems facing hospitals, but what it can do is help provide better, faster, and simpler systems for hospital staff to do their jobs, allowing them to spend more of their time focusing on what truly matters: their patients.

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