Automation delivers much-needed relief to a strained healthcare workforce

Hospitals and health systems are currently experiencing what many consider to be a labor crisis – particularly among caregivers.

According to data from the American Hospital Association (AHA), half a million nurses were expected to leave the field by the end of 2023, bringing the total nursing shortage to 1.1 million nationwide.

Health system pharmacies have also been hit hard. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), health systems are experiencing average turnover rates of 21% among pharmacy technicians with 1 in 10 health systems noting the loss of 41% of technicians or more.

90% of the organizations surveyed by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) in 2021 also stated they couldn’t find pharmacy technicians to hire.

Driven by a number of factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic and difficult working conditions, these shortages are resulting in the need to do more with less, which can lead to burnout and fuel the exodus of even more caregivers.

Health systems need to find ways to ease the burden on their existing workforces. Estimates show that as little as 22% of a nurse’s time is spent on direct patient care.1 Similarly, studies show 44% of a clinical pharmacist’s time is dedicated to non-clinical activities such as medication ordering and distribution. Automating tedious manual tasks through a comprehensive strategy leveraging technology and services is an opportunity to relieve some of the burden on these clinicians. Allowing them to focus on higher-value activities and practice at the top of their licenses can lead to greater job satisfaction.

Automation services drive measurable outcomes

Several solutions are available to help free clinical professionals from the time-consuming, manual tasks that take focus away from patient care.

Omnicell, for instance, offers a full suite of Advanced Services that provide varying combinations of robotics, smart devices, software, and expert support. These solutions are designed to deliver clinical and business outcomes in each setting of care where medications are managed — including the point of care, central pharmacy, IV compounding, inventory management, and specialty and outpatient pharmacy — and have helped many healthcare facilities reduce manual workflows and waste, allowing staff to focus on higher-value tasks.

For example, the company’s Point of Care Service — a combination of Automated Dispensing Cabinets, optimization software, and expert services — has helped improve nursing efficiency and workflows, reducing medication retrieval time by as much as 54%.

The combination of advanced robotic dispensing technology, software, and onsite and remote experts that compose Omnicell’s Central Pharmacy Dispensing Service has helped streamline pharmacy workflows, reducing the time pharmacists spend on distribution tasks by 75%.

Even with offerings like Omnicell’s IV Compounding Service, where robotics and services are primarily geared to reduce outsourcing costs, eliminate waste, and combat drug shortages, streamlining labor concerns is a key consideration.

“We could have purchased an IV robot and run our in-house sterile compounding program ourselves, but that takes a lot of expertise, technicians, and resources that we just didn’t have,” says Arpit Mehta, PharmD, MPH, MHA, CPEL, Director of Pharmacy at Allegheny General Hospital. “Having a turnkey service where in-house experts are included to operate the robot and assist with optimization strategies was imperative to making our IV program successful.”

As pharmacy technology becomes more sophisticated and workforce constraints persist, health systems should consider a comprehensive pharmacy technology strategy that includes expert services to not only support internal staff, but to realize the full potential of their medication management infrastructures and enhance outcomes. This approach does more than provide the technology to automate tedious manual tasks. It infuses your healthcare operation with clinical and pharmacy experts that are dedicated to your success. Learn more about Omnicell’s Advanced Services here.

1 Journal of Nursing Care Quality, July/September 2017.

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