Three Ways Digital Transformation Can Address The Senior Care Staffing Crisis
Covid-19 has disrupted virtually every aspect of the senior care industry, magnifying existing challenges and creating new ones. It’s turned a looming staffing shortage into a crisis of epic proportions. Exhausted employees left at alarming rates as turnover and burnout rates soared from a record high of 29% in late 2019 to a national average of 128% with some facilities reporting a 300% turnover rate, according to recent research.
While operators implemented new measures to protect residents, they struggled to compensate for the staffing shortage. Experts cite inadequate staffing as a contributor to Covid-19’s rapid spread throughout many post-acute and long-term care facilities as overworked employees inadvertently spread the virus when caring for residents with limited resources.
Thankfully, a new day is dawning as residents receive vaccines and operators ease restrictions. However, the staffing epidemic continues as operators strive to recruit and retain talent. The aging Baby Boomer population promises to intensify this need, which threatens to leave millions of Americans without the necessary level of care.
Fortunately, digital transformation can help address many of these staffing issues. It’s already transformed much of the business world in recent years while senior care stood by watching. Traditional post-acute and long-term care facilities maintain a steady-state infrastructure and gradually adopt new technologies after they’re well vetted by other industries.
Even now, many senior care operators find the concept of digital transformation intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Digital transformation in senior care can simply mean leveraging technology to improve resident care.
Reduce Burnout And Turnover
Employee burnout continues to escalate turnover. A recent survey states staff burnout at independent living, assisted living and memory care communities grew from an already-high 17% in early 2020 to 27% in the first two months of 2021. The World Health Organization calls burnout a diagnosable “occupational phenomenon” that is often exasperated by a lack of control, clarity around expectations and support.
Technology cannot replace human compassion or connection, but it can alleviate underlying stressors by replacing outdated, awkward processes that frustrate employees. Key areas include employee scheduling and access to finances, benefits and PTO. Although many organizations have a digitized payroll system, not all payroll solutions are intuitive with some proving more user friendly than others.
When evaluating digital HR solutions, operators should look beyond the short-term bottom line. Technology that’s difficult to navigate will intensify employee burnout. Operators should prioritize the employee experience first when evaluating new applications, especially those caregivers use. They should look for technologies that make life easier for all employees, especially caregivers.
Create Additional Layers Of Safety
The pandemic hit the senior population — particularly those in skilled nursing facilities — hard, accounting for nearly 40% of all U.S. fatalities during the first few months of the pandemic. Amid immense challenge and tragedy, new technologies emerged to better protect and care for staff and residents.
Advancements in thermal-sensing and touchless technologies accelerated across every industry, making routine processes safer. For example, many retailers now accept payments from mobile phone wallets that interface with a reader. Meanwhile, many manufacturers have rolled out automatic temperature screening for factory-floor personnel.
Despite a tradition of lagging behind their peers in new technologies, senior care operators are now embracing innovations like touchless time clocks that better support employees and safeguard residents and staff from contagions. Technology investments like this not only protect vulnerable residents but also show staff their employer cares about their health and well-being.
Streamline Scheduling And Attendance Management
Early in the pandemic, most operators strove to lock down their facilities and segregate staff caring for residents battling Covid-19. However, the staffing shortage and instances of inadequate attendance management and scheduling systems made segmenting caregivers difficult. Consequently, the virus spread more freely than it otherwise may have, taking a tremendous toll on the physical and mental health of frontline workers.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how important it is to care for the people who care for others. One of the ways operators can do this is by giving caretakers more flexibility and control over their lives. Technology can help by providing transparency into scheduling and creating a direct line of communication between employees and managers. Today, operators can choose from a variety of different technologies that are affordable and user-friendly.
Employee communication systems are vital to improving employee retention. Effective systems seamlessly connect staff to a range of information, functions and people. Basically, a good communication system enhances workers’ lives by allowing them to make decisions on the go. For example, easily picking up an open shift or swapping shifts with co-workers helps them feel empowered and in control of their work-life balance.
Senior care facility operators should no longer find “digital transformation” intimidating. After all, they can embark on this journey in simple ways like installing new hardware and employee-friendly software systems. Digital transformation through workforce management can help address the staffing issues confronting senior living and post-acute care facilities. Operators stand to reap ongoing benefits in technology-driven, forward-looking facilities by improving quality of life and care for residents and employees.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com, to read the full article and see the images, click here.
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