Talent Tuesday: Addressing Staffing Shortages with Technology and Outsourcing

By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com
Twitter: @rehackmagazine

Ongoing staffing shortages challenge health care organizations worldwide. Although there’s no single solution to fix the problem, IT professionals working in the medical sector can significantly reduce the issue. That often happens through applying new technologies and strategic decisions to outsource certain tasks.

Removing Some Tasks with Chatbots

Staffing shortages could increase the likelihood of people making mistakes or forgetting to do things because their workloads are too heavy. Northwell Health introduced a chatbot to automate post-surgery check-ins with patients. The tool provides real-time analyses of users’ responses.

The chatbot can recommend if someone from a care team should contact the patient by phone or schedule an in-person or telemedicine-based appointment. This approach could relieve providers of some manual duties while giving them more time to focus on the people who most likely need additional interventions to prevent complications.

In another case, University of Colorado Health employees relied heavily on a chatbot during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was when many patients began using digital tools for the first time or in new ways. The chatbot could answer many questions formerly handled by the hospital’s call center team, allowing them more time to handle complex queries.

However, most new technologies come with learning curves. That means IT teams will likely significantly influence how smoothly and swiftly organizations can use new products or tools to their advantage.

Outsourcing to Fill Staffing Gaps

Hospital administrators often view outsourcing as one of the most efficient ways to fill staffing needs. The associated timeline can often happen much faster than the traditional hiring process, which can take months.

As of 2021, radiologists from as far away as New Zealand and Australia analyzed about 14% of the medical scans associated with the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. However, the figure rose to 80% for scan data collected during out-of-hours periods.

Many organizations also combine technology with outsourcing efforts. That approach can accelerate the sourcing and screening of qualified candidates. Getting the best results with outsourcing requires health care decision-makers to assess how they could best maintain high-quality patient care while protecting the bottom line.

Identifying the Processes Technology Could Benefit Most

Health care organizations can make the most of technologies to ease staffing shortages when people analyze which workflows take the most time and why. In one case, a hospital struggled with low operating room utilization due to staffing issues and manual processes. However, artificial intelligence improved processing time while easing staff workloads.

Triage is another important health care responsibility because it helps employees decide which patients to treat first. That became even more difficult than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, greatly increasing the demands placed on hospitals and making staffing shortages more acutely felt.

However, researchers developed an automated triage system to determine which patients to place in intensive care units. The advanced tool achieved 97% accuracy, marking an impressive achievement.

Health Care IT Teams Can Benefit from Tech and Outsourcing

Although these examples center on technology and outsourcing to assist those directly involved in patient care, they can also help people working in IT departments at medical facilities. These professionals are in increasingly high demand, especially with hospitals being frequent targets of ransomware and other cyberattacks.

Many tech tools can automate processes or help IT teams determine which potential threats need the most urgent investigation. Outsourcing can also relieve pressure on departments where people feel continually overstretched by too-large workloads. Fortunately, as outsourcing remains accessible and tech vendors frequently market products to health care organizations, there are plenty of possibilities to consider.

However, before deciding to outsource or invest in a new tech tool, all parties must narrow down what they hope to achieve. That will help everyone stay focused on the anticipated outcomes.