Tackling The Nursing Shortage Through Health Tech

Macadamian Technologies | October 18, 2021 | 4 Min Read

Nursing shortages are a key concern for healthcare systems across North America. Between the influx of COVID-19 patients and the aging baby-boomer generation, healthcare facilities aren’t able to keep up with delivering patient care. Digital transformation, however, can help with this.

In the summer of 2021, Tennessee called in the National Guard to tackle the shortage of nurses and doctors across the state, a shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Tennessee isn’t alone in dealing with this challenge. The nursing shortage is being felt across the U.S. and it’s expected to last until 2030. And COVID-19 isn’t the sole culprit, even though the pandemic is adding fuel to the fire.

In Canada, meanwhile, reports of nurses quitting en masse are being highlighted as a major concern for the healthcare system. Nurses are dealing with burnout and mental health challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has some hospitals across the country overwhelmed.

The effects of the nursing shortage are taking a human toll and also a toll on the healthcare system. It’s no wonder that the health tech industry is looking to digital transformation to help with finding nursing shortage solutions. Here’s how digital transformation can help with the effects of the nursing shortage and with reducing the burden on the healthcare system.

AI and Automation’s Role In Alleviating The Nursing Shortage

Nurses are grappling with burnout as they work through the pandemic while also dealing with a shortage of workers in the field. Strategies to address the nursing shortage include alleviating any work that can be done through AI and automation.

This includes repetitive and time-consuming tasks like scheduling, documentation, and bed management. Automation coupled with access to valuable data can help transform these tasks so that nurses can focus on the more human aspect of their profession, namely, caring for patients. This work is more complex and involves greater stamina and energy. By reducing the tasks nurses have to deal with through the use of automation, it reduces the risk of burnout.

Tackling The Nursing Shortage Through Health Tech

How Telehealth Can Help With The Nursing Shortage

Telehealth entails delivering care through technology—often virtually. It’s among the strategies to address the nursing shortage.

Macadamian’s VP of Customer Solutions, Timon LeDain, points out that he was part of a pilot project in the early 2000s that involved looking at how much time it took for nurses to drive among the homes of chronically-ill patients.

“These nurses would be taking the patients’ vital signs, and reporting on the patients’ progress. With telehealth, we were able to have those nurses deliver care from a workstation so that they could see more patients, while delivering the same level of care,” LeDain says.

Telehealth has given nurses back valuable time, which can then be used to deliver necessary patient care.

“This pandemic made it clear that the only way—in many cases—for care to be delivered is through telehealth,” LeDain says.

It’s also important to note that 70 percent of patients surveyed by the American Hospital Association said they were comfortable receiving care through telehealth. In addition to easing the burden on nurses, telehealth is keeping patients happy, which is key in the patient-centric healthcare environment we’re in.

LeDain points out that in the pilot project, nurses were able to build an interpersonal relationship with their patients.

“We were actually surprised by what we heard. Patients enjoyed the fact they were still able to show the nurse their new cat or exchange recipes. Even using technology, patients had the ability to create those personal connections, which are so important,” he says.

The Support Of Virtual Assistants And The Nursing Shortage

In hospital and long term care environments, advances in virtual assistant technologies are now being adopted to create smart & connected rooms to ease the burden on nursing staff for routine patient requests, such as playing music, connecting with a loved one, or requesting pain medication.

Digital workflows can monitor these requests and track them to completion, so that if the first nurse’s message was not able to fulfill the request, another nurse up the chain can follow up.

Early pilots with these technologies that leverage the latest in voice based user experiences are demonstrating a reduction in patient anxiety as they provide them with a connection to the outside world without adding to the busy workload of the nurses delivering care.

This is just another way digital transformation can help overwhelmed nurses by making their work more manageable. And that can alleviate burnout, which is worsening the nursing shortage.

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