Labor shortages have been an ongoing concern for a vast array of industries. Few industries, however, have been more severely or adversely impacted by staffing shortfalls than healthcare. Indeed, the healthcare labor shortage dramatically worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the healthcare staffing shortage was already damaging typical practices before the advent of the pandemic.
The global health system has been assailed for years by a perfect storm of surging demand coinciding with a shrinking workforce. The result is an overburdened health system, compromised quality of patient care, and a healthcare labor force facing physical and mental burnout.
Though there is little hope that medical needs will be curtailed or the health labor force replenished anytime soon, not all hope is lost. Indeed, tech advancements are proving increasingly effective in helping to mitigate the healthcare labor shortage. This article examines the top four tech innovations helping minimize labor shortfalls' impacts on patients and practitioners.
4 Tech Advancements Mitigating the Healthcare Labor Shortage
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics
No matter your particular role in the healthcare industry, the reality is that health professionals always already combine the art of caregiving with the science of empirical research, data analysis, and strategic planning.
Every day, clinicians are tasked with making tricky decisions regarding patient care. However, innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are significantly improving efficiency and accuracy in diagnosis and treatment planning.
AI technologies, for example, can now collect and analyze billions of data points in a split second. AI systems can conduct more research in mere seconds. As opposed to a human practitioner, that can take weeks. Through AI-driven machine learning, healthcare providers can acquire data-driven patient care protocols without investing enormous time and energy in researching patients' medical records and relevant health studies.
This frees clinicians to devote more time to patient care while still supporting a healthy work/life balance.
2. Wearable Health Technologies
Another critical innovation helping to mitigate the health labor shortage is the advent of wearable health devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). Wearable health tech enables healthcare providers to monitor patients' vital signs continuously or to receive far more comprehensive data regarding the patient's symptoms. Wearable health devices, for instance, can document a patient's cardiac activity over time and in the patient's home rather than in the stressful environment of the hospital or clinic.
Similarly, wearable technologies are also being increasingly used with artificial intelligence (AI) systems to improve risk management strategies. AI systems, for example, can collect and analyze the data derived from wearable devices. Evaluating patients' health status and current and future health risks enables practitioners to more efficiently and effectively formulate solutions to minimize the likelihood of disease progression, complications, or treatment non-compliance.
Wearables can even use geo-tracking capabilities to alter care providers to a patient's potential exposure to environmental health hazards, such as high COVID-19 prevalence areas. This enables clinicians to remain proactive in protecting patients and healthcare teams from the potential harms of such exposures.
Armed with such comprehensive data, clinicians can make more informed, personalized decisions regarding patient care. At the same time, the assurance of real-time monitoring precludes the need for in-clinic consultation or hospitalization. The wearable device, in other words, fulfills many of the functions of bedside care for medically vulnerable patients while mitigating the burden of care for the clinician.
3. Workplace Assistive Devices
Tech innovations that reduce the detrimental impacts of the health worker shortage aren't confined to patient care alone. Innovations designed to open up the workplace for persons with disabilities are also proving highly effective in reducing staffing shortfalls.
For example, assistive technologies, such as screen readers and voice dictation software, can enable workers with vision impairments to join or reenter the workforce, mitigating the healthcare worker shortage by tapping into a vast and too often overlooked labor pool. At the same time, integrating assistive technologies in a healthcare facility supports compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and, in turn, supports inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.
4. Adaptive Onboarding
Given the profound importance of a healthcare professional's work, employee onboarding is, by necessity and by definition, a highly complex process in the healthcare industry. After all, people's lives and well-being are at stake.
Fortunately, tech innovations are serving to streamline and expedite this process without compromising the quality of the training a new employee receives. Adaptive onboarding, for example, harnesses the power of technology to tailor training protocols to the specific needs of the individual employee and the job role they are to fill. Training redundancies are eliminated while potential gaps in an employee's skill set are more readily identified and addressed.
Machine-based adaptive onboarding speed up the recruiting and training process and frees leadership to attend to duties other than new employee training. As a result, labor needs can be met quickly without consuming senior leaders' valuable time.
Labor shortages have been a persistent and pervasive concern in the healthcare industry, undermining patient care and putting practitioners' mental and physical health at risk. However, technological innovations are helping to mitigate the effects of the health labor shortage. Artificial intelligence, integrated medical technologies, and adaptive onboarding technologies allow companies to fill vacant positions efficiently while freeing leadership from new employee training obligations.
About the Author: Miles is an independent writer with a background in business and a passion for tech, psychology, news, and simply helping people live happily and fulfilled lives. He has lived and traveled throughout the United States and continues expanding his awareness and experiences. He is most likely mountain biking or kicking back with a cup of tea when he is not writing.