The workforce challenge: How can technology ease problems of workforce planning in healthcare?
The NHS is facing multiple challenges when it comes to adopting a systematic and measured approach to effective workforce planning – not least well publicised warnings on skilled staff shortages, the pressure to use dwindling budgets effectively and increased waiting times for routine operations. Healthcare is being expected to do more with less, while maintaining access for all to care services, all while retaining an engaged workforce, whose skills are being used in the most cost effective and time efficient manner.
It is increasingly accepted that in order to maintain service levels, the adoption of technology is crucial. Digital transformation of public services and channel shift towards less costly, more convenient options like online and mobile are key trends. This includes improving workforce planning with the use of technology and ensuring that the patient is at the heart of improvements.
Healthcare organisations are immensely complex, offering a huge number of services, so they need to ensure that patients move through their facilities seamlessly and efficiently. Across the patient journey, every detail matters.
Appointment booking and management
Effective use of technology at this stage immediately offers operational benefits, and can determine the quality of the overall experience. Digitally speaking, online and mobile appointment booking bridges the virtual and physical world by empowering patients to manage their own journey. Mobile in particular has upped every expectation related to personalisation, control, speed, and efficiency, both in the private and public sectors.
Digital appointment management will reduce pressure on reception staff and patients now expect to book their appointment online and remain informed via emails or texts leading up to the visit. This is also crucial for improving rates of appointment attendance – and reducing any additional strain on staff and the physical healthcare environment in general.
Checking in and keeping informed
Technology can also help enhance the patient journey at the arrival and check-in stage. While the majority of NHS trusts operate a manned desk with a receptionist, this works less well when demand is high. In addition, patients may have to visit multiple reception desks in different departments, further increasing friction within the journey and putting additional strain on staff.
Connected self-service kiosks can help staff better understand where their patients are, as well as collect relevant data to help allocate relevant resources at the right time – and inform future decisions with business intelligence. According to a recent FOI request by Qmatic, there is currently low adoption of patient journey management technology, with just 21% of trusts using self-service kiosks, and 14% using queue management displays. This technology can play a crucial role in making sure that patients are guided to their appointment effectively, and that clinicians and managers at the trust know the status and location of their patients.
The use of data and BI
Data is a crucial component of effective workforce planning in healthcare. By integrating business intelligence capabilities, departments can glean data, analytics and actionable insights.
Data can give staff the opportunity to fill gaps in the patient journey, identify quality of care issues, highlight training needs, and identify factors important to the overall wellbeing of patients. Departments can also shape more personalised patient-staff interactions, as well as aid in operational strategy like staffing and meeting demand, and management of resources such as room availability.
Happy staff = happy patients
Ultimately, better workforce planning means happier, more engaged staff, which in turn means a smooth and efficient patient experience. Overall this has a positive impact on the whole level of care throughout the patient journey. By removing those common areas of friction – from appointment booking through to an informed and engaging wait time – staff are able to better manage the flow of patients and combat some of the workforce challenges facing healthcare today.
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