Automation is improving communication, flexibility, and work-life balance.
Two decades ago, most healthcare institutions used manual scheduling systems. Some used traditional medical gadgets for scheduling, but these have become obsolete in 2021.
Most hospitals and clinics now use automated scheduling systems for shift allocation, consolidating the workforce and scheduling information into one solution.
By implementing automated scheduling systems, staffing in healthcare is better optimized: supervisors assign caregivers to patients by matching the patient’s need with the caregiver’s skill set. This was a challenge 20 years ago—manual schedules were time-consuming, filled with many errors, and updating them was difficult. Luckily, advances in technology have successfully addressed these scheduling issues.
Hospitals are now using data to predict staffing needs and to take real-time action accordingly. This has reduced costs associated with overstaffing in shift work and gives insight into future healthcare needs.
According to the latest shift work statistics, 66% of shift workers prefer advance notice of schedules. Employees can plan their personal affairs around their work when they know their schedules in advance. Additionally, 53% of shift workers value visual communication of available shifts. Advance scheduling technologies made both possible.
In most hospitals, both managers and employees are participating in shift allocation: managers post new shifts on scheduling systems, and employees get to see and request them. Caregivers influence their own work schedules through self-service features, and that leads to improved work-life balance.
Traditional scheduling models of shift work in healthcare did not offer any flexibility. Managers had full control of the scheduling process, without input from the caregivers. This meant that caregivers had to follow a fixed work routine that often offered little work-life balance.
Flexible scheduling technologies allow remote caregivers to clock in from different locations and track their work time via their personal gadgets (e.g., laptops, mobile phones, etc). Some systems even allow the caregivers to swap or trade shifts subject to the approval of the supervisor.
Shift workers can also adjust schedules to avoid staffing shortages during busy seasons.
Health care workers continue to work long hours despite advances in technology with occasional shortages of healthcare staff. The situation worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and there is now a great public concern for the mental health of our health workers.
As a result of this public pressure and acknowledgment of rising trends, many employers now offer mental health tools in-person and virtually to support their workers' well-being.
Technology has been the biggest driver of change in shift work management. These changes have brought improved efficiency and better patient experiences in healthcare. It has become difficult to imagine shift work without the technology we have now, and shift work practices will most likely continue to improve because technology keeps evolving.
Healthcare leaders now recognize the importance of good mental health for their workers - as a result, there are now better strategies in place for improving the mental health of caregivers. Flexible shifts have improved the work-life balance of caregivers, but there is a need for more labor if we want to reduce staff shortages and long shifts in healthcare.