Can AI and Virtual Tech Quell Increasing Frontline Healthcare Burnout?

As the third year of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, healthcare industry burnout among frontline workers is said to be reaching an unprecedented level. Alarmingly, this rate is estimated to ramp up even further in the near future. A poll from McKinsey & Company laid out the stark fact that 30% of nurses are heavily weighing the idea of leaving direct patient care roles. And this month, the American Hospital Association (AHA) has made public its issues with unsteady patient discharge rates, which have been greatly affected by increased staffing shortages.

“I think for the first time in the past 15 or 20 years, our customers are facing labor shortages, very high attrition, and, in a way, higher costs of labor — and that is preoccupation number one for our customers,” said Catherine Estrampes, GE Healthcare’s President and Chief Executive Officer for the U.S. and Canada. “As a result, they are really looking for ways to decrease their burdens — and the burnout — of their nurses, technicians, and MDs.” Rapid advancements in the digital and virtual care fields, where considerations for patient evaluations and diagnostic turnaround are abundant, are reassuring but also have flooded clinicians’ workflows with new data types in mass volume.

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Adopting digital systems, while ultimately affording greater levels of convenience, creates a skill gap that could take many critical years to fully surmount from a staffing standpoint. In the meantime, workers that are not privy to the changes will be holding back their clinics from achieving full advancement.

Before the pandemic demonstrated its ability to strain the frontline workforce, Philips and GE Healthcare were diving into establishing “command centers” for healthcare, where technicians could oversee dozens of patients beds spanning multiple hospitals all from a centralized facility. Seeing as solutions to the continued burnout are scarce, this lofty idea of a connected “eICU” system built around remote workers presents an interesting, if imperfect, framework for a solution.