A plan for the health workforce shortage
The healthcare labor market is facing unprecedented projected shortages across a range of specialties and services as the exodus of exhausted and burnt-out healthcare workers continues.
We used to worry about doctor shortages caused by “normal” burnout, but pandemic burnout is upping the ante considerably and has brought an even harsher reality. Today, the majority of nurses are considering leaving the field and around one in three healthcare workers overall have considered leaving their job. Without major systemic change, the healthcare industry faces a dangerous chapter and healthcare leaders are sounding the alarm.
This systemic change should focus on two pillars to avoid a catastrophic loss of talent: making health a safer and more attractive profession for people and modernizing health technology to mitigate waste and inefficiencies. Since the start of the pandemic, innovation in medicine and technology has provided many lifelines to keep the healthcare system functioning – we launched telehealth platforms almost overnight, developed several effective vaccines in one record time and created countless portals and applications for patients to meet the demand for tests and vaccines. From now on, it is imperative to focus on improving the working conditions of people in health care, in addition to advancing the technology they use.
Caring for Our Health Care Providers and Physicians
To retain the doctors we have and attract young people to the field, we must first offer a competitive salary. Unfortunately, about half of doctors in the United States feel underpaid for their work. Physicians earn a higher income compared to many industries, but find their work to be extremely demanding and often begins with a huge medical school debt.
Health also suffers from gender pay inequalities. A survey in Health Affairs found that female doctors earned about $2 million less than their male counterparts over their careers. Attracting diverse young talent to medicine becomes increasingly difficult when other fields offer more competitive salaries without the prerequisite four years of medical school.
Federal agencies also play a major role in the financial viability of physician-owned clinics. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has updated its clinical labor underwriting rules. The new rules took effect Jan. 1, 2022, and increased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, taking into account employment costs for clinical staff such as nurses and physician assistants. The new rule couldn’t come soon enough as many independent clinics have struggled to survive the ebbs and flows of the pandemic and fairly compensate their staff.
AI technology designed for the practitioner
Long before the pandemic, artificial intelligence attracted significant interest from venture capital, driven by its promise as a diagnostic tool in radiology and cancerology, among other specialties. The National Institutes of Health has also sought to harness the power of AI to diagnose Covid-19.
While AI can never replace doctors or healthcare providers, it can augment healthcare delivery in several key areas. These include clinical applications such as diagnostics and operational applications such as appointment scheduling and patient engagement. By streamlining these tasks and easing the administrative burden, AI platforms will optimize the time of physicians and clinical staff. They will also make it easier to operate with fewer people – which may be a permanent reality for some clinics that have lost staff during the pandemic.
Particularly in the field of diagnostics, AI has shown its potential to create “auxiliary physicians” – members of the healthcare team beyond the physician who can assist in accurately screening for disease. In dermatology, for example, if a nurse practitioner can assess an AI-enabled screening that diagnosed skin cancer, it streamlines the process and allows the patient to begin treatment as soon as possible. AI-enabled diagnostics can also triage patients and direct them to the appropriate level of care more efficiently – a critically important task as intensive care units and emergency departments struggle to treat patients. patients.
Also, part of the equation that has driven up the cost of health care in the United States can be attributed to unnecessary expenses, such as duplicate tests. Realizing the full potential of AI and eliminating the human error variable in diagnoses will significantly reduce the incidence of unnecessary testing and lower healthcare costs.
AI can also unlock the value of big data from a healthcare perspective. In the hands of doctors and researchers, machine learning applied to health data can accelerate disease detection, drug discovery and eventual treatments. Scientists around the world had free access to the SARS-CoV-2 genome in January 2020 and this level of information sharing has dramatically accelerated the timeline for developing diagnostic tests and therapies to treat and prevent Covid-19 . He showed the value of sharing data in the most urgent times and the value of a shared clinical database that can save doctors valuable time in research.
By augmenting both clinical and operational capabilities, AI will elevate the work experience in medicine to something that more closely resembles other modern industries with highly sophisticated technology. AI integrations will also make it more attractive for physician entrepreneurs to own and operate their own clinic without burdening them with all the work traditionally associated with billing and revenue cycle management.
The race to retain and attract new healthcare talent is reaching a fever pitch, but emerging technologies and a focus on improving conditions for doctors and healthcare providers will help ease the looming shortage. In the same way that industry has pushed for the rapid adoption of telehealth and developed vaccines at breakneck speed, we must support our healthcare workers and push for technological environments in the healthcare ecosystem. . A modernized work experience will help attract new talent to the field while helping to retain the healthcare workers we already have. Health care must address the reality of a shortage of health care providers by ensuring competitive salaries and fair reimbursements for the work of doctors and clinical staff.
By supporting our clinicians and enhancing their work with the right technologies, we can avoid the worst scenarios of labor shortages in healthcare.