The use of technology has rapidly increased in the past decade. In fact, technology has become so integral to the human experience that a majority of consumers believe their mobile device is an essential part of managing their health, according to a recent Accenture poll. Whether they track their fitness and nutrition through an app or use wearables, such as Fitbit and Apple Watch, consumers more and more rely on tech and gadgets to self-assess their health. Consumers are certainly ready for virtual healthcare.
Surprisingly, the healthcare industry has been slow to implement new technology in regards to patients care and management. The prevailing thought among clinicians is that personal human-to-human interaction is the most effective means of caring for a patient. Healthcare, therefore, remains an exceptionally labor-intensive industry, and labor carries a hefty price tag. As rising costs and demand coupled with a declining workforce continue to strain the healthcare industry, administrators and clinicians will need to turn to technology to solve many of their problems.
Why Healthcare Needs to Shift to a More Virtual environment.
Since the early 2010’s, analysts have predicted a massive shortage of caregivers and clinicians by the early to mid-2020’s. The shortfall will be driven in large part by the exodus of the Baby Boomer generation from the workforce into retirement, as well as a lack of demographically available workers to meet the rising demand for healthcare. Essentially, there aren’t enough young people to take care of the elderly.
In a caregiver shortage, industries such as home health and home care will have critically stunted growth despite rising demand. A recent AARP study looked at the number Americans who needed care versus how many people are available to provide that care. It showed a troubling trend. An estimated 40 million Americans currently provide unpaid family care or “informal” care to an adult over the age of 65. A similar study from the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had similar findings: 40.4 million Americans provide care for an adult over 65 years of age. They also found that these caregivers tended to be between the ages of 45 and 64. In fact, nearly one in four adults in this age range act as a caregiver for an older adult in some capacity. While the number of people who need care is expected to grow to nearly 120 million by 2024, the number of family or informal caregivers is only likely to rise to 45 million. This means there is soon to be a massive shortage of family or informal caregivers, which will inevitably spill over into the paid caregiver sector.
More concerning still, nursing is a high-demand, high-turnover profession, and caregiver burnout is a tremendous problem that the industry has yet to solve. In a recent survey by Home Care Pulse, turnover rates in the home care industry exceed 70%, leaving agencies scrambling to find qualified caregiving candidates and footing the bill for regular training and orientation. The cost alone of repeatedly losing and recruiting caregivers (through home care marketing) is one of the single most burdensome issues facing home care providers today. If the pool of new caregiving professionals shrinks further as compared to demand, the consequences could be catastrophic.
How Virtual Healthcare, Powered by Unified Communications, Can Help.
Unified communications has helped companies in nearly all industries streamline their communications and processes. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is a fast-growing sector precisely because it empowers companies to increase performance and productivity while saving on costs. The same is undoubtedly true of healthcare.
In light of the impending healthcare labor shortage, a UCaaS deployment can offer a full breadth of services to help healthcare providers create a virtual healthcare environment. Unified communications systems provide mobile applications to help streamline processes between employees, and to bring what is currently a manual patient health tracking system into the digital era. Such tools also enable better collaboration and increase employee retention.
Unified communications improve patients’ experience with healthcare by deploying easy-to-use communications systems, creating consistency across all channels, and by helping healthcare workers anticipate patient needs. Such systems allow the deployment of virtual healthcare and reduce the amount of hands-on care facilities need to provide.
Unified Communications platforms offer tremendous benefits through advanced services. These include:
- Patient tracking technology and fall prevention tools that automatically detect patients on the move
- Medication management technology that streamlines the administering of medications, which takes the guesswork away from employees
- Nurse call solutions that are more effective and easier to use.
- Telehealth technology that allows patients and their doctors to conference from anywhere, which reduces costs associated with travel.
Virtual healthcare, supported by a hosted UC platform, is a tremendously useful tool for employee retention. As we discussed, part of the problem healthcare faces is high turnover. UCaaS offers specific services that directly positively impact retention rates by providing interactive training solutions, enabling collaboration, creating an agile workforce, and empowering remote workers. A hosted UC helps facilities and their employees by modernizing the workplace.
There are numerous reasons why the healthcare industry is looking to UCaaS providers to upgrade their communications systems to create a virtual healthcare environment. With such rapid growth in demand, hospitals and health agencies who intend to remain competitive in the marketplace will need to consider deploying these services. MIX Networks is a premier provider of UCaaS, with such services as a full hosted UC, mobile app, and 4G failover. To learn more about our services, CLICK HERE.