4 min read

How Technology Can Help Hospitals Cope with Staffing Shortages

doctor using tablet in hospital hallway

In the wake of the global pandemic, hospitals worldwide are struggling to cope with many challenges—chief among them, severe staffing shortages. Two years of pandemic conditions have barraged hospital staff, bringing new and unyielding challenges to the whole care system. Clinicians are facing longer hours, fewer resources, more responsibilities stretched between fewer people, the relentless pressure of pandemic stressors and mitigation measures, lack of support or understanding from the general public, and ultimately higher rates of burnout.

As a result, hospitals are grappling with severe staffing shortages. According to a recent survey by Hospital IQ, 90% of the nurses in their survey sample are considering leaving the nursing profession within the next year, with 71% of nurses with over 15 years of experience considering leaving either immediately or very soon. 

While there will need to be an influx of new nurses to regain balance, not all strategies for coping with the shortage have to do with recruitment. Technology can help make complex and frustrating tasks more simple. And according to the Hospital IQ survey, that might just be the determining factor in whether or not nurses decide to stay in the profession.

By streamlining workflows, technology can save a great deal of time and energy for hospital staff, making cumbersome and stressful processes smooth and efficient. Here's how.



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1. Technology can help simplify communication for hospital staff, cutting down on the time and effort it takes to relay information. 


Many of the nurses involved in Hospital IQ's study offered suggestions that would make them consider staying with their current hospital. Of those surveyed, 53% of nurses "want streamlined processes that ensure visibility into patient needs and communication." Better communication across departments was also a priority for 45%. 

This is one issue technology can solve. The right communication solution can help care teams seamlessly communicate with one another, transmitting information instantly and eliminating many barriers and frustrations. Platforms like Pulsara allow care team members to upload information about their patients to a patient channel, which is viewable to everyone involved in the patient's care. Care team members can pull in whoever they need to alert, at their own organization or at others, and communicate instantly using key vitals information, instant messaging, photos, notes, audio clips, and even audio and live video. 

Improvements to communication also tend to improve nurse satisfaction and have been shown to cut down on time-to-treatment across disciplines. With a system that is quick and easy to use, clinicians spend less time worrying about getting their message through and more time focusing on their patients. 

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2. Using Technology to Improve communication can help mitigate medical errors.


Another unfortunate side effect of insufficient staffing is an increase in medical errors. As nurses try their best to cope with severe shortages, attempts to push through exhaustion can result in mistakes they wouldn't normally make. 

Improved communication around patient care has been shown to help reduce medical errors by providing clarity and transparency. Using technological tools to help facilitate faster, clearer communication between hospital care teams can help avoid preventable mistakes.

3. Telehealth can help connect patients with specialists with the touch of a button. 


When the pandemic hit, clinicians needed a way to continue treating patients from a distance. This led to a loosening of restrictions and an explosion in telehealth capabilities, which has opened many doors in the two years since. 

The right telehealth solution isn't just for general practitioners looking to conduct scheduled appointments with patients. Now, telehealth can also help in emergent environments—from a clinician seeking a second opinion from a colleague to a care team consulting with a specialist at a facility across their state. Telehealth consults can be requested and performed instantly. 

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The State of Texas has been using Pulsara to enable flexible telehealth interactions, allowing patients without a primary care physician to receive an evaluation and approval to undergo monoclonal antibody therapy through a telehealth consult with a physician. 

Leveraging telehealth can help remove roadblocks in treatment by bringing specialists to the patient, allowing them to be evaluated quickly and moved to the next stage of treatment without having to move the patient elsewhere. This can save a great deal of time, energy, resources, and frustration for everyone involved, and helps the patient receive better care, faster. 

 

4. Technology can help coordinate and streamline patient transfers, cutting down the number of phone calls required to place each patient. 


The surges of the COVID-19 pandemic have made patient transfers even more difficult to coordinate. Normal processes for transferring patients often involve a large number of phone calls to a multitude of facilities to try to find placement for even one patient. Bed and resource availability is often in flux and several back-and-forth phone calls are required to clarify the status.

The lack of transparency around hospital availability and patients needing a transfer can now be solved through technology. Pulsara has developed a Virtual Placement Center that allows hospitals to post the needs of each individual patient to a virtual board, allowing hospitals around the state to view and agree to receive patients as they have availability. Rather than attempting to push patients through the system, hospitals can simply post their needs and allow those who have the resources for each patient to offer assistance. 

Arkansas hospitals have been using Pulsara's Virtual Placement Center to quickly find placement for their patients. According to Dr. Rawle Seupaul, Chief Clinical Officer of UAMS, "It's a virtual waiting room, essentially for patients requiring or requesting transfer throughout the state of Arkansas. You can make the comment, 'We are full right now, but we'd be interested in taking this patient once we have capacity.' Or you can say, 'Hey, we'd love to take this patient. We have room. Let's go ahead and make the connection.'"

Many of the problems that have led to hospital staffing shortages are not new; the COVID-19 pandemic has simply shed light on them, and in many cases, exacerbated the causes. In order to regain balance in staffing, hospitals will need to not only recruit new staff, but learn to better anticipate needs and solve some of the process issues that cause frustration for staff.

Technology may not be able to solve all of the problems facing hospitals, but what it can do is help provide better, faster, and simpler systems for hospital staff to do their jobs, allowing them to spend more of their time focusing on what truly matters: their patients. 

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