Using Virtual Medicine to Fill Gaps Left by Staffing Shortages

No industry has been immune to the Great Resignation, but healthcare has suffered immensely in the wave of workers leaving their jobs. Roughly 5 million U.S. workers left their jobs during the Great Resignation and experts estimate 20% of the healthcare workforce have quit over the past two year

Virtual medicine offers a solution for caring for patients despite the staffing shortages that both COVID-19 and the Great Resignation have left behind. And in a year when experts say staffing shortages are the leading concern for patient safety, telehealth offers a way to monitor patients with chronic conditions or those with a recent hospital discharge to alleviate some strain the industry is experiencing.

The healthcare workers still in their positions are stressed and overworked as they sprint to meet the needs of a growing patient population. Understanding what’s causing the strains on the healthcare system and ways to alleviate those strains through virtual care can take the focus off staffing and back to providing superb patient-centered care.

What’s Causing Healthcare Staffing Shortages?

Two main causes are leading to healthcare staffing shortages:

  • COVID-19 mitigation regulations
  • Staff resignations

When a healthcare professional tests positive for COVID-19, they could be away from work for up to 10 days depending on their symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance based on a staff member’s vaccination status, symptoms and role within the medical facility.

Maintaining proper staffing is important, but so is mitigating the spread of the virus and patient safety. Exposure for healthcare workers and their family members can place strains on health centers during surges in cases or outbreaks among staff.

COVID-19 protocols were already placing pressure on healthcare staffing starting in 2020 and then the Great Resignation began in 2021. By November 2021, the country was experiencing a 20-year high with 4.5 million people willingly quitting their jobs

New reports show that the trend is not slowing down in 2022. In January, 4.3 million people quit their jobs, which is nearly as many as the record-setting month of November 2021. 

The good news is that the labor force is growing. That means that the number of people working or actively looking for work is increasing, though it is still 592,000 people short of pre-pandemic levels. 

There is hope on the horizon for strained health systems looking to ease staffing disruptions from the Great Resignation. But it will still take time for the rate of job openings to fall so that fewer people look to change jobs. In the meantime, health systems need to find ways to meet the demands for patient care with limited staff resources.

Staffing Shortage Impacts

Staffing shortages in healthcare are impacting hospitals, home healthcare, health systems, doctor’s offices and all types of medical practices. And the long hours and added demands are putting serious strains on the healthcare workers who are not switching jobs – yet.

The impacts reach far beyond the stressed, overworked clinicians. Staffing shortages are also having the following consequences:

  • Challenges for providing adequate patient care
  • Strains on the families of clinicians and healthcare workers
  • Healthcare worker burnout, which could add to staffing shortages if it isn’t addressed soon

Without a solution for staffing shortages, the problem could get worse as those left behind are pushed to their maximum and burn out from the strains of the job. 

Virtual Medicine’s Role in Alleviating Staffing Shortage Challenges

Virtual medicine was on the rise long before the pandemic hit or the Great Resignation led to massive changes in staffing. Adoption of virtual care in hospitals has grown steadily from 35% in 2013 to 76% in 2017.

The pandemic has accelerated that growth as clinicians look for ways to meet the demands of an enormous patient population with limited time and resources.

Remote patient monitoring and virtual care offer flexibility for medical professionals to check in on their chronic disease patients between in-person appointments. If they see something concerning, they can alert the patient and recommend next steps, including a telehealth visit or in-person appointment.

Technology has made virtual patient care better than ever with improvements from smart devices that help patients with chronic conditions log information seamlessly and sometimes even automatically to look for trends and changes to their wellbeing.

Healthcare workers can then be proactive in making adjustments for the patient to prevent hospitalization. If the patient is hopsitalized, that can put further strain on the health system and increase expenses for the healthcare industry.

Maximizing the resources virtual medicine provides can offer relief to the strained healthcare system. 

As the industry works through staffing shortages and waits out the Great Resignation, finding solutions for staffing is essential. Learn more about Overcoming Staffing Challenges & Patient Isolation with Virtual Care from our on-demand webinar.