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August 31, 2021  |  Lynn Schear

COVID-19 continues to force healthcare changes

The healthcare industry remains frozen in crisis: Nurses and other healthcare support staff are at the end of their rope physically and mentally, creating a nationwide labor shortage that's leaving hospitals, clinics and other care facilities unable to keep up – even as the delta coronavirus variant fills intensive care units again.

Some providers are so stressed, after 18 months of caring for COVID–19 patients, that they're quitting on the spot.

"We have had people literally walk off the job, because they could not take it anymore," said Cam Patterson, a hospital executive overseeing Arkansas' only level–one trauma unit. Her hospital has 200 nursing positions it hasn't been able to fill.

America's nursing shortage predated the pandemic, and the situation might only get worse: A recent survey by Vivian found that 43% of nurses nationwide are considering leaving healthcare. In addition, more than half of the RN's in the U.S. are over the age of 50, with several factors working against the necessary training for new nurses to replace retirees.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2020 saw 80,000 qualified applications to nursing schools rejected, primarily because of resource constraints and a shortage of clinical sites and faculty.

Bedside hospital nurses – including the ones who work intensive care units – are in particularly high demand, as many RN's are gaining degrees in search of lower stress and higher salaries as nurse practitioners.

Healthcare systems are evolving

With extreme change forcing their hands, healthcare systems are going to have to adapt once again. Because nursing is a female–dominated field, more health systems are implementing on–site child care, as well as more wellness and mental health support, to retain the workers they do have.

Health systems are weighing a shift to more at–home care models, a move supported by the Biden administration, in an attempt to keep nurses and other providers working in lower–stress environments.

At–home care models could also address the issue of the aging population living longer and requiring more care. As of now, 94% of skilled nursing facilities face staffing shortages. Supervised home care could also offer a solution for patients who are reluctant to enter long–term inpatient care for recovery and rehabilitation because of COVID–19 death rates.

The Mayo Clinic is leading the way toward hospital–quality home care with an innovative command–center model based in Jacksonville, Florida, that allows doctors and nurses to provide traditional hospital–level care to patients remotely, while dispersing in–person care as needed.

If experiments like Mayo's lead to more command centers for home and virtual care, that means new software and technology needs for communication, as well as predictive analytics tools to boost efficiency and preventive care.

Congress is still working on budget resolution bills that will determine whether any of the proposed $400 billion for states to support home healthcare workers come to fruition. Meanwhile, care centers are looking for more ways to operate more efficiently with reduced staffing, from artificial intelligence to population health data mining. Some health systems are building predictive models, based on social determinants, to better connect patients with resources. And more and more provider visits will be conducted virtually.

What this means for healthcare partnerships

The possibilities for partnerships are there, but for those looking to market their solutions to healthcare decision–makers, high turnover and rapid change in the healthcare market present an extra challenge. According to the American Hospital Association, buyers and decision–makers are rethinking supply chains and expecting more flexibility, deeper partnerships with primary and backup suppliers, and more demand for automation as more care moves outside the hospital environment.

"Adapting to this new way of care – in terms of supplies and delivery methods – will require relationships with different types of vendors, such as retailers, contract employees and technology providers,” a recent AHA report states. “This is an exciting but huge challenge: how to reimagine supply chains to deliver non–hospital–based care in a safe, cost–effective and high–quality way at scale."

With this kind of rapid change taking place across the healthcare continuum, it's more important than ever for vendors to keep contact data refreshed. With MCH's ListBuilder Data Change Subscription, businesses can be sure they're working with the latest, highest–quality healthcare data.

MCH has also launched a partnership program with leading go–to–market platforms, so healthcare suppliers can use affordable, flexible data with today's most sophisticated sales tools. You can also choose a custom solution that meets whatever technology you have in place.

Reach out to MCH Strategic Data about better strategy and data hygiene today, or learn more about our expanded healthcare database here.



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