Hospitals across the country continue to grapple with the workforce crisis, with reports showing that nearly half of U.S. healthcare workers plan to leave their roles by 2025. To address this sweeping problem, health systems are working to create workplace cultures that make staff feel supported, as well as adopting tech solutions to offload some of their workers’ daily tasks.
But not every piece of shiny new tech will deliver on its promises to ease burnout among staff, Ardent Health Services CEO Marty Bonick pointed out last week during a session at the Reuters Total Health conference in Chicago. Tennessee-based Ardent operates 30 hospitals and more than 200 care sites across six states.
“We keep touting the promise of technology, but our staff hasn’t seen it yet. That’s where we have to really pivot,” he said.
Knowing that many tech solutions end up being not as effective as health systems would have hoped, Bonick gave an example of a tool that he believes has made a significant impact at Ardent when it comes to reducing employees’ workloads. That tool is called BioButton — it’s a wearable patch made by BioIntelliSense that continuously monitors inpatients’ vital signs.
During a September interview at Oliver Wyman’s Health Innovation Summit in Chicago, Houston Methodist Chief Innovation Officer Roberta Schwartz also cited BioButton as one of the pieces of technology that has done the most to reduce staff burnout at her organization.
The patch eliminates the need for nurses to hook up patients to various pieces of equipment, such as blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters and telemetry devices, Bonick explained.
“These wires get tangled, they’re uncomfortable, and they come undone. We’ve also got a lot of false negatives happening because of technological issues. Well, this little patch can actually monitor all those vital signs at the same time,” he declared.
Hospital staff usually measure a patient’s vital sign every six hours or so, meaning they can’t really gauge what’s happening with the patient in real time, Bonick added.
BioButton captures vital measurements on a minute-by-minute basis, which gives nurses an opportunity to analyze the data as it comes in to see if there is any need for intervention, he said. The patch captures a range of measurements, including heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature, sleep and gait.
“Our staff has been able to see that we’re bringing technology to the bedside that can actually make their life easier and improve patient outcomes,” Bonick noted.
Nurses are among the most burnt-out workers in healthcare, and many have been making the difficult to choice to go on strike in order to advocate for better staffing levels. To give them some much-needed staffing support, some hospitals have been innovating in nurse scheduling.
Janet Smith-Hill, chief human resources officer at SSM Health, panelist, gave an example a partnership aimed at easing staffing burden.
She cited how SSM has been working with ShiftMed, a platform that allows providers to post their open shifts in hopes they will be filled by local nurses. By giving healthcare providers more access to on-demand W-2 labor, ShiftMed seeks to help hospitals escape their expensive reliance on travel nurses.
“The technology allows nurses to schedule and pick up shifts, and we’re able to communicate and see where the vacancies are, so it’s all very smooth,” Smith-Hill explained.
ShiftMed also allows nurses to receive daily pay. This helps improve employee satisfaction, as nurses can quickly access their wages, she added.
Hospitals have a plethora of tools available, but they have come to learn that only a select few are truly effective when it comes to streamlining clinical workflows. In the opinion of Bonick and Smith-Hill, the solutions sold by BioIntelliSense and ShiftMed have emerged as two diamonds in the rough.
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