In recent years, healthcare workers have become the protagonists of our time. While they do their best to save lives and deliver high-quality medical care, the healthcare industry has faced a challenging workforce crisis. In today’s article, we will consider some problems that require immediate solutions.
1. Heavy burn-out/fatigue
World Health Organization considers burn-out as an occupational phenomenon and has included it into International Classification of Diseases. According to the WHO, burn-out is characterized by exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. Meanwhile, a recent survey of more than 1,300 US front-line medical workers reports 55% of them to have a burn-out. What sounds interesting is that many healthcare professionals experienced burn-out even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with work-life imbalance and extra work hours, one of the biggest reasons for this fatigue is the abundance of job duties and tasks that was exacerbated amid the pandemic.
Here is where technology can relieve the burden of repetitive tasks for medical professionals in the situation of unprecedented influx of patients. For example, an Artificial Intelligence-powered pneumonia diagnosis tool allows users to receive feedback whether a medical appointment is needed just by uploading a lung image into the app. For medical professionals, it means easing their workload and reducing human errors amid stress and long working hours.
2. Issues with technology adoption
Reverting to the example above, we don’t have doubts that technology enables healthcare workers to revolutionize the way of healthcare delivery. That’s why technology adoption has become a must-have, on the one hand. On the other hand, the healthcare industry should avoid situations when healthcare providers unwittingly integrate software that adds to the industry’s problems.
“If AI is not done correctly, or well-integrated into workflows, it can end up increasing the load on clinicians. Some AI systems demand significant interpretation, post-processing and acquisition times, and increase the risk of “workflow fragmentation,” which requires a clinician to divide their attention between several tasks,” says Amit Phadnis, chief digital officer at a healthcare technology company.
Thus, workload of radiologists is reported to be increased following the adoption of some AI-run imaging tools. In other words, healthcare providers need to separate the wheat from the chaff and choose software that relieves the burden in every perspective.
3. Workforce/talent shortage
A study conducted among 20,665 medical respondents at 124 institutions in the United States showed that a significant percentage of medical workers intend to leave medical practice with the highest rate among nurses (40%), advanced practice providers (33 %) and physicians (23.8 %). Really frightening results that require sustainable efforts to mitigate the drain on the healthcare workers. Today’s medical professional is skilled, empathetic and motivated to help people but needs urgent support to ensure a resilient healthcare system. In the 2022 Clinician of the Future Report, healthcare workers made clear the areas of support: clinician wellbeing, training that includes soft skills in digital environment and move to healthcare technologies adoption, bringing healthcare and policy closer together, ensuring a complete workforce, equality at work, etc.
4. Healthcare inequities
Medical professionals also face inequities and inequalities as employees resembling those available in wider society. Thus, female doctors are at a disadvantage. According to a 2019 WHO study, there is a gender pay gap of 28% in healthcare globally. Besides, healthcare has also some specific inequities, in particular, these involve the perceived gap between doctors and nurses. Nurses are considered as merely caregivers who care after patients at the bedside and assist doctors, while doctors are seen as more highly educated and higher professionals in the hierarchy.
5. Education and training needs not met
For many healthcare workers, their education and training needs are not met. This workforce challenge is multifaceted and requires a dedicated learning culture cultivation. The first thing that comes to mind is disruptive technologies adoption. This trauma has not healed yet. In a high-pressure healthcare environment, no one has either time or energy to learn. A recent survey by Microsoft says that 57 per cent of medical professionals expect their stress levels at work to stay the same or increase and need support in technology adoption. At the same time, 60 percent of healthcare workers have to adapt to new technologies without any training.
In no other industry are people as valuable as in healthcare. The pandemic has exposed medical workforce challenges and the industry must find durable solutions and cultivate a relevant culture to show that it appreciates the workforce as its biggest asset.