By Cindy Gaines

This article was originally published on Healthcare Business Today. 

Technology exists to improve both patient care and clinician experience––we just need to use it.

The shortage of nurses in the U.S. has been a persistent issue, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. The strike earlier this year by 7,000 nurses at two large New York City hospitals brought the crisis to the forefront.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country needs more than 275,000 additional nurses from 2020 to 2030. Nurse vacancy rates are at all-time highs, with most hospitals (51.4%) reporting rates over 15%.

The healthcare industry knew well before the pandemic that the shortage was coming, as the number of nurses reaching retirement age outpaced the number of nurses entering the profession. The problem only worsens with the increasing number of aging baby boomers.

The crisis accelerated when the pandemic hit, as nurses retired or left in droves –– driven largely by fatigue and burnout. This problem continues to escalate, with at least 36% of RNs and LPNs reporting being burned out or very burned out in Medscape’s annual Nurse Career Satisfaction Report released in December.

Not only does this situation raise patient safety concerns, but turnover is also very expensive for hospitals and health systems. According to the Nursing Solutions Inc. 2023 NSI National Health Care  Retention & RN Staffing Report, every bedside nurse lost costs a hospital $52,350.

It goes without saying that nurses play a vital role in patient care. They are the glue that binds the healthcare industry together. It is essential that we find ways to unburden them from unnecessary administrative tasks or work outside of their domains and shift their focus back to patient care – bringing them back to the reason they became a nurse in the first place.  This not only brings joy back to their practices but also will increase retention. Care orchestration technology can help achieve this by applying automation in three ways to materially reduce the workload and help nurses focus on what makes their jobs efficient and satisfying.

Automating Manual Tasks

This type of technology uses real-time data, applies clinical knowledge and existing best practices to automate manual steps in care delivery. As a result, routine tasks such as gathering patient intake information can be assigned to the best available resource, whether that’s the patient or a non-clinical staff member. For example, instead of calling patients and hoping to get them on the first try, use automation to text or email instructions about their upcoming procedures.  Instead of calling the patient to set up a time to talk, utilize automation to send an invitation email with 3 dates and times for the patient to select from.  This eliminates the need for cold calling.  Removing repetitive, rote work, like calling patients for scheduling and intake, allows nurses to focus on higher-value patient interactions.

Streamlining The Care Journey 

Following the organization’s evidence-based care protocols, while eliminating manual tasks, simplifies the care journey. Each action can be orchestrated using the most-appropriate means for each patient, making digital interactions efficient and personal interactions with nurses and staff high-impact moments. Each action is documented, so uncompleted tasks can trigger appropriate follow-up, keeping patients, their families, and all members of the care team moving in sync toward the desired outcomes.

Enabling Frictionless Healthcare Experiences

Care orchestration is designed to deliver a personalized experience, ensuring that all care team members –– including patients and families –– have all the information they require to drive the best care outcomes.

Integration with the EHR ensures that information already on record for the patient is seamlessly taken into account. At each step, care orchestration technology uses data to drive the best next action, whether that action is an automated task or an intervention by staff.  For example, a 30-minute intake call can be replaced by sending a digital form to the patient and writing that information back into the EHR.  No more transcribing information or scanning documents into the EHR––a simple process that can save significant amounts of time.  This allows more time for the most rewarding human interactions. Throughout the process, patients feel known and supported by their care teams, leading to higher patient satisfaction.

Considering the ongoing plight of healthcare workers and the institutions that employ them, now is not the time to simply demand nurses “do more with less.” Retaining and attracting nurses to the profession requires a fresh approach. Thoughtfully orchestrating routine and mundane tasks can free up nurses to deliver more individualized care and spend time with those patients who need it most.

Care orchestration technology delivers on the promise of freeing time for patient care, allowing nurses to do what they became nurses to do. By leveraging technology, healthcare organizations can reduce nurse workload, improve patient care outcomes, and create a more satisfying work environment for nurses.