HomeHealthMedicineLeveraging technology to retain staff amid the pandemic

Leveraging technology to retain staff amid the pandemic

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030 the world will have a shortage of 15 billion health workers.

“We really need urgent action to turn this around,” said Bruce Steinberg, HIMSS Head of International and Managing Director, who moderated the closing keynote session “Tomorrow came yesterday: what’s the next step in the workforce? A Glimpse into the Future of Healthcare” on HIMSS22 APAC.

“More importantly, we need more efforts to train, recruit and retain the next generation of health professionals.”

During this session, Professor Oscar Lee, Vice Superintendent and Orthopedic Surgeon of China Medical University Hospital (CMUH), and Gareth Sherlock, CIO of Cleveland Clinic London, also shared insights on preserving healthcare workforce amid growing infectious disease pandemics.

For Sherlock, organizational culture plays a critical role in retaining talent. In the beginning, Cleveland Clinic viewed everyone in their organization, both clinical and non-clinical personnel, as caregivers. “Because in one way or another you are directly or indirectly responsible for the care of all the patients that we care for,” he said.

As for Prof Lee, it is important to consider the perspective of the families of health professionals.

According to him, organizations should use technologies that guarantee safety at work in life-threatening pandemics. “Not only [should it be] cut out for medical staff, but also for the patients. The technology [must be] tailored to help medical staff come back.”

In the case of Cleveland Clinic, there are two considerations for IT projects: first, it should make the lives of clinicians and other healthcare providers easier and more efficient, and second, it should deliver a better patient experience. “If it doesn’t do either of those two, what are you doing it for?” said Sherlock.

Another strategy for employee retention is the provision of continuing education. Prof Lee shared that the CMUH is collaborating with Taiwan AI School to conduct evening classes to equip university faculty and hospital staff with fundamental concepts and knowledge of AI.

Attracting global talent

Sherlock claims that one of the things that attracts medical talent to work for Cleveland Clinic is the global healthcare model.

He noted how applicants find it frustrating that many hospitals, especially those within a health system, operate very independently and that their systems and processes are often different from other hospitals within the same system.

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“People are attracted to Cleveland Clinic London Hospital [because] we use the same systems and processes as [those] at the main campus or in Abu Dhabi. And some of the technologies we provide are very, very advanced,” explains Sherlock.

Meanwhile, Prof Lee said what sets them apart from other university hospitals in the region is that their facility is a “hub for innovation.” At CMUH, he explained, medical assistants are not only empowered to perform their professional duties, but they are also given the opportunity to work on health technology projects.

Getting everyone on board in digital transformation

Sherlock has all been clinically led in the many digital transformation projects in the UK, Middle East and Australia that Sherlock has been involved in. “If they are not clinically led, in my experience they will not be successful,” he claimed.

For example, their clinicians were the ones who developed the stroke program workflows at their hospital in Abu Dhabi, turning the facility into the stroke center in the city. While the IT team built the system under the program, it was the clinical team that launched it and trained everyone on it, Sherlock said.

But communication between IT and healthcare teams can hinder digital health transformation efforts.

To solve this problem, Prof. Lee convinced university leadership to educate and orient medical students with technology.

“They don’t have to be experts in Python; it comes down to being able to understand what IT people can do and help them do,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sherlock pointed to the Informatics department as a key to bridging the IT and clinical teams in digital transformation efforts.

He also recommended that any IT project should involve all employees at all levels of the organization from its inception to its completion.

“They have to be part of the process, so at the very end, [they are the] biggest proponents, they are the ones [who are] sell the program.”

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