There are approximately 2.6 million points of care in the U.S. — and that number is rapidly growing, as people are increasingly turning to pharmacies, telemedicine, and retail stores as providers of basic healthcare services and vaccinations. (1) As these points of care continue to increase across the nation, there’s a growing need for structures to support the frontline healthcare workers who are delivering the first line of care. It is now more important than ever to equip these healthcare workers with technology tools and clinical checklists to support patient and employee safety and quality of care within increasingly complex healthcare environments.
The United States is expected to see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. (2) Healthcare organizations are increasingly turning towards the skillsets of entry to mid-level healthcare workers to help fill the gap.
Approximately 88% of care in the hospital setting is delivered by entry or mid-level healthcare workers, such as nursing assistants, medical assistants, RNs, clinical laboratory technicians, radiologic technologists, LPNs, and medical dosimetrists. (3)
Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide high-quality, cost-effective, and patient-centered care, making them particularly well-equipped to address the shortage of physicians. (4) Studies show that NPs can manage approximately 90% of care provided by physicians. (5)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook, occupational demand and job growth for entry-level and mid-level healthcare staff is expected to grow 3x faster than average, with the following occupations leading the industry’s growth (6):
|Home Health Aids and Personal Care Aids||
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners||45% (much faster than average)|
Putting strong support structures in place for patient and employee safety — such as the utilization of incident reporting, clinical checklist, environment of care and performance improvement technology to support clinical safety and standardize processes — is increasingly necessary as the quantity and complexity of care evolves. The healthcare sector, which is largely made up of the nurse practitioners, medical assistants, and medical technicians who perform the majority of our first lines of care, is rapidly growing. Additionally, the healthcare industry’s adoption of telemedicine as an initial source of care will further accelerate the industry’s growth. (7)
Among this rapid growth lies a key realization: as entry-level and mid-level healthcare staff continue to deliver more care, it is the responsibility of healthcare organizations to equip their employees with the necessary tools to deliver consistent, safe and quality care.
Tools to Support High-Quality Outcomes
High-quality care takes a combination of dedicated employees, data-driven organizations, and well-planned systems to consistently provide the highest quality care in the safest possible environment.
Clinical rounding tools and checklists are beneficial tools for any type of healthcare organization to help improve patient and employee safety outcomes. Clinical rounding tools provide a streamlined way for frontline staff to conduct rounds on various quality measures such as:
- Hand Hygiene Observations
- Environment of Care (EOC)
- Safety Huddles
- Unit Tracers
- Falls Prevention
Automated checklists promote effective, purposeful, and standardized patient rounding to guide the healthcare team in their interactions with patients and ensure that all safety protocols are followed. If an incident does occur, a safety huddle and root cause analysis tool is beneficial to identify if there were any breakdowns in processes or environmental issues that led to the incident. A timely investigation of the facts surrounding the incident gives healthcare teams the opportunity to correct or minimize that risk to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
Traditionally, these types of tools and automated checklists have been available to larger healthcare systems. However, it is the small to medium-sized healthcare organizations that represent most points of care in the U.S., and that have historically been left out of the movement to modernize patient and employee safety efforts. As an industry, it is becoming paramount to equip these small to mid-sized care providers with structured methodologies that they can use to provide the highest quality care in the safety possible environment – not only for patients, but also to protect the health and safety of employees themselves.
The healthcare industry is beginning to see a significant cultural shift towards supporting safe and equitable care. Here are some clear and accessible steps that organizations can take with their patients and employees to elevate the care they offer and ultimately provide more equitable care to their communities:
1. Implement A Just Culture of Care
Critical changes towards a more just and equitable healthcare system begin with a cultural shift. The U.S. healthcare system has traditionally taken a reactive approach to both patient and employee safety, where problems were addressed only retroactively. However, the industry is now evolving to a proactive system of accountability that is characterized by better communication, quality over quantity, and a desire to get ahead of potential areas of risk before they become full-fledged problems.
Key elements of a culture of safety include (8):
- Designing health care delivery processes to prevent failures and harm to patients.
- Organizational commitment to detect and analyze patient injuries and near misses.
- Emphasizing the need to report events in an environment that focuses on processes and not blame.
An organization’s culture of safety should also be a just culture, one which recognizes all team members who report adverse events and near misses. Additionally, it recognizes those who identify unsafe conditions, or who have good suggestions for safety improvements. (9)
It is important that leadership shares information brought forward regarding these adverse events, near misses and recommendations for safety improvements with the appropriate team members so that they can learn from these “free lessons”. (10)
Ultimately, a just culture of care creates space for incidents to be stories that we can learn from on the path to prevention. If incidents are viewed not as something shame-worthy, but as stories, then those stories begin to offer incredible opportunities for growth, optimism, understanding and learning.
2. Join the Patient Safety Movement
How can a just culture of care be achieved? Embracing incident reporting may be the answer. Organizations that put strong systems in place for incident reporting tend to have better patient and employee safety outcomes, as well as provide higher-quality care. (8) Incident reporting should focus on learning, not blame, and typically requires integrating better frameworks to identify and respond to incidents.
This brings to light one of the largest remaining barriers to achieving equitable, safe, and quality care: the modernization of patient safety and quality technology. Implementing technology solutions for incident and event reporting, quality and performance improvement, employee engagement, and patient experience can empower organizations to track trends over time and better support their caregivers on the frontlines, therefore improving the overall environment of care.
3. Make Employee Safety & Wellbeing a Top Priority
Although technology solutions make up a strong toolkit to enable organizations in providing high-quality care, it’s important to remember that care is delivered first and foremost by people. It is therefore critical for healthcare organizations to put processes in place to safeguard the health and safety of their employees.
An employee safety solution allows organizations to track and manage employee’s health, safety, and new exposures. Employees can report any illness, symptoms, and environmental concerns – even anonymously.
Employee engagement and satisfaction also has a huge role to play in overall organizational performance. Studies have shown that employees who feel supported by their organization stay at their job longer, are more engaged in their daily work, and deliver better care to patients. According to a recent Gallup study, higher nurse engagement scores lead to lower patient mortality and complications. (11)
“Using data from the American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, researchers discovered that a 25% increase in nurse job enjoyment over a 2-year span was linked with an overall quality of care increase between 5 and 20 percent.” (12)
By implementing a just culture of care, joining the patient safety movement, and making employee safety and wellbeing a top priority, healthcare organizations of all types and sizes can support better, safer, and more equitable care for all.
Performance Health Partners Solutions
Performance Health Partners helps healthcare organizations provide the highest quality care in the safest possible environment. Our enterprise software solutions are built to grow and scale with you over time to fill organizational gaps and drive quality outcomes. To learn more, visit performancehealthus.com or schedule a demo.
8. Kizer, KW. 1999. Large system change and a culture of safety. In: Enhancing Patient Safety and Reducing Errors in Health Care. Chicago, IL: National Patient Safety Foundation.