Over the last few years in senior living, we have seen many anticipated technological changes come to sudden fruition. Businesses that promised more digital care options for years found they could no longer drag their feet, implementing new telehealth platforms, capital management systems and recruitment solutions. Ready or not, the future of healthcare technology is on its way.
It hasn’t escaped my notice, or the notice of my peers, that although many of these changes were long-anticipated, it took the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic to set them in motion. Our industry’s response to the pandemic has proven that healthcare will adapt to changing circumstances not when it’s fully prepared, but when it has to.
While the reality of updating to a new generation of healthcare technology may be daunting, this moment also brings ample opportunities to make healthcare a more supportive, innovative and flexible industry in which to work. Starting now, there are ways to reduce the work ahead by preparing for the healthcare technology of the future.
Bringing equal access into the conversation
The explosion of telehealth services over the last two years has been absolutely tremendous. With telehealth newly implemented or newly popular in so many environments, there’s no reason to expect it to fall out of fashion. Just as many employees are growing accustomed to working from home, and older Americans are planning to age in place, patients are getting used to the idea of accessing digital healthcare.
In some cases, this development may greatly increase healthcare accessibility. Theoretically, telehealth allows rural residents access to specialists they would never otherwise be able to see and gives individuals with mobility impairments an easier way to connect with providers.
But not everyone has a broadband connection — and those who do and do not are divided along the lines of income, location and disability. Telehealth will not be an equitable solution until broadband access is also equitable. We need influential voices in healthcare advocating for internet equity and framing digital access as a healthcare issue, because that is exactly what we’re dealing with.
Approaching the future with integrated platforms
Internally, the best thing individual businesses can do to prepare for the future of healthcare technology is to ensure their existing platforms can integrate with other software. Without integrations, healthcare leaders will need absurdly complex networks of software solutions to manage talent and provide care.
Isolated systems are both inefficient and uninformative. Inefficient, because digital technology is not living up to its promise if workers still need to spend hours manually porting information between platforms. Uninformative, because only an integrated system can provide useful data on where a talent management process is consistently breaking down.
Our recruiting platforms need to work with our onboarding software, which needs to connect to our employee management systems, which must interact with our capital management clients. Any system that cannot integrate will inevitably drag down our processes and eventually become defunct.
Leaders can get ahead in one of two ways. Either by prioritizing software that delivers a full-service staffing model or by only using tools that offer robust integrations.
Managing new healthcare shifts
As healthcare employers grapple with the ongoing talent shortage, some will need to embrace greater shift flexibility to keep their businesses operating. This flexibility may take the form of shorter and more flexible shifts — a change that some healthcare workers have been requesting for years.
Do these unconventional shifts offer any benefit to employers? Certainly. With greater flexibility, more candidates will be able to fit healthcare work into their lives. By offering these shifts, you increase the odds of successfully employing parents, students, and even part-time workers who have additional jobs.
In addition to these new shifts, employers are dealing with entirely new roles, like infection preventionists. Because healthcare work is constantly changing, our software will need to adapt rapidly. Talent management software must be flexible enough to account for a changing workforce and a non-standard workday.
Prioritizing time-to-hire and finding more candidates
Whenever we talk about the future of healthcare, staffing lies at the heart of the conversation. Our future success depends on our ability to attract new healthcare workers and retain those already in the industry. Addressing the talent shortage is the most important task facing new technologies today.
As it stands, healthcare has one of the slowest hiring processes of any industry. Some of this comes with the territory. Any highly specialized position will take time to fill, and healthcare is full of such positions. But slow hiring also happens thanks to red tape, inefficient processes and antiquated software. To put a fine point on this problem: it is not possible to rapidly expand healthcare staffing if promising entry-level candidates are dragged along on a lengthy hiring journey and receive competing offers along the way.
Individual businesses may be able to avoid lengthy time-to-hire with the help of recruitment technology, but healthcare hiring is still a competitive world. In this case, falling behind other businesses’ success is an assurance of failure.
In the future, we can expect recruitment technology that is centered around reducing time-to-hire. Candidate sourcing, interviews, screening, placement and onboarding will all need to happen more quickly to keep up with steadily increasing demand. Rapid hiring is the only way for individual businesses to secure employment with established workers. This, and connecting with and engaging first-time healthcare workers, are the only two ways to ensure successful staffing.
Although there are plenty of challenges ahead, we are in an overwhelmingly exciting moment for healthcare staffing and operations. It’s notable that so many of these changes center on improving access to both work and care. We have the opportunity right now to proactively shape a better future for healthcare workers and businesses.
Pat Mulloy sits on the advisory board for Apploi, a leading end-to-end healthcare staffing solution. Mulloy is currently Of Counsel for Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, Chairman of the Board for Argentum, and formerly served as CEO of Elmcroft Senior Living and president and CEO of Atria Senior Living. Mulloy received his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and his juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University School of Law.
The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.