The last two years have been exciting for my company, Zen Media, in a lot of ways, but one of the biggest wins for my staff was medical insurance. We've improved our benefit offerings to include health insurance options that will ensure that the team -- and their families -- are taken care of. It was a big win and a necessary one, especially in the face of ongoing Covid-19 variants. And yet, even with great benefits, there is still a feeling of discontent when we talk about health care. 

I've talked a lot about the Great Resignation over the last year and touched on what it means for companies, leaders, and employees. But one industry that is being absolutely ravaged by the Great Resignation is health care. 

And a not-so-fun-fact: We are all impacted by it. Staffing shortages cause an increase in physician error, along with longer wait times, less face-time with physicians, and more. Not to mention the burnout that health care workers experience when trying to care for more patients with fewer resources. 

As the health care industry continues to grapple with labor shortages, we have to ask: How are hospitals and health care companies positioning their organizations for the future in a post-pandemic world? 

Turning the Tide in Health Care

With the health care industry facing significant shortages that have grown over the last decade, providers need to tap into digital and automated tools to ease their organizations' onboarding, training, and operational efficiencies.  

Think of all the resources devoted to administrative tasks -- record keeping, insurance authorizations, billing, medical coding, even just moving data from one system to another -- and how automation would alleviate that burden. It seems counterintuitive, but many health care organizations still use outdated systems and physical paper trails. A few companies have entered the marketplace to change that. One such company, MedTrainer, offers credentialing, learning, and compliance solutions from their platform -- encompassing and streamlining health care admin busywork. It hopes that reducing busywork, friction, and stress will solve one piece of the health care staffing puzzle.

And while automating redundant and more menial tasks means medical staff can get back to providing top-quality care to patients, health care facilities are still facing staffing shortages and employee burnout. Nurses, in particular, are in high demand due to the retirement of Baby Boomer nurses, emotional strain and PTSD, and nurses who want to trade in their scrubs for roles that let them work from home. The staffing shortages also impact the culture of the industry itself -- including competition between practitioners and hospitals, as each vies for talent. 

One solution that is proving highly effective is partnering with staffing agencies. Health care focused staffing agencies give medical facilities a moment to breathe, as they provide temporary coverage. This contingent workforce can shift in and out of facilities as needs fluctuate, giving providers time to onboard full-time staff. Travel nursing agencies like Nurse First want to help fill the staffing gap by partnering with struggling facilities, while always advocating for their nurses. 

Burnout may seem like a catchphrase or a dramatic way to say "tired," but it's dangerous and causes harm both to health care professionals and patients. Burned out physicians and nursing staff are more likely to get sick, and they are more likely to make mistakes, compromising the quality of care and patient safety. The World Health Organization projects a shortfall of 18 million health care workers by 2030. Many health care workers in the U.S. are now considering not simply moving on from their institution but leaving the field altogether.

The pandemic has overwhelmed these workers, but it has also spurred a wealth of research into the causes of burnout and its ensuing fallout, from mental health impacts to national turnover rates among RNs. This information has helped data scientists rethink mental health in an attempt to find a way to tie actual concrete data to diagnosis and treatment plans. The result? A mental health app, Behavidence, uses modern consumer technology to track, diagnose, and predict mental health flare-ups and disorders, including depression and anxiety. For health care workers, this can mean identifying the signs of burnout and coming up with strategies to combat it before hitting a breaking point. 

The health care industry is on the brink of real change, with technological innovations serving as the catalysts. This industry and those who make up its workforce are vital to our communities. As they continue to safeguard our future, organizations need to put an equal amount of care into the talent management, recruitment, and retention of staff -- after all, health care staffing shortages impact all of us.