By Cindy Gaines, chief clinical transformation officer, Lumeon.
Reflecting on the past couple years, it’s become clear that staffing shortages have taken a toll on nursing physically, emotionally and mentally, leading to declining retention rates, inadequate resources, and, at times, concern for their mental health.
Staffing shortages are not just the result of a pandemic, but of an aging workforce. Hospitals are faced with the challenge of addressing the work environment not just in the context of a pandemic, but holistically.
Through the years, we have equipped nurses and care staff with equipment such as computers, pagers, tablets, and zone phones to help them connect with patients, family members, doctors, labs, radiology and outside services. This equipment is necessary for their work but has had unintended consequences. As nurses manage medications and juggle competing priorities, they are constantly bombarded with a world of distraction. This creates safety risks in the care environment.
Additionally, this technology has introduced service expectations created to support the patient and family experience. For example, a phone call must be answered within 3 rings—great customer service for the caller, but it takes the nurse away from the patient currently being cared for. At times, technology meant to support the care process has become a barrier between the nurse and the patient.
This stressful work environment is further complicated by very real staffing issues in our country. Demographic data suggests that the average median age of a nurse is 52 years old and that 20% of RNs are 65 years or older, meaning hospitals can expect gaps in staffing as this age group ages out and begins to retire. While this seems like an opportunity to usher in a new generation of young, fresh-minded nurses, nursing programs are unable to graduate enough people to supply this gap in the industry due to an overwhelming lack of resources.
These factors together have created the perfect storm of a care staff shortage.
By Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy and government affairs, Omnicell, Inc.
Discussions about the cost of healthcare in the United States often take the form of debates, pitting one sector against the other. Classic examples are health insurers (payers) versus hospitals and health systems (providers), and pharmaceutical manufacturers versus providers. Often at stake in these clashes are the relative sizes of the healthcare economic pie received by the different sectors.
Looking at healthcare through a societal lens helps one avoid participating in these debates and instead focus on macro issues. For years, how much the U.S. spends in total on healthcare—across all payers and for all healthcare—has been at the top of the macro issues list.
National health expenditures (NHE) are the universally accepted measure of that. On March 28, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2021-2030 National Health Expenditure report, which was prepared by the CMS Office of the Actuary.
How much did the U.S. in total spend on healthcare last year? In 2021, national health spending totaled $4.3 trillion, equal to 18.8% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and down from a record 19.7% of GDP in 2020 that reflected the significant spending incurred to respond to COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, NHE grew sharply (9.7%) from 2019 to 2020, and its growth slowed to 4.2% in 2021. Per capita health expenditures were $13,037 in 2021. To put that in perspective, last year, the U.S. spent almost $1,100 per month on healthcare for the average per person.
Comparisons with Other Countries
Since healthcare consumes almost a fifth of the nation’s GDP, one has to ask whether that is good or bad. One basis for answering that question is to compare U.S. healthcare spending with that of similarly advanced industrialized countries. Two measures are commonly used to perform that comparison: 1) healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP; and 2) per capital health expenditures.
Technology has improved the patient-doctor relationship dramatically since healthcare organizations have embraced its versatility and effectiveness. But, while technology is an effective method for improving the patient’s healthcare experience, it is not the only area for healthcare providers to consider.
One considerable option that benefits patient health and overall care is collaboration both within the institution and from external resources and business. If you want to provide the best care for your patients, consider these six reasons to encourage more collaboration.
Unique perspectives are important in many parts of life, but they become even more crucial in the medical industry. Although everyone who sees a patient has qualifications, their experiences could mean they recognize treatment options or conditions that others could miss, creating a severe risk of misdiagnosis.
Multiple healthcare providers working with a patient guarantee the best possible care. They have different skills that can help them get back to full health, and it also reduces the risk of burnout, which could affect their focus. You can also consider different hospitals, especially if your institution does not have the required equipment to provide treatment. A strong working relationship with nearby resources could help save a life.
Cut Down On Mistakes
Medical mistakes have been reported to contribute to one-third of patient deaths, although this number has been disputed over the past few years. Even so, any patient death caused by malpractice is too many, so working in a collaborative environment reduces errors and accidents and ensures the patient receives the correct treatment.
By providing the right treatment every time, hospitals can discharge the patient quicker without the risk of complications. This frees up more beds in emergency rooms and ICUs so patients can get the answers they need when they require them.
It is astonishing how the healthcare system has changed progressively over the past few decades. Devices, applications, and gadgets help bridge the gap between novel solutions and broad use. Consistent upgrades in the technology that helps deliver better healthcare are one of the prime contributors to the growth of the healthcare system.
At the current pace, we can expect tremendous changes in the healthcare sector to benefit everyone. Here are some of the handpicked tech tools that have the potential to change the dynamics of healthcare in the near future:
3 Revolutionizing Healthcare Tech Tools
Drug research, primary packaging, logistics, etc., play a huge role in the growth of healthcare across the globe. Tech tools are of those numerous factors that have played a huge role in revolutionizing the healthcare sector. Below are the tech tools that have the potential to change the dynamics of healthcare:
# 1: Three-dimensional or 3D printing
Physical blood veins, tissues, and even organs are no longer required for transplantation, thanks to 3D printing. Although the world is still far from having an artificial beating heart by 2021, current advancements are important.
As early as 2019, researchers began printing live skin with blood vessels. There have also been attempts to develop prostheses to replace limbs that have been lost.
These technologies are becoming increasingly accessible to small businesses. It is possible that we would see similar procedures be a common practice.
More older adults are embracing technology. According to a Pew Research Center report, 58% of seniors 65 years and above use the internet today. Technology enables seniors to combat loneliness and improve physical and mental health. It also allows them to live independently while keeping in touch with their long-distance loved ones. Read on for five essential tech tools for older adults’ everyday use.
1. Wearable fitness devices
Fitness monitors like FitBit enable you to lead a healthy life. They track your day-to-day activities and sleep to ascertain that you engage in enough exercise. This helps you combat medical conditions such as heart diseases and diabetes.
You could wear your fitness device on your wrist like a lifeline pendant or a watch to monitor your heart rate, daily steps, sleeping schedule, and pattern, and the number of calories burned every day. This gives you the motivation to reach your fitness goals fast. Consider setting up a challenge with family or friends in your senior independent living facility to determine who can get their fitness target first.
2. Medication monitors
Senior adults fill nine to 13 medication prescriptions annually. These prescriptions can be challenging to manage, especially when you opt to stay at home instead of moving into an assisted living facility, so you should consider investing in medication monitors. A medication reminder system enables you to track your prescription schedule. It will alert you when it is time to take your dose and repeat the alarm if you fail to take medicine within a specified time frame.
If more time passes without taking your medication, the device will even contact your primary caregiver. Some medication systems are equipped with medical alert systems that leverage mobile phone technology, enabling them to call your family member or friend first, then an emergency response team in case of medication errors.
Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in almost all industries, but it’s not hard to see just how much has changed in nursing. Previously labor-intensive tasks like lifting patients and administering medication are now made much easier by using technology and innovative practices. If it has been some time since you stepped foot in a hospital, you might be amazed by the following incredible changes.
Online Nursing Programs
In the past, the only way to become a nurse was by attending a nursing school in person. You might have had to move to a new location and change your entire life just to partake in the program. Now, you can enroll in a nurse program online, and nothing else in your life has to change.
As long as you have a computer, an internet connection, and your chosen provider’s classroom software, you can study to become a nurse. Nursing programs are available for secondary school graduates and nurses looking to upskill. All classes, assignments, and grades are accessible anywhere in the world from the cloud.
Diagnosing illnesses has always been challenging, especially when a wide range of symptoms can indicate an equally wide range of ailments. However, diagnostic equipment has advanced significantly, and it’s now no longer as challenging as it used to be. For example, nurses can use handheld biosensors that require a body specimen and receive definitive answers. They can also utilize ultrasound machines for the best chance of success while placing an IV.
The healthcare sector has witnessed many transformations and investments over the years, and you can only expect this trend to continue, especially after the difficult lessons from the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the global health crises, the healthcare sector responded by adopting various techniques both in practice and technology. If these encouraging signs are anything to go by, 2022 may usher the American healthcare sector into a new era of healthcare. That said, here are some key trends that are currently transforming the healthcare sector in 2022 and beyond.
One of the first trends you can expect to see more of is the use of artificial technology (AI) in healthcare delivery and general medical practice. While the use of AI isn’t necessarily a novelty in the healthcare sector, you can expect to see it take more center stage in the way healthcare is delivered. One of the main results of AI’s impact on healthcare is the availability of various mobile apps and websites that help people to self-diagnose right in their homes.
AI is now also being used in the form of augmented intelligence to enhance the intelligence of clinicians and improve the quality of service they deliver. AI also plays a crucial role in the use of medical technology like hearing aids. For example, it’s used in a hearing aid evaluation to help predict the best possible hearing or sound settings based on data obtained from the user.
Another huge trend taking the US healthcare sector by storm is telehealth services. You probably already know how popular video calling apps have become since the pandemic. Now the healthcare sector is taking advantage of telehealth to deliver healthcare services remotely. Patients who cannot visit their hospitals physically can now see their doctors literally while at home.
By Angela Kennedy, director of strategic operations, medical specialty societies, IQVIA.
In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) resulted in new regulations that fundamentally changed the way deidentified patient data is accessed and utilized. However, data quality and interoperability between the various healthcare stakeholders has been a major hurdle.
When it comes to implementing the Cures Act, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) each must administer the law’s requirements. Therefore, each agency has released a final rule over their respective jurisdiction.
Information blocking is a primary focus of the ONC final rule, which also requires that developers certified by the ONC Health IT Certification Program must have standardized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and implement Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) technology, enabling individuals to access structured electronic health information securely and easily.
These advancements will only make information sharing easier. The CMS Interoperability and Patient Access final rule also focuses on API interoperability, requiring federal payers to make provider directory information publicly available. Specifically, it encourages interoperability and patient access to health information.
In a major step to ensure open sharing of information, the ONC introduced the US Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Since ONC is the certifying body for EHRs, providers must be prepared to transition to a new “Cures Edition” version of its software before the end of 2022.
What is USCDI?
USCDI encompasses a standard for data creation, a set of defined data classes and elements that Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors must be able to provide. This creates an expectation for open and free access to healthcare data by industry stakeholders, including physicians, insurers, labs, registries, and the patients themselves. CMS requires that payers share the USCDI data they maintain with patients via the Patient Access API and with other payers via the Payer-to-Payer Data Exchange.
While some organizations have used APIs to aid the exchange of data, experts in the healthcare industry have been aware that for a truly free and open data exchange to work, modern technology and standards need to be put in place. This is where FHIR comes in.
What is FHIR?
FHIR is based on a new iteration of Representational State Transfer (REST) designs, which uses HTTP to enable the exchange of information between applications. That means if two applications adhere to the standards outlined for REST technologies, it makes it easier for two applications to exchange and manage healthcare data regardless of how it is stored. Not only do these applications now speak the same language, but FHIR has also created categories for certain healthcare interactions to further refine the data exchange by making it easily identifiable within each system.
Throughout history, there has always been a sort of reverent mysticism surrounding healthcare providers. Oftentimes, the patient would turn to their doctor – a person who, curiously enough, might not have had extensive healthcare knowledge working with live individuals – with their chief complaint in tow. Then, following their appointment and the revelation of their concerns, they would blindly follow the recommendations offered by the medical professional, without questioning it.
These days, however, the dynamic between the patient and the doctor has largely shifted. In turn, this allows for both remarkably enhanced communication and considerably superior treatment outcomes, especially when compared to just a mere decade or so ago. While there are a vast myriad of reasons that can be attributed to this change, it’s fair to attest that technology has been a driving catalyst for these emerging developments.
Gone are the days when patients lacked the resources to cross-reference any healthcare advice, and with doctors focusing on bolstering their own training and understanding through continued education (CE) coursework, we’re starting to see a marked improvement in this interaction. And no doubt, as this change continues to proliferate and spread across a wide range of healthcare fields, we can hope to see satisfactory outcomes across the board.
A Focus On Communication
In many ways, the methods that different social groups employ to interact among one another can be traced back to the application of their own unique languages. The healthcare sector is no different. While most doctors in the Western world do speak English with proficiency – albeit with a hearty dose of Latin sprinkled throughout it – it can still come out as a foreign, jumbled mess when the words meet the patient’s ear.
Even when the healthcare provider themself is sincerely trying to speak slowly and enunciate in the exam room, it’s far too easy for the message to become convoluted in their discourse. Technology, however, is striving to change this gap in interpersonal linguistics. For instance, if a diagnosis is uploaded to a patient’s portal, they can peruse it at their own leisure and even research it extensively during their downtime.
Electronic health records (EHR) are also making it easier for patients to follow up on any prescribed treatment options, affording them the ability to break down acronyms and lofty language into layperson’s speech. From there, the patient is then able to touch base with their provider and receive clarification on any questions that may have arisen following their appointment, and the doctor can just as easily respond to them.
Hearing loss has long been one of the most common health issues of all. At the very least, it is one of those conditions that will affect the majority of people in their later years. This has long been the case, and remains unchanged. But there are a lot of changes in hearing loss around the world, and charting these proves quite insightful and informative.
As it happens, hearing loss across the globe is on the increase, and as we are about to see, there are a few possible reasons for this being the case. Let’s dive into it in a bit more detail.
Hearing Loss Is Rising
In general, the world is seeing a sharp increase in hearing loss in all demographics and more or less every nation on Earth. Why this might be is hard to say, but part of the problem might be something to do with the use of devices alongside earbuds and headphones.
With these becoming more and more prevalent, and with there being a known correlation between their use and hearing loss, it’s hardly surprising that there is quite so much hearing loss these days, and that it is happening pretty much everywhere around the world.