Kelly Conklin, SVP and Chief Clinical Officer for PerfectServe
Hospitals today face a variety of challenges, including staffing shortages, frequent turnover, and dated technology systems. Healthcare workers—and especially nurses—are often left to shoulder the burden. Growing shift demands, shrinking work-life balance, and a demanding work environment are pushing some nurses to leave the field. Digital health companies have a unique opportunity to step up and help alleviate these problems to better support the nursing workforce.
I was an ED trauma nurse for over 20 years, and now, as Chief Clinical Officer for a healthcare technology company, I have a clear understanding of how clinical care and leadership are interconnected. Thinking back to my time at the bedside, I often wonder how better technology could have positively impacted my nursing experience. With burnout soaring, nurses are pushing back against hospitals in light of as-yet-unresolved staffing shortfalls. Care delivery is still a jumble of disjointed workflows and siloed technology solutions. Days are still full of competing alerts, phone calls, urgent messages, and callbacks to physicians based on schedules that are frequently incorrect. It’s chaotic at best and harmful to patients at worst.
A 2022 survey showed that 61% of full-time nurses prioritize their job above their own physical and mental well-being, and more than half said their primary reason for leaving a job was increased work hours. To help stem the tide of nurse burnout, we need to start integrating modern, more effective technology.
Technology Can Reduce Care Team Toil
In my experience, technology that brings order to this chaos by unifying the care team—from nurses to doctors to patient care techs and beyond—on a single communication platform is a game changer. A platform like this can ingest information from other systems to become a central hub for patient care coordination. Using this technology correctly means no more missed messages, no more searching for phone numbers, no more running to the nurse station to return calls, and no more scrambling to coordinate care. It’s not a silver bullet for every frustration, but simplifying day-to-day care coordination will lead to much happier nurses and patients.
Pandemic Provided a Glimpse into the Future
Although it’s taken us a long time to understand the potential of integrating innovative technology in care settings, the pandemic has changed perspectives about how quickly that technology can be implemented. In 2020, telehealth solutions were adopted at warp speed across the country. That pace has slowed, but the conversation has shifted, and people now realize that technology go-lives shouldn’t always be long, drawn-out processes.
Healthcare is infamous for its slow-moving pace when it comes to technology adoption. But when you take into account the plethora of decision makers, tight budgets, and bloated tech stacks full of underperforming solutions that many organizations are faced with, it’s understandable that barriers to modernizing healthcare technology are significant. We also have to realize that lives are at stake every day. If a critical piece of technology fails and an urgent alert falls through the cracks, a patient’s life could be at risk. It’s hard to be at the leading edge of innovation when all of these factors are in play.
The Tech-Enabled Future Is Within Our Grasp
Building out a pragmatic adoption process that addresses some of these barriers is one way to get the wheels turning. Forty-three percent of nurses who are early technology adopters more often describe themselves as successful and confident in their nursing careers. The results speak for themselves: Well-implemented technology makes nurses feel more empowered and more in control of their workload.
It’s only a matter of time before technology becomes part of nearly every hospital process. The key is to get ahead of the curve and begin doing the work to make technology both accessible and effective. Right now, we have these incredible data sources like EHRs, but too much of a nurse’s life is spent not knowing how to find or utilize this real-time patient data. In the future, these tech-enabled tools should be more comprehensively (and thoughtfully) integrated to reduce job strain and streamline workflows—especially for nurses.
Communicating and collaborating about patient care shouldn’t be an exercise in futility, and technology can absolutely come to the rescue here. There are modern, interoperable communication platforms that connect to and share information with many other vital hospital systems, and they give nurses a single, orderly inbox to check for all matters related to ongoing patient care. The most advanced organizations—like Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of PerfectServe’s largest customers—are deploying these systems on mobile phones to untether nurses from their workstations, giving them more ability to engage directly with patients at the bedside.
Technology can remove some of the most common causes of friction and frustration that nurses experience every day. It takes time to implement correctly, but the results are tangible. It’s high time hospitals raise the bar to adopt a tech-forward stance that enables nurses—and the healthcare workforce as a whole—to operate at their best.