New technologies must address healthcare’s “people” problem

Technology can be the key to battling staffing shortages and burnout.

At Optimize Health, we recently surveyed participants across three segments – solo practices; group practices; hospital-affiliated practices – to understand what’s driving technology decisions and keeping them up at night. As we enter into the third year of a global pandemic we wanted to take the pulse of office managers and providers across multiple organizations to understand their stressors and ways that technology can support them and their patients.

What we found: solutions need to address the much bigger – and ubiquitous – problem of staffing shortages and burnout. Remote patient monitoring (RPM), which allows providers to monitor patients’ health from a distance, is one solution that can alleviate this pressure, and help practices grow and scale.

Billing, lack of time and staffing

Our survey found an inverse relationship between practice size and billing; as practice size increases, billing/insurance concerns decrease.

Top stressors by segment:

  • Solo practices: 38% reported that their top stressor is billing or insurance issues;
  • Group practices: 35% responded that their top stressor is working too many hours/not enough time to complete their work;
  • Hospital-affiliated practices: 69% said their top stressor is adequate staffing/turnover, followed by working too many hours (54%).

While the numbers of pandemic-related hospitalizations may be on the decline in many areas across the country and offices are not backlogged with COVID-19 infections, the reality is that burnout and staffing issues are a top concern for different kinds – and sizes – of provider organizations.

When it comes to technology, many are still playing catch up

While the industry sometimes saw seismic shifts in technology adoption such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) over the past few years, the most recent technology that the vast majority of those surveyed was EHRs and EMRs. The findings reveal that a few added telehealth platforms or tools and clinical lab equipment, the data show these organizations are, in many cases, just getting their technology foundation laid with electronic health records.

For technology purchases, lack of resources and clinical outcomes top the list

When diving a bit deeper into a specific technology, respondents reported that they would need to understand how RPM improves clinical outcomes and what staff time and resources are needed to manage a program. Coming in third was revenue opportunities, followed by how reimbursement works.

This reinforces the same message that, across the board, practices are overworked and under-staffed, or at least stretched very thin.

The network effect

When it comes to finding information about new healthcare technologies, both providers and practice managers seek out in-person channels, such as colleagues, peers, conferences or networking events. In a busy tech-driven environment, word-of-mouth referrals can help bring clarity and build trust.

The take-away

It’s always been true that technologies that are successful in an industry address (at the very least) or solve (preferably) a real business problem. In 2020, technologies that enabled providers to deliver care to patients remotely, for example, saw growth because they solved real and immediate problems. As we get on the less-intense (for now) side of the pandemic, providers are taking a breath to assess where they are and what problems they need to be addressed and/or solved.

For technologists and innovators, it’s critical to understand the pain points both driving – and impeding – decisions. And, while life seems to be going on all around us, the problems of staffing and burnout are still very real and visceral for providers across segments and sizes. That provides us with an opportunity to solve problems in new ways and leverage technology to reduce burnout, stress, and offer services where practices need the most support.

RPM can be an integral part of that solution. At Optimize Health, we offer managed RPM services. We provide outsourced RNs that can act as an extension of an existing clinical staff team. We are in a unique position to help providers and their organizations deliver care in ways that both improve patient outcomes and provider productivity, and hopefully – if we’re all successful – reduce the worrying levels of burnout.

Todd Haedrich is the CEO of Optimize Health.