Healthcare Staffing: How Technology is Having a Significant Impact

By David Taylor, Managing Director, Medacs Global

GroupNearly 20 years ago when I started my first job in a traditional recruitment office in Stockport in the North West of England, I was greeted by my eight new work colleagues, one office computer, a printer and a time slot to get in front of the screen and check our emails – not that there was ever that many received in a day! On my desk, the rolodex held the names and numbers of our clients, and candidates used to call in at the end of each week to drop off their paper timesheets to be processed for payroll and most picked up their pay cheque from the previous weeks work.

How Times Have Changed

The introduction of so many technological advances in the time period since my first job in recruitment is quite astonishing. Many different service industries have gone through an ultimate paradigm shift in the way in which they operate all thanks to technology.

Twenty years ago, organisations such as Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn didn’t even exist. The Apple iPhone has only been around for just over 10 years and as it stands today you can now download over 2.2 million apps for a variety of different uses on such devices.

Let’s take the example of banking. If you would have said 20 years ago that only 10 per cent of banking transactions would be done in person at a local branch, and 90 per cent would be completed either on the telephone, online or on your mobile phone, you would have thought the person making the statement was delusional. The actual fact is that a staggering 82 per cent of 18-24-year-olds only ever use their mobile phones to deal with their financial transactions – the future in this industry is pretty clear and self-explanatory. Technology has changed the way we deal with our banking needs fundamentally and forever.

So, Is Healthcare Any Different?

It is absolutely fair to say that over the years technology has had a dramatic effect on the delivery of healthcare, however whilst these changes have been somewhat, in my view, incremental, the biggest fundamental impact on the delivery of care happened in the late 1800’s with the introduction of connected sewage systems to provide clean drinking water. Since that time, we have taken smaller steps in the advancement of healthcare delivery than you might think – until now that is.

The advancement of technology, particularly in the last few years, is already having such a massive and positive impact on the healthcare sector, with buzzwords like Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, robotics and telehealth finally coming into fruition across the sector. So, how does this all come together to change the way healthcare staffing is delivered?

The answer lies in the way in which a healthcare facility in the future needs to be staffed to deliver a new era of healthcare.

Over 50 per cent of any hospital operating budget is spent on staffing. As the way in which the care is delivered evolves, so does the way in which we need to staff the facilities. Consider that during the end-to-end delivery of care to patient, a large percentage of the treatment or diagnosis they receive is conducted by specialists that the patient never actually meets.

If the patient does not meet the healthcare professional then that tells me they don’t actually need to be physically present. The care can, for all intents and purposes, be delivered by the right specialist located practically anywhere in the world. The increase in network connectivity and the fact that more and more of the world is now connected to the Internet via a multitude of different devices, allows us to approach the staffing of healthcare facilities with a new approach.

Not only does this help us to tackle with various global shortages of candidates in certain specialisms, but also allows us to increase the level of care being delivered to the patient. We can ensure the right specialist is delivering the care for a patient that they have spent many years training for.

If we take diagnostics as an example, allowing a healthcare facility to virtually plug into another healthcare facility or facilities, can allow the resource being used to be shared, utilised and optimised amongst one another. This will allow the skill set to be deployed to where the medical need is whilst increasing efficiency for the healthcare system in its entirety.

Other examples of technology impacting the delivery of care, and ultimately how this impacts the staffing of healthcare professionals lies in the use of various tele-consultation platforms now on the market. Allowing doctors and specialists to have tele-consultations either with other healthcare professionals, or directly with patients, allows us to impact a wider geography and shift the current landscape of healthcare staffing.

We are already seeing a plethora of companies in the market where you can talk to a doctor on the phone. Doctor on Demand in the U.S., Babylon in the UK and the recent launch of Health at Hand in the UAE are just some of the innovators and industry leaders in this space. With a conservative estimated 80 per cent of consultations being able to be carried out through the power of video, this can allow a healthcare facility to either reduce the FTE requirements or more importantly increase the number of patients they can look after.Overall, this shift to implement advanced technology into the healthcare sector will have a direct positive impact on the overarching care delivery to a patient. It will provide improved access to specialists, improved quality, improved efficiency, a reduction in FTE and cost with an increased quality of care delivery to patients – and let’s face it, that is what we are all working in the healthcare sector for every day.

If I rewind those 20 years and walk into that same office in Stockport for my first day in recruitment, what would I be faced with today? More interestingly, what will the next 20 years bring to the healthcare staffing industry? As we continue to work relentlessly to deliver outstanding care, I am very much looking forward to finding out.