The New Normal for Hospital Operations. Part 1: Remote Staffing

By: Brian Malone, Senior Vice President, Operational Solutions

Hospitals and health systems have traditionally been slow to consider flexible working arrangements amid the ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining quality talent, which has persisted for far longer than the last 18 months. A 2019 study by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) ranked personnel shortages #2 on the list of rural and community CEOs top concerns, with increased costs for staff, supplies, etc., their top challenge[i]. Worker shortages lead to understaffed facilities, increased burnout, and decreased patient outcomes. Short-term solutions include increased overtime and temporary staff additions, but come with significant financial impacts. While the cost of healthcare turnover varies, studies suggest it can run as high as 150% of the annual salary of mid-level employees. If a provider has 300 employees with a 10% turnover rate, the annual fiscal cost is estimated to be more than $2 million[ii].

The ongoing impacts of the pandemic aren’t just being felt on the frontline – 60% of healthcare providers are facing clinical support staff coverage challenges because of COVID-19[iii]. As the staffing shortage pinch gets tighter and burnout rates continue to skyrocket, new ways of working will be required, and the digital transformation of care delivery and hospital operations will become increasingly prevalent as a cost-effective solution.
“COVID has exacerbated the problem, but I think this was the evolution of the staffing model regardless, and I see this continuing moving forward.” Marcie Sannon, EMR Manager at Frances Mahon Deaconess Hospital, Glasgow, Montana.

With non-essential workers forced to work from home, healthcare has been pushed to adopt flexible working arrangements. Remote work has presented many challenges. Maintaining culture and trust despite a lack of face-to-face contact was an initial hurdle. While the opportunity to recruit from across the country was an initial bonus for many organizations, competition for talent is continuing to grow – particularly within rural communities with staff now able to work for big-city facilities with big-city wages. Despite the required investment in technology and communication platforms, digital overload is real and climbing, and it’s not just people under stress – systems and infrastructure are also being tested[iv].

While remote work has presented challenges, there have been some benefits as well. Employees report a better work-life balance, and organizations see increased productivity at a significantly reduced cost[v]. Freeing non-clinical office space has enabled facilities to address capacity challenges by adding more beds. 

With over 20 years of remote staffing and flexible resource deployment experience, Engage and Navin-Haffty have developed custom MEDITECH solutions for many clients in the US, Canada, and abroad. We have created staffing solutions that provide access to dedicated and highly qualified MEDITECH specialists as needed. These solutions have included full-time onsite support, full-time remote support both for business hours as well as 24/7, part-time support and off-hours support. We pride ourselves on working with clients to develop the complementary staffing offering that meets their individualized needs. Our team delivers the expertise, speed to execution, and flexibility that is more important now than ever before.
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[i] ACHE study
[ii] Reference
[iii] Arbor Associates study

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