* This blog is part of the Digital Trends and Transformation series.
As little as 50 years ago, the concept of meeting a telehealth provider on a video screen to consult for an illness would have existed only in science fiction. According to Fortune Business Insights, telehealth is a $62.72 billion industry in the United States that presents opportunities for health companies to establish themselves in a field that has seen growing patient demands.
Where is the telehealth industry going? Research projects the market to grow by more than $545 million from 2021 to 2028. These growth estimates are backed by enhanced user confidence and research supporting the efficacy of telemedicine in diagnosing and treating illnesses. One recently published study in JAMA on clinician concordance with telemedicine revealed that 90% of telehealth assessments are as accurate as in-person visits.
Organizations that don't have a current telehealth growth strategy aren't behind yet, but they could be if they don't consider how the service impacts patients and professionals. Virtual services enhance access to healthcare on the patient-facing side, but still require educated and trusted individuals to (literally) answer the call. Understanding how telehealth and telemonitoring can improve service lines while providing growth opportunities for staff allows healthcare organizations to capture the most significant financial gains and improve retention for core staff.
How Health Systems Benefit from Telehealth
While profits are always a central consideration, health systems must also consider the additional benefits telehealth offers to service lines and employees. Consider the following four telehealth advantages that answer "why" telemedicine should be a part of a system's overall strategy.
Stay Competitive with Non-Healthcare System Platforms
From CVS to Lemonaid Health, every company wants a piece of the telehealth market. While non-healthcare systems are building their presence in the space, they can’t have what hospital systems do, which is an established name and reputation for providing care.
Patients not only come to a healthcare organization for one-time care, but they’re also often on a health journey for preventive care, wellness efforts, and chronic conditions management. At each step of this journey, the health system should position professionals who can represent the organization's philosophy and mission through in-person and telehealth care. The effect enhances consumer loyalty while preventing the need to shop around for outside telehealth services.
Add Flexibility for Core Staff
Blending remote and in-person work for core staff can offer retention and service diversification benefits. Remote can also help reduce burnout and dissatisfaction among core staff.
In Health Carousel’s recent Nurse Retention Study, 1000 nurses were surveyed about their career plans.
- 58% of nurses surveyed reported they were feeling burnt out in their current career
- 89% said they want freedom of choice and flexibility in their career
- 76% indicated they prefer to have consistent hours/schedule for their job, which is difficult when understaffed
While preventing all staff turnover certainly isn't possible, this study and previous research indicate autonomy, schedule stability with some flexibility, and overall job satisfaction are critical players in retaining core employees. Employers can more effectively retain loyal employees by increasing staffing ratios and offering variety to core staff whenever possible.
Increased staffing ratios mean the ability to offer new services or build up staff levels in existing services. Through this model, hospitals and healthcare systems can also create new departments or move existing staff into leadership or remote positions based on their skills.
Expand Medical Borders
Digital transformations have created new pathways to care in a wider world of medicine. Thanks to increased interconnectedness of the medical community and consumer-like nature patients have adopted, means patients can go beyond their area for needed procedures. They can seek out a highly specialized surgeon, a well-known hospital system, or a renowned recovery and rehabilitation team.
Health systems can also look outward to expand potential patient population. They can use telemedicine platforms to offer consults and virtual system visits, allowing patients to evaluate a facility before traveling for a procedure. Hospitals will need continual organization and coordination, including follow-up to answer questions and ensure the interested patient is not "lost" in the day-to-day shuffle. Patients can utilize telehealth services for post-procedure follow-up.
Retain Staff Looking for New Opportunities
Not all healthcare professionals who leave a department leave nursing entirely. An estimated 90%of those who leave a particular job remain in healthcare, while 50%of those who quit one hospital unit simply move to another. With this knowledge in mind, healthcare administrators need to recognize that core staff may require additional opportunities that allow them to stay at an organization while engaging in different work forms to enhance their employee satisfaction.
Enter remote opportunities: An estimated 70% of people worldwide work remotely at least once per week, and 53% work remotely most days. Healthcare professionals are the second-highest remote working industry (12%) after the professional services industry (17%).
The potential applications for remote e-work are many and include the following:
- Case manager
- Online nurse educator
- Health coach
- Patient advocate
- Telehealth nursing
- Telephone-based triage
- Utilization review nurse
Having available remote opportunities allows a unit to flex as needed during low and high census. Helping the organization run more efficiently and diversify staffs’ skills.
How to Apply Digital Opportunities
Administrators or staffing departments looking to apply these principles can understandably be unsure where to begin. One approach could be a pilot program to expand your hospital's telehealth capabilities, using your core staff already familiar with the system's processes and philosophy. Senior-level nurses can remotely monitor departments across multiple facilities (if applicable), using existing plans, billing, and infrastructure as a base.
Healthcare organizations looking to expand digital services and improve staff support can o consult with staffing organizations to craft a strategy that offers cost savings in reducing overtime and turnover.
A healthcare staffing partner should help organizations perform a workforce analysis, which includes examining current staffing goals and predictive forecasting. These create a roadmap for staffing needs that should consist of high-level or organization-wide staffing predictors and staff targeting for individual units in a facility.
One key consideration when expanding telehealth services and predicting staffing needs is that those who work in remote or telehealth positions also need to take leave. In the instance when the core staff member will return to the position, the role of a travel nurse can also be that of a remote travel nurse. While a travel nurse will physically be at the location, they can still cover the remote nurse's valued duties until their return. Maintaining these remote positions keeps a level of service that benefits a healthcare organization and its customers. In addition to leave considerations, healthcare organizations may wish to fill remote positions while a core staff member completes orientation or education processes to begin their assignment.
Closing Thoughts: How Health Carousel Can Help
Health Carousel has assisted healthcare facilities worldwide in meeting their customized staffing solutions. The increasing use of telehealth, growing patient demands, and the need to value and nourish the work of core employees have created a new healthcare reality. Where healthcare organizations may have found the market for contingency healthcare professionals rarer a decade ago, contingency professionals are often a part of a company's staffing strategy, both for in-person and virtual opportunities.
Multiple opportunities exist for telehealth and telemonitoring in service lines, including radiology, primary care, and physical therapy. Filling these positions with core staff looking for new opportunities can help retain long-term, trained professionals, while expanding a health system's capabilities and profit margin.
And while turnover is inevitable in any healthcare organization, minimizing large staffing turnovers to prevent another “Great Resignation” is vital to the organization’s stability. We can act as a partner to healthcare organizations, helping plan for potential eventualities and needs in staffing, from managing employee FMLA to enhancing staffing matrixes. We do this through customized, managed services that can help reduce your overall administrative and cost burdens.
It may seem unusual for a healthcare professional staffing agency to advocate for supporting core staff, but this support is central to our mission, which is to improve lives and make healthcare work better. Through creating new solutions for core staff, Health Carousel can be a valued partner in your organization’s success.