Using technology to support healthcare workers

We speak to Phil Pringle of EX Solutions Strategy about how novel data collection tools can help to address healthcare worker burnout and improve staff retention

Modern technology offers healthcare organisations a new approach to supporting their employees

Two positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to health and care services are the increasing use of novel technologies and better recognition of the key role frontline staff play in patient wellbeing and recovery.

Phil Pringle

From rainbows and posters of support displayed in windows, to the Clap for Carers initiative; there is now much-more-widespread support for health and care professionals.

But the Coronavirus crisis has also impacted on those workers, with increasing reports of nurse, physician, and carer burnout.

And this is where technology can play a new role.

The pressure is on

Speaking to BBH , Phil Pringle, part of the EX Solutions Strategy EMEA team at experience management company, Qualtrics, explains: “The pandemic has increased the use of technology across all industries, but in particular within healthcare.

“But it can be used for much more than virtual consultations and meetings.

It has always been a given that the employee experience is important, but we now have a much-better understanding and data can really start to pinpoint where these experiences have a clear and tangible impact on the overall health and wellbeing of staff

“With increased pressure on staff, and reports of health worker burnout, we need to use technology to better understand where improvements can be made in order to help with staff retention and to ensure their wellbeing.

“It’s about looking at how we can support them through enabling technology, because, if we help staff, then ultimately we improve the patient experience.”

Historically, HR departments will carry out exit interviews if someone leaves an organisation, or random staff engagement surveys, to gather feedback on specific issues.

But, with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), advanced data collection tools, and machine learning; Pringle believes health and care providers can collect much-more-meaningful insights.

“It has always been a given that the employee experience is important, but we now have a much-better understanding and data can really start to pinpoint where these experiences have a clear and tangible impact on the overall health and wellbeing of staff.”

Solutions like these can even be tailored to a specific nursing or physician cohort or clinical specialism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the growing levels of staff burnout and problems with staff retention

Bridging the gap

“It’s about really understanding how things such as shift patterns, or more-recent issues such as the lack of PPE, might be creating a more-challenging environment,” said Pringle.

“Technology and the data we collect can now be personalised and we can ask specific questions based on roles, for example, but, depending on the answer, this can then trigger additional questions.

“It’s bridging the gap to understanding what can be done and reducing the timeline to get to action.”

Key issues within health and care organisation include nurse burnout, staff retention, and the physician and patient experience.

It’s not expensive to do and it is increasingly important to listen to staff because, ultimately, it improves the patient experience in the long-run

“Some staff may have seen a reduced workload during the COVID pandemic as people have stopped coming to appointments, or they may have an increased workload,” said Pringle.

“Using technology to gather feedback on this means trusts can redeploy their workforce more usefully.

“Often, people on the frontline providing the services come up with the best ideas.”

On the issue of staff retention, he adds: “Now, when someone hands in their notice, we can use technology to find out the reasons.

“Are they leaving the industry completely, or moving to another trust? Are they going for a higher-paid position? Is it about better work/life balance? Or is it an issue with management or colleagues?

“The systems can personalise the flow of questions based on each answer and provide a much-better insight, enabling employers to take action.

Using advanced data collection tools, AI, and machine learning, managers can see any issues on mobile devices in real time

“As a manager of a health trust, you can also get real-time mobile reports and access to data dashboards so you can monitor answers and react quickly.”

In addition, keywords can be programmed into the system so if, for example, a member of staff complains about bullying, this would immediately be escalated.

And online collaboration boards enable specialisms and individual teams to report issues and suggest solutions.

“Technology is really clever and can do a lot more than traditional HR and employee support systems have been able to do,” said Pringle.

“And, in healthcare in particular, we expect to see this deployed more widely as we emerge from the pandemic.

“It’s not expensive to do and it is increasingly important to listen to staff because, ultimately, it improves the patient experience in the long-run.”