Artificial Intelligence could minimize damage from a growing nursing shortage

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AI can decrease strain on nurses and other healthcare professionals and allow them focus on the tasks technology cannot address.

One does not need to work in a hospital to appreciate that COVID-19 has taken its toll on the medical profession. From doctors to nurses to ancillary staff, the toll of the pandemic and the recent wave of admissions due to the Delta variant has, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA), exacerbated underlying chronic nursing workforce shortage challenges. Burnout among nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers was a pervasive problem even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the staffing shortage continues. This was exemplified in an April survey from the American Nurses Foundation, which found that the pandemic is causing 92% of nurses to consider leaving the workforce. Nearly half cite insufficient staffing as one of the primary reasons.

Recently, ANA sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking the agency to declare the ongoing nursing shortage a national crisis, citing overwhelmed health systems and burnt out staff. According to a survey from Trusted Health, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused 39% of nurses ages 20-39 to report that their commitment to nursing has decreased.

Even if the ongoing nursing shortage is not declared a national crisis, a solution is still needed. Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A prudent question is how can technology be leveraged to decrease the strain on nurses and other healthcare professionals, so that they can focus on tasks that technology cannot address?

Artificial intelligence (AI) may provide a solution. Some companies may reduce the burden on nurses by helping to triage patients through a series of questions, which are assessed against an algorithm in order to ascertain the most accurate options—whether for the ultimate diagnosis by a physician or in certain states, advanced practitioner, or connecting with providers remotely instead of in person. In turn, this may reduce the influx of patients into the emergency room, who may be treated in different settings. It would potentially give providers a “heads up” regarding the patient’s risk profile and potential severity of a given situation. It may also assist patients and providers with chronic disease management. Again, enabling more effective and efficient triage and allocation of resources.

In sum, there is no panacea to the current landscape. A variety of factors, including vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments, have shown to lessen the strain on the healthcare system. AI is just another tool that can help nurses and other medical professionals lighten their respective loads, so that the rate of burnout decreases.

About the Author
Rachel V. Rose, JD, MBA, advises clients on compliance and transactions in healthcare, cybersecurity, corporate and securities law, while representing plaintiffs in False Claims Act and Dodd-Frank whistleblower cases. She also teaches bioethics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Rachel can be reached through her website, www.rvrose.com.
Christian Habermann, MBA is the Co-Founder and CMO of MayaMD.