As the coronavirus contagion continues to soar, physicians, nurses, and environmental service teams are fighting the war on the frontlines, struggling to both fulfill their duties and care for their families. In the back office, hospital IT teams are engaged in a similar battle. Healthcare workers and resources across the board are being reallocated, becoming increasingly expensive, are difficult to acquire, and in some cases, absent due to their own illness or home responsibilities.
We’re playing a new game with new rules.
Across the U.S., the employment landscape is experiencing unprecedented change, with individuals assuming new and different roles and responsibilities in a pandemic game of musical chairs. Parents are serving as educators to school age children, requiring many to leave their post of employment. Restaurants have shifted to take-out and delivery models, moving workers out of the kitchen and into the front-end function. A growing number of unemployed in retail and hospitality industries are heading into warehouses. And in healthcare? Healthcare is at the epicenter of the movement.
Resource allocation within healthcare related services, projects, and departments is being challenged by unplanned or extended absences as resources are called to assume other responsibilities at work or at home. In this game of musical chairs, the number of empty seats steadily increases, with the crescendo of fear and uncertainty as the soundtrack.
Hospitals have been staffed (or under-staffed) to their current environment and market demand, including the number of beds, specialties, and community need. The shortage of ICU beds, masks, and other PPE equipment have been well-documented in the media, but the increasing demand for – and loss of trained healthcare workers – is a very real and growing concern.
As COVID-19 cases mount, hospitals are struggling to find enough doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to care for not just the rapidly increasing number of critically ill coronavirus patients, but also the everyday, regular load of medical emergencies and maintenance cases. Medical and nursing schools are being called on to lend a hand. In operations, sick staff or those unable to work onsite are creating administrative challenges.
If IT personnel become unavailable in a large enough number that services are impacted, patients, physicians, and care delivery will be directly impacted. More staff working from home with limited resources and communications creates additional burden on system administrators who are already overwhelmed with information security, compliance, and other issues. Consultants with experience in platforms such as Cerner, Epic, Infor, and Workday are likely to be as in demand as healthcare workers serving on the frontlines of patient care. Bringing on external consultants can address staffing levels and maintain service levels.
For hospitals to properly function, their systems need to be running.
Instead of playing musical chairs, it’s time to face the music. These are unprecedented times calling for innovative approaches to fine tuning the contingency plan. We’re here to help. As a supplement to the already overburdened healthcare system, our experienced team is standing by to help backfill roles, meet required standards, and help hospitals address the surge of patients and impact to staff.
Steve Eckert, FACHE, CFCHE, is general manager of Avaap Healthcare. Avaap has experienced Epic, Cerner, Infor, and Workday resources available to help hospital systems address staffing needs as part of their Coronavirus COVID-19 continuity plan.