A silver lining: positive lessons learned through 2020
Undoubtedly it has been a challenging few months, but hope is on the horizon. Both in the prospect of a vaccine as well as lessons learned through tackling the coronavirus. Lessons that will carry on throughout the next decade, making healthcare more agile, responsive, and resilient to change.
New staffing approaches
One of these advances is in the evolution of healthcare staffing approaches. COVID-19 led many healthcare organizations to experience acute staffing shortages and they had to rethink how to get the right people, with the right skills, to where patients needed them most. Many looked to the alumni talent pool - in New York, retirees were encouraged to come back, with expired health licenses quickly renewed.
Other alternative staffing arrangements saw medical students fast-tracked, military health professionals redeployed to in-demand locations, and cross-sector sharing. In the UK, cabin crew were redeployed to work at the NHS Nightingale field hospitals - their existing first-aid skills and ability to perform under pressure were valuable transferable skills for the NHS (National Health Service). A similar program was implemented in Sweden, where furloughed SAS airline workers were able to take a three-day course in hospital care, to then plug skill gaps in the Swedish healthcare system.
This provided an invaluable lesson on the benefits of having an on-demand, contingent workforce that can quickly upscale and downscale to demand. As a result, future hiring managers will be more likely to turn to contingent talent pools.
Greater cost efficiencies
Taking a contingent staffing approach can have a positive impact on the bottom-line, as workers are more fully utilized and placed in roles where they’ll have the greatest impact. 39% of EU workers feel their skills are not fully used by their employer. By using every worker to their full potential, output, and work quality will increase, as well as job satisfaction.
Staffing spend will become more cost-effective since staffing numbers are adjustable to upswings in demand and because spending on a contingent workforce is a variable (not fixed) cost.
A further advance comes in the adoption of digital technology like automation to streamline processes. Workers will be freed up for other, more challenging, tasks that use their uniquely human skills. Meanwhile, mundane, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks can be completed through automation. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation adoption soared during the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently expected to grow at a CAGR of 41.4% from 2020 to reach $51.3 billion by 2027.
Simultaneously, the telehealth sector has also boomed as many non-urgent, routine appointments were switched to remote, virtual services. People were understandably cautious about attending a healthcare setting in person, so telemedicine helped diagnosis and care remain on-track.
The Regional Health Command Europe implemented a secure messaging service that enabled patients to talk privately with their medical staff. They could request appointments and referrals, renew prescriptions, get non-emergency healthcare advice, and find health education information.
In the future, such services can help professionals reach more patients in a shorter timeframe (telehealth appointments can be quicker than in-person) and also connect with people in hard-to-access areas. Additionally, those who find it difficult to attend a clinic can still access care.
Unlocking the power of community
The crisis caused many organizations and communities to unite to support their healthcare workers. Luxury fashion house LVMH converted three perfume manufacturing facilities to produce free hand sanitizer for French hospitals. #FeedNHS provided free meals to UK healthcare workers. Over 200 start-ups signed up to a list offering their products and services for free, from risk mitigation to gesture control and chatbots. Globus AI also offered its intelligent staffing assistant for free to healthcare organizations battling the virus.
Hopefully, these bonds will continue beyond the pandemic, to encourage greater collaboration, knowledge, and resource-sharing across industries.
A better path ahead
The healthcare sector has, undoubtedly, been challenged over the past year in ways we couldn’t have imagined. But it’s come out the other side stronger. And this will pay-off in the future, with more agile workforces, cost-effective spending, and greater collaboration with other industries. These changes will help the healthcare sector face the future opportunities and challenges ahead.
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