Fighting the Healthcare Staffing Crisis Through Digital Innovation

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If you work in the healthcare industry, odds are you are quite familiar with the current staffing crises. There simply aren’t enough medical personnel to go around. Larger countries like the United States have increased, bringing in help from other countries like the Philippines, only to leave them seeking more staff in turn. Between the rising cost of education and post-pandemic burnout, the medical field is struggling to bring in— and keep —new students.

The healthcare staffing crisis is a multi-faceted issue that will require more than a few procedural changes to overcome. In the meantime, hospitals, clinics, and even nursing homes are left short-staffed with suffering patients. Not all is lost. While the larger policy creators of the medical world investigate the data behind the staffing shortages and research potential solutions, there are certain digital-based tools practices can turn to for a bit of help.

Telehealth Solutions

First and foremost is the rapid growth of telemedicine, spurred in large part by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It was unsafe to be out in public, so clinics found ways to reach their clients at home whenever possible. This grew from telemedicine nurse lines hosted by certain insurances into a field-wide practice that leads to more efficient care and frees up clinic staff to catch up on other work such as documentation and refills. Telehealth also allows non-local personnel to help out in areas experiencing sharper shortages, as patients don’t have to travel out of state to reach an available expert.

Telehealth acts as a quick access tool for basic exams and follow-ups. Patients no longer need to drive all the way in and take up a room just to get test results explained. It can also work as a sort of triage, determining if a patient needs to visit the office or can be helped entirely over the Internet or phone.

Staffing Solutions

Virtual staffing agencies are making it easier to connect practitioners with clinics, hospitals, and more. By outsourcing staffing, you don’t have to spend precious time vetting candidates and checking over qualifications. Instead, staff at the agency are trained to match practitioners with jobs. They handle the vetting and initial payroll, and they can often help with onboarding. This frees up your administrative staff to focus on serving patients, helping medical staff, and dealing with the current supply shortages.

Virtual staffing agencies can help separate job postings by the actual job, the location, and whether or not it’s fully remote, hybrid, or in-person. Clinics can even advertise for telemedicine providers. Modern staffing agencies have access to an even larger pool of qualified medical personnel, connecting job seekers with areas that are struggling with the staffing crisis.

Machine Learning Solutions

It’s hard to read any kind of news these days without hearing the latest about ‘AI’ chatbots. The Artificial Intelligence industry is exploding with constant innovations and pattern learning. While some chatbots are getting people in trouble, such as the lawyer who didn’t fact-check their chatbot results and received sanctions, AI is showing promise for the medical industry. In fact, one AI recently passed the US Medical Licensing Exam, and another that was created to differentiate pastries in Japan has found patterns to recognize and fight cancer.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, Artificial Intelligence can be a bit misleading— Science Fiction hasn’t helped in these cases. Rather than creating sentient machines, data experts are training machines to analyze and recognize patterns. For chatbots, these are common grammatical speech patterns; in the medical industry, these are patterns within genetics, symptoms, and other data sets relating to internal medicine. AI can help with precision medicine and predictive analytics; it can also sequence genetic patterns in seconds compared to the hours of research and diagnostics it can take up for practitioners.

AI is showing promise for diagnostics and basic virtual nursing, freeing up precious time for our currently overworked staff. While there are many improvements to be made, it’s a development worth watching.

Remember, Digital Relief is Temporary

The ongoing staffing crisis is still a threat to modern healthcare. While digital tools and innovations can help ease the burden, they can’t make up for a fully staffed industry, from clinics and nursing homes to hospitals and pharmacies and beyond. Healthcare professionals and administrative staff across the nation need to be supported and compensated for the back-breaking work they put in every day. Solutions need to be found for why it is getting harder to bring in new staff and keep experienced personnel. For now, however, digital assistance can help ensure patients receive quality care without causing further mass burnout in the field.