Technology offers opportunities to cut administrative burdens and promote a resilient workforce

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare employees were forced to quickly adapt to numerous operational and clinical practice challenges. However, while many employees adapted, workplace stress and administrative burdens have caused some employees to leave the workforce and have exacerbated labor shortages. 

According to a survey conducted by Becker's Healthcare's partnership with UiPath, workforce challenges remain the top concern among hospital CEOs, and staff shortages are the most concerning aspect of care delivery. 

During a recent Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by UiPath, a panel of healthcare and IT leaders discussed how technology can help reduce administrative burdens and promote a more resilient workforce:

  • Kelly Gallegos, chief nursing officer, UC Health Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
  • Joy O. Henry, MSN, RN, executive director of education, Faith Community Health System
  • Beth Kushner, DO, chief medical officer, St. Joseph Health System in Paterson, N.J.
  • Kelly McMinoway, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer, Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany, Ind. (part of Baptist Health System Kentucky and Indiana)
  • Jason Warrelmann, vice president of global healthcare practice, UiPath

Three key takeaways were:

  1. Smart deployment of technology enables those in healthcare to work at the top of their license. Administrative burden has become an unintended side effect of working in healthcare. "We've taken a critical look at documentation requirements," Dr. Kushner said. "By decreasing duplicative tasks, we have given time back to clinicians, nurses and other employees. This has decreased burnout and dissatisfaction."

    Technology is also helping the healthcare workforce be more successful on the job. "We now have a lot more novice staff in some departments. We've used technology to automatically turn on bed alarms when the nurse leaves the room. With virtual wound care, we can get consults done faster. These things help to support an innovative care team model," Ms. Gallegos said. 

  1. Augmented intelligence can enhance clinician effectiveness, while retaining the human aspect of healthcare. Rather than automating clinical decision making, leading hospitals and health systems are leveraging technology to enhance clinician performance. "I want technology to bring the most important things to the top of the providers' mind so they can better organize their day, their thoughts and their tasks," Dr. Kushner said. "If we take away clinical decision-making, we lose the human part of the healthcare experience."

    The goal is to utilize technology to help people work smarter. "We want AI to support their practice, not replace it. For example, we've deployed technology to enable telesitters who can monitor multiple patients at once and virtual nurses to support bedside nurses," Ms. McMinoway said.

  1. Open communication with employees is essential for generating buy-in for technology initiatives. Many fear that technology will replace their jobs. Education and communication can dispel these misconceptions. "We believe strongly in a shared governance model and talking to frontline clinicians about what will make their work easier. That means finding solutions that add value, piloting them and getting feedback. It's constant process improvement work," Ms. Gallegos said. Ms. Henry agreed. "The buy-in has to be there. If you don't have it, your initiative won't be successful," she said.

    The healthcare sector is changing, especially the healthcare workforce. In response, hospitals and health systems must reinvent the way they operate. "Technology is a good catalyst for this," Mr. Warrelmann said. "Healthcare is an industry where backlogs can't occur. We need to use technology to create leaner, standardized processes that improve quality and patient safety."

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