Written by: Cheryl Reifsnyder, PhD
State of the State: The current state of the healthcare workforce
The healthcare industry has gone through major changes to adapt to COVID-19. Some were temporary measures unlikely to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic, but other changes have proven valuable and are expected to continue even as the COVID-19 pandemic’s influence begins to wane. It is important to realize, though, that the healthcare industry’s emerging trends have been impacted by many factors unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as:
Keep reading to learn some of the obstacles the healthcare industry is soon expected to face and some ideas for how to overcome them.
The pandemic’s effects on healthcare workers
The pandemic has triggered numerous changes for today’s healthcare workers. The number of organizations that have added virtual care to their rosters has skyrocketed, giving healthcare providers (HCPs) and other healthcare employees increased opportunities to become comfortable using telemedicine technology. Many experts believe there’s a good chance that a hybrid care model—one that relies on telemedicine for initial contact with patients—will become the standard for post-pandemic healthcare.
Pandemic-induced stress is also having a significant impact on today’s healthcare workers. COVID-19 has required a broad range of healthcare workers to risk their lives in the course of their work. Surveys found that at least 1/3 of frontline healthcare workers were considering leaving their field.
Among those remaining in the workforce, surveys identify a burnout epidemic. The American Hospital Association defines burnout as “high emotional exhaustion, high depersonalization (i.e., cynicism), and a low sense of personal accomplishment from work,” and it is associated with a 200% increase in medical errors. The turnover rates Medscape Physician Burnout & Depression Report 2022 found a 5% overall increase in burnout among physicians, from 42% in 2020 to 47% in 2021. That number is even higher among physicians in emergency medicine, where burnout increased from 43% to 60%.
The pandemic also triggered action from numerous clinicians who might have already been burned out or frustrated, so much that the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was termed the “Great Resignation.” Today, 1 of every 5 physicians says they are likely to leave their practice in the next 2 years, while 1 of every 3 health professionals says they are likely to reduce their work hours within the next 12 months.
There has been an overabundance of mental health problems among healthcare workers as well, problems they are frequently afraid to acknowledge. The 2021 Washington Post—Kaiser Family Foundation survey found:
- Nearly 30% of healthcare workers were considering leaving their professions early
- Nearly 60% reported mental health impacts due to their work during the COVID-19 pandemic
Adding the COVID-19 pandemic increased pressure on the healthcare workforce, but many of the underlying causes of burnout were not directly related to COVID-19. Many physicians blamed burnout on administrative tasks, such as filling out insurance and billing forms; 60% of physicians pointed to overwhelming bureaucratic demands as the key factor contributing to their burnout.
Workforce changes: Changing roles
The challenges of maintaining an adequate workforce in healthcare began before the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. clinical workforce has been in bad shape for years, with high rates of turnover and chronic shortages in some areas. Experts predicted the need to hire at least 200,000 nurses annually to meet the need created by retiring nurses combined with increased demand for healthcare workers as the U.S. population grows and ages.
The increasing shift toward value-based care is also impacting the healthcare workforce. Value-based care is a payment model for healthcare that ties reimbursement to the quality of care provided to patients. It has emerged as a potential replacement for “fee-for-service” reimbursement, a payment model in which providers were paid retrospectively, for services delivered, based on the quantity of services delivered rather than on patient outcomes. As healthcare professionals shift to value-based care, many have had to alter their workflows to make the necessary changes to patient care. As a result, many traditional healthcare activities are being assigned to different types of healthcare workers—a process known as “task shifting.” New healthcare staff roles are emerging to help provide the enhanced care services required for value-based care. At the same time, employers are working to rework some job descriptions and, in other places, create new job descriptions, to compensate for task shifting and the new roles emerging in the healthcare workforce.
Some experts estimate that more than 50% of the healthcare workforce could have significantly modified roles in the near future.
Amidst all the changes, leaders can take steps to help fight stress and burnout. For instance, they can:
- Provide adequate personal protective equipment
- Create supportive environments for healthcare workers
- Establish access to confidential mental health services
- Encourage better teamwork to reduce work overload
- Create a process for improving practice culture and efficiency
The American Medical Association (AMA) STEPS Forward™ resources provide numerous practical strategies to improve efficiency and reduce workload. Resources include publications such as the “Saving Time Playbook,” which offers tips for removing unnecessary work and streamlining processes—and provides an introduction to 9 additional AMA STEPS Forward toolkits.
Veradigm® is devoted to supporting the needs of HCP practices, no matter their size. We bring a flexible suite of solutions and services that can scale up or down to serve practices ranging in size from a solo provider to thousands of HCPs in multi-specialty groups and everything in between.
Practice Fusion EHR and Veradigm EHR
Practice Fusion is a cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) platform designed specifically for small, independent healthcare practices. It has a streamlined workflow that simplifies patient care with efficient, intuitive charting. It is designed to reduce pressure on your healthcare team with laboratory and imaging center integrations; mobile compatibility that allows charting on any device; fully managed EHR updates to keep the practice up to date with the latest clinical standards and quality programs; and more.
Veradigm EHR is an ambulatory EHR platform designed to support the needs of busy provider practices. It enables healthcare providers to streamline workflows, improve operational efficiency, and increase practice profitability. Veradigm Professional EHR allows you to respond to “task shifting” by giving you the flexibility to adapt to changing workflows and job descriptions. It also provides integrated telehealth, compatibility with mobile devices; customizable templates for documenting patient visits; and more.
Veradigm Practice Management
Veradigm Practice Management is a solution designed to boost practices’ operational efficiencies and productivity in the face of clinician shortages. Its efficient scheduling system enables you to maximize provider schedules with tools to help manage walk-ins, cancellations, and recurring appointments. It offers flexibility to allow you to freeze and release schedules, while a scheduling AI helps make sure that providers’ schedules are optimized while automating individual providers’ preferences.
At the same time, the Veradigm Practice Management system provides features to help optimize the practice’s financial resources. Advanced check-in streamlines front-desk processes, which can help you reduce administrative costs. Real-time reporting offers easy access to current information on charges, payments, claim statuses, and current A/R aging and coding trends to help measure financial performance. This also enhances collections and profitability. Automated updates help make sure you continue to meet tighter compliance and security mandates.
Finding the right solution for your practice
Veradigm can provide your practice with what you need no matter where you are in the healthcare world. Let Veradigm help you focus on what you do best—caring for patients. Contact us to learn more about Veradigm’s Provider Solutions and what they can do for you.