As the pandemic continues, nurses remain key members on the front lines charged with controlling and preventing the spread of COVID-19. Simultaneously, the ongoing nursing shortage makes it more difficult for many CNOs to maintain a consistently positive nursing culture while keeping frontline staff safe.
Under the primary nurse model, teams are left scrambling when members call in sick or can’t cover open shifts. Fortunately, technology innovations in healthcare offer ways to optimize the nursing workforce, improve patient outcomes and experiences, and offer overworked nurses a healthier work-life balance. To accomplish these goals, CNOs need to focus on hospital technology implementations that keep bedside teams safer from exposure and relieve exhaustion and burnout by reducing a cumbersome administrative workload.
It’s important to utilize hospital technology in smart, scalable ways to provide relief for nursing staff and help organizations navigate the pandemic and beyond. Consider starting with the following areas:
1. Support the bedside care team with virtual workforce technology. Virtual nurses do not replace your in-house care team, but they do augment the team and help organizations stay within budgeted hours while decreasing reliance on travelers and overtime. Virtual nurses can serve as a stable component of bedside care teams and provide long-term sustainability in improving quality and financial metrics.
For example, virtual workforce technology enables remote staff members who have completed hospital orientation and achieved appropriate state licensure to work shifts that complement the bedside care team. If a patient needs blood or chemotherapy, a nurse must stay with him or her during the delivery to check for allergic reactions. While sitting with the patient, the primary nurse cannot care for other patients. A virtual nurse could monitor the patient for allergic reactions or facilitate rounding and monitoring of that bedside RN’s other patients in the unit.
2. Digitize the supply chain to maintain a buffer of personal protective equipment. Stress on the front lines during COVID-19 has been exacerbated by a shortage of PPE for medical workers, creating a new calling to reimagine how organizations coordinate with critical purchasing and supply chain functions. Innovative supply chain digitization around an enterprise resource planning system can centralize core hospital business functions, such as finance and supply chain operations, and enable greater collaboration and communication around pressing material needs.
Digitizing the flow of information between various departments allows for a broader set of stakeholders to connect in real time with business operations — spurring quicker, more efficient action to address issues such as critical PPE needs. Essentially, this digital transformation is about moving beyond the traditional supply chain model, which is linear and reactive, and, instead, breaking information and agency out of silos to enable real-time updates and a faster digital supply chain.
3. Extend the care continuum to the home. Patient care is only as effective as the lasting results it creates. A provider can have the most advanced in-house team in the world, but regular readmission of patients will quickly drown the team in both serious and non-life-threatening cases and lower the quality of care delivery for the entire population. That’s why it’s important to develop a telehealth strategy that can connect with patients after discharge and address chronic care needs and social determinants of health to reduce the volume of readmitted patients.
Look for remote patient monitoring solutions that combine intuitive, scalable technology with the ability to triage the most critical alerts to care managers to protect their time, energy, and expertise. For example, an alert about low medication could be handled by lower-license medical assistants coordinating with pharmacies instead of taking up valuable emergency department attention.
This pandemic is unlikely to be the last unprecedented disaster of our time. Even without the global health crisis, the healthcare world faces an alarming personnel shortage that threatens to cripple effective care delivery and leave hospitals struggling financially. Fortunately, thoughtful implementation of innovative hospital technology can address staffing shortages, improve the availability of expert clinicians, and increase efficiencies — which can lead to better patient and caregiver experiences. With improved operational efficiencies, costs can be controlled and resources can be allocated to where they’re most needed.
Cindy Koppen is the senior vice president of clinical solutions and chief nursing officer at Banyan Medical Systems, an innovative digital healthcare provider with revolutionary solutions for greater care, better patient outcomes, increased efficiency, and lowered expenses.