Tuesday, Apr 18, 2023

Empowering an Empathetic Workforce Through Innovation and Technology

K. R. PrabhaVice President, Strategy, Growth & Innovation, Optum Advisory Services


Smart solutions for engaging and strengthening organizational talent. 

The great workforce challenge

Leaders are managing extraordinary upheaval. They are responding to market shifts, growing consumer demands and an exhausted and shrinking workforce. The latest trend of TikTok quitting further underlines the urgency of the workforce challenges for leaders. This blog will explore tools and strategies that can help leaders adjust and sustain their teams in this new normal. We’ll take a look at how to: 


  1. Use predictive analytics to forecast health trends, anticipate staffing demands and use limited resources in the most effective way
  2. Augment staffing strategies to respond to significant employee demand 
  3. Channel administrative automation to speed workflows, so you can redeploy human resources where they are needed most 
  4. Streamline digital workflows that enhance clinical decision support, reduce errors and lower costs
  5. Support staffing augmentation, remote tools, metrics and outsourcing strategies to extend your capacity and reach

Predictive Analytics for forecasting trends, anticipating staffing demand and supporting clinical decisions

In Optum’s latest research report, C-suite check-in: The health care workforce crisis, 71% of leaders report that forecasting demand to support agile planning, automate staffing and employ predictive analytics is an extremely important or very important priority for building a sustainable workforce. Leaders are often challenged to increase or decrease their staff to match changes in market demand. 

Predictive analytics can help. It can anticipate patient risk by identifying underlying conditions or patient deterioration in the intensive care unit (ICU). This strengthens and supports decision-making by employees who are already working in a tense environment. 

Analytics technology can also address disease and chronic conditions of patients managing their health at home before symptoms become a crisis. It can anticipate or reduce post-care complications that require more attention from high-level staff. When they do need to respond, having integrated information at their fingertips allows employees to quickly see a person’s whole-health picture and make decisions accordingly. 

Predictive analytics can not only provide clinical decision support for individuals but also help guide health management strategies for specific populations. This allows leaders to deploy resources most effectively. 

Finally, smart data helps payers and providers collaborate effectively to see and address the holistic needs of a patient and translate data into personalized care plans. In turn, these preventive, personalized care plans improve health outcomes, lower costs and increase patient satisfaction. 

Augmented staffing strategies to handle significant employee demand

Shifts in demand for providers can be caused by sudden disease outbreaks or by consumers resuming care services that they had delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All health care organizations must respond to shifts in their business mix.

Organizations understand their role in the community and the critical skills they need to meet the demand in their market. After coping with the past few years of disruption, more leaders today are willing to work with a partner that can outsource staff to manage peaks in demand or ongoing staff shortages. 

Outsourcing partners can serve as a pressure-release value and provide quick relief. They are equipped with high-performing technologies and flexible, well-trained staff. Outsourcing relieves short-staffed teams and undertrained workers, leading to higher employee satisfaction in the organizational workforce. 

Administrative automation sustains the workforce

There are data-driven technologies that improve the accuracy of coding, keep pace with regulatory updates and automate the back and forth between provider and payer organizations.

Today’s workforce wants to know they are using smart technologies that can consistently repair administrative errors and omissions early in the process. Their time is best spent on solving more complex issues and they can see that with these automated enhancements, fewer consumers are denied services or having to make appeals. They also see that intelligent technology can speed updates on patient activities enabling better care at lower cost. Workers are consumers too. They want to know their administrative workflows are good for the patient.

Intelligent solutions also keep pace with a constant stream of changing regulatory and informatics demands. This kind of calculation is where technology often excels. With smart automations, a worker is free to focus on addressing the unique variables and exceptions that exist within their consumer population or department.  

When technology builds in reference and compliance guides, it not only improves accuracy, but also trains, educates and empowers staff. Billing, coding and compliance specialists appreciate the boost they get from real-time updates, proprietary guidance and the ability to easily search thousands of medical codes. With hours of their time saved, they feel relieved and confident that they are doing an accurate job because they know that their data inputs are up-to-date. 

These kinds of technologies allow workers to keep up with the exploding growth of information and the faster rate at which billing, coding and compliance rules change.

Streamlined technology meaningfully improves skills

Too often, due to workforce shortages or rote workflows, employees are not able to grow in their positions or work at the top of their license. Digital tools can help with upskilling or reskilling employees within workflows and are useful for better engaging consumers in their health care — this leads to better outcomes which is also satisfying to clinicians. 

Below are examples of how technology supports upskilling in the clinical workforce: 

  • Patients can manage chronic conditions at home. Consumers are checking their own glucose monitors and managing their insulin doses remotely. This frees clinicians to focus on more complex patients.
  • Health coaches are doing home checks and doctors can reach more patients via the use of virtual tools
  • Medical assistants can help enter information into EMRs, connect with patients via mobile apps, gain phlebotomy certifications and offer more hands-on support to nurses for more disease control and prevention with patients
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners are now handling routine procedures such as endoscopy, gall bladder and hernia operations
  • Nurses who no longer want to work the bedside can still provide virtual support to patients and offer their expertise to train younger nurses
  • With everyone in the care chain engaged at the top of their capabilities, specialists are now free to care for the most complex patients

Technology can speed information and decision support, but employees are still needed to deliver physical services and, most importantly, deliver the empathy that is part of the healing process. The right technology can help free them to do that.

Make it real by implementing meaningful metrics for workforce success

Recently, many employers found themselves operating in a reactive mode, responding to turnover, shortages and quiet quitting. Proper tracking and checking in with employees helps them get ahead of the issues and allows them to solve problems before they cause further disruption. 

Common metrics for a sustainable workforce entail high employee net promoter scores (eNPS) and customer satisfaction scores, employees working at the top of their license, low error rates, low turnover and strong upward mobility or career growth.

Clearly connecting employee efforts to consumer outcomes is another characteristic of a sustainable workforce. This can be done through recognition programs, aligning incentives and sharing positive consumer stories.

Empowering teams to innovate with some autonomy allows people to identify and resolve workforce challenges that leaders may never see. With a light structure to ensure ideas are workable, solutions can be manifested in a few weeks or months. In this way, a workforce can create a culture of innovation, continually improve the workplace in a way that satisfies them, serve consumer and meet business needs. Health professionals will also be ready to respond to new challenges and create new ways of doing things. And, teams can create an organization that is living innovation where transformation is embedded in their work environment. Measuring your organization’s number of pilots, time to implement, degree of success and impact on employee retention are the metrics of innovation and workforce success.

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