By Cindy Gaines, RN, MSN, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Lumeon

Happy New Year! Or is it?

While it’s likely that none of us are mourning the end of 2021, the new year is starting with another set of challenges, especially for those in healthcare. Nurses and doctors reached a crisis point in 2020, and the problem has only intensified since. Even before the surge of the Omicron variant, only 14% of healthcare organizations were operating at greater than 90% capacity. Now, the increasing shortage of healthcare staff might be called “the next Coronavirus crisis.”  

In the face of overwhelmed hospitals and high burnout and illness rates among staff, what are the chances of bringing the joy of nursing back in 2022?  As healthcare staffing is currently in crisis, let’s start with – how to support the team by improving their vigor and strength.   

Healthcare staff in crisis

Healthcare staff needs to be happy and healthy to provide the best quality of care to patients – yet healthcare workers are currently anything but thriving.   

Lumeon’s recent survey of perioperative care leaders revealed that staff burnout and retention is the issue that most concerns them in 2022. Many see staffing capacity, coverage, flexibility, and support as the top operational concerns. These concerns, they say, must be addressed to ramp back up to the target patient volume for elective surgery. 

A practical approach to relieve staff

So, what can be done to help healthcare teams take on 2022 with vigor and strength?  

A significant factor leading to burnout is overwhelming staff with too many tasks. Repetitive, rote work like calling patients for scheduling and handling paperwork means that many nurses are not working at the top of their license. Not only is this discouraging for staff members, but it also pulls their talents away from patient care, where they are badly needed.  

One quick way is to use care automation technology to turn manual tasks into digital. Take one job at a time, such as utilizing automation to support patients completing their surgical intake assessment and discretely pushing this needed information into the electronic medical record. No more hand entering patient intake data! Or sending the patient a survey to evaluate how they are doing after surgery, allowing their answers to drive who needs a call from the nurse and not just calling everyone. Over time automated tasks can be orchestrated together as part of a care journey bringing even more powerful benefits. 

As a group of McKinsey analysts note, “the pandemic fundamentally forced the healthcare industry to think differently about how care is being delivered and how workforces are managed. On a positive note, providers incorporated technology into care models, enacted new flexibility in workforce planning and deployment, and rapidly reskilled their teams.”  

This progress is promising, but the process of integrating new technologies into workflows to make nurses’ lives easier is unfortunately incomplete. It has taken a band-aid approach, patching problems in an ad-hoc manner. Despite 92% of institutions offering telehealth, 51% of survey respondents stated that integration into the broader care delivery process is a work-in-progress.  

With 640,000 nurses nearing retirement and the demand for their services rising due to the pandemic and the aging of a large cohort of baby boomers who will soon need care, providers need to accelerate the process of digitization aggressively.  

Software that can automate the guidance of patients through their care journeys can make a significant difference to hospital staff. Direct scheduling and rescheduling for routine appointments can be removed from their workloads. Clinical Decision Support can help with risk assessment and triage. And digital tools can help screen patients remotely, so in-person care can be reserved for when it is most needed.    

Improvements such as these can go a long way to helping healthcare providers thrive this year and in the future.  

Download our Perioperative Productivity Research Report now to learn more.