What are some key trends around employee morale and the resulting impact on patient care?
It is well-known that the morale of healthcare professionals, particularly nurses, was trending down even before the COVID-19 crisis. Nurses and other clinical staff feel underpaid, undervalued, and overworked, resulting in significant challenges for the recruitment and retention of qualified staff. Staff burnout is a major obstacle to effective patient care, so managing staff morale and well-being is perhaps the most critical healthcare challenge today.
There are multiple reasons for this, including structural causes that were in place even before COVID-19:
- Falling reimbursements and lower margins for healthcare institutions, creating a need to reduce labor costs and increase productivity
- Falling regulatory barriers with less job security and more job flexibility
- A shift to more ambulatory and virtual settings, with more high acuity patients in hospitals
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected these trends?
Under the current crisis, each of the underlying factors above is only getting worse. With lost revenue from elective procedures, the financial performance of even the strongest systems is declining. Many healthcare professionals have been furloughed or are working less, while others are working extremely long hours at great personal risk. Regulators are forced to reduce requirements, for example, by removing state-by-state licensing requirements so professionals can work where they are needed with minimal red tape. Also, the trend towards virtual visits has potentially reached a point of no return, with rapid growth and acceptance by both patients and providers.
The most significant change we are seeing is the realization among healthcare systems that they can be far more flexible in their use of staff than ever before. Handled correctly, this can be a boon for staff morale, while a mishandling can exacerbate nurse burnout.
How can outsourcing help address employee morale and patient care challenges? Outsourcing by itself can’t solve all of these problems, but it can help. In particular, outsourcing can provide critical and flexible staffing solutions in key areas that are struggling while addressing the increasing demand of qualified healthcare professionals to work in a safe, flexible manner in the new gig economy.
Already, leading provider systems are seeing this crisis as an opportunity to innovate and address longstanding structural problems. Some of our clients are moving to an on-demand model of workforce engagement, using technology to better optimize their internal staff and flexibly outsource supplemental staff when needed. We have seen that this positively impacts both employees and patients as healthcare professionals are empowered to provide patient care where they are most needed in a flexible, efficient manner. With this comes significant growth in on-demand technology that enables systems to deploy this new staffing model.
What outsourcing tools should organizations explore?
Organizations need to evaluate their staffing needs and identify areas where they need a flexible and cost-effective staffing solution, especially as volumes remain unpredictable during the pandemic. In our experience, a simple outsourcing solution is not enough: organizations will need to keep internal staff and create a flexible, technology-enabled model that allows them to centrally deploy internal employees and float pool resources as well as call upon external resources as needed. As an example, we are currently working with a leading regional system in the Midwest that is actively planning for a post-COVID-19 demand-based, flexible staffing model using the CareRev platform. After having spent the past few decades staffing for 95% patient census, they are now planning for a 50% census, with the rest being staffed on-demand using CareRev.
Without a cloud-based solution like CareRev, such changes would not be possible. By leveraging on-demand technology and adopting an innovation mindset, going back to the old way of doing business is no longer an option.
You can also find this article on modernhealthcare.com.