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Philips: Three ways digital technology can boost resilience in the healthcare workforce

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Burnout is rampant among healthcare professionals, and staffing shortages are adding to the pressure on healthcare systems. Could emerging technology innovations help ease the burden on healthcare professionals, and empower a more resilient workforce?

Burnout [1] is impossible to miss in the news headlines, in academic research, and in industry publications. And while the experience is all too real for healthcare professionals, some of them reject the term ‘burnout’ because it implies that they are somehow at fault for not withstanding the challenges of the work [2]. On the contrary, healthcare professionals have demonstrated their resilience time and again, most recently under grueling pandemic conditions.

Clinical and operational staff at the frontlines have proved their strength and their resourcefulness, often heroic in the face of COVID-19, and healthcare leaders have weathered unbelievable management challenges. But the structure of our healthcare systems has required that healthcare professionals be nothing less than superhuman. Is it any wonder that we see healthcare professionals experiencing extreme physical, mental and emotional burdens, losing their motivation and in many cases, exiting the sector?

While well-being of healthcare professionals is a complex issue [3], by focusing on the sources of some of the challenges, we can start to take actions to sustain the workforce.

Let us reframe the issue: to continue to meet expectations for quality care, our healthcare systems require improved tools and supports for staff. If we don’t act urgently, staffing shortages will continue to weaken our healthcare systems. For example, the pre-pandemic global shortage of 6 million nurses has been exacerbated by COVID, and, factoring in the 4.7 million nurses expected to retire in the next few years, we can expect an estimated shortfall of 13 million nurses by 2030 [4].


From root cause to opportunity for action
In the Philips Future Health Index 2022 Report, we learned that staffing is healthcare leaders’ top concern. When it comes to uncovering the sources of workforce-depleting burnout, researchers have found [5] several areas that factor into workers’ fatigue, including workload, sense of control, and connection to community.

While we see people departing across all specialties in the healthcare field, we recognize that there are ways to support them, making them less likely to drown in fatigue and frustration. Digital technology has the power to help reduce oversized workloads, restore control and autonomy, and enable reconnection to the value of the work. But it needs to be integrated seamlessly into existing workflows, so as not to add to the daily burden and complexities of care teams.

In the Future Health Index 2022 findings, we heard from healthcare leaders that they trust technology and data to increase efficiency in clinical and operational settings. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of healthcare leaders believe that the value data brings in areas such as digital health records, patient monitoring and medical devices makes the time and resource investments required worthwhile.

Now, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, technology enables us to improve the staff experience, helping retain clinical and operations staff, and address shortages. Improving the staff experience is vital for improving the patient experience, and both are core to the Quadruple Aim of healthcare.


Three areas for action in the near term

Effective digital technologies, with the potential to automate routine tasks and simplify workflows, can bolster the well-being of the healthcare workforce [6]. But to create the frictionless experiences that will make a difference for healthcare professionals, these technologies should integrate seamlessly into their workflows and center on the needs of patients [7].

It’s possible that addressing system failures in even one area could make the difference between distress and contentment for many healthcare professionals [8]. Given the gravity and urgency of staffing challenges in healthcare, we should prioritize actions to make an impact – for clinicians and for operations staff.



Reducing oversized workloads with time-saving technology
Workflow optimization enabled by artificial intelligence can help save time for overburdened providers by improving operational efficiency. More efficient workflows give providers an opportunity to practice at the top of their license. One strategy would be to use a performance management platform that provides real-time data analysis so that management and patient-facing staff have an instantaneous view of room occupancy and equipment use across departments, empowering them to dispatch patients, reduce bottlenecks, and control the spread of infection.

Restoring autonomy by putting staff in control of their tools
Having the right tools at the right time empowers providers to make the best care decisions for their patients, and ultimately deliver the highest quality care. A networked solution that enables operations staff to remotely monitor medical equipment makes it possible to identify maintenance needs early, reducing the risk of equipment downtime and helping ensure providers have the equipment they need when they need it. In addition, there are opportunities to put frontline providers in control of the tools while they’re using them. For example, nurses in the intensive care unit and the general ward say they experience ‘alarm fatigue’ because of constant notifications and alarms [9]. By helping them filter through the noise with AI-enabled decision support tools that point to early signs of patient deterioration, we are helping them focus their attention where it truly matters. Technology should be serving the patients and healthcare professionals, not the other way around.

Reconnecting to the value of the work with the focus on the patient
Cloud-based digital platforms can form the backbone for connecting patient data across settings, offering actionable insights so that healthcare professionals get to focus on what they do best: providing patient care. Data needs to be available in formats that can be shared effortlessly, and above all securely, between points of care. For example, smart diagnostic solutions, supported by a secure informatics backbone, can bring together patient data in one comprehensive view, spanning the patient’s full history. Harnessing this data – centered on the patient experience – can help increase clinical confidence and streamline the path to precision care. With this holistic approach, providers can focus fully on connecting with their patients and offering the best possible care.

Keep listening for innovative ideas from the people doing the work
How do we make sure these solutions meet healthcare professionals’ needs and improve patient experiences? We ask them. The most beneficial and impactful innovations are need-driven rather than technology-driven. They improve the human care experience without getting in the way of it – and that’s something that affects patients as much as their providers [10].

Listening can happen in ad hoc or one-on-one interactions, small-group settings, and questionnaires. One way that Philips draws out insights from the healthcare sector is by convening groups of experts. For example, this fall Philips convened its global Medical Advisory Board, as well as a US-based Connected Care Nursing Leadership Community Advisory Board. The latter enables nursing leaders to provide input into Philips solutions. We’re eager to see what results from this collaboration in the coming months and years.

The 2022 Future Health Index Report also tells us that leaders are keen to partner with their peers and with health technology companies, in order to identify – or even co-create – the models that fit their unique needs.

There is an additional benefit to listening: clinicians say that simply listening to them goes a long way to combating the fatigue and distress of a high-pressure work environment like healthcare. And there is research to confirm that [11].

Listening cultivates a learning environment in the workplace, and it demonstrates that the staff’s contributions have value. For healthcare leaders who are overwhelmed by complex staffing issues, listening is a great place to start.

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