If there was one thing we could focus on at our healthcare organizations that is guaranteed to decrease patient mortality, lessen costs and malpractice claims, tamp down staff attrition, and improve productivity and satisfaction scores, would we do it?
How much time, energy and money would we be willing to spend? I am guessing a lot.
The solution, it turns out, is relatively simple: Improve your caregivers' experience. While it seems intuitive, we continue to fall into the cycle of intellectually agreeing that caregivers are important but doing little to invest in them.
According to a survey of 300 hospital executives published last year by the Economist, the most critical issue facing our industry is attracting and retaining the best talent. Yet when asked to prioritize the most pressing issues at their own institutions, attracting and retaining talent came out second to last on a list of 15 imperatives.
This prioritization is surprising, given our aging healthcare workforce, low unemployment and stagnant engagement levels in healthcare that have resulted in the most competitive labor market in the past 20 years. And it is only going to get worse as the need for care increases while the talent pool shrinks. This may be further exacerbated by new administration policies limiting work visas for qualified healthcare professionals. According to the Wall Street Journal, healthcare positions are taking 70% longer to fill and Advisory Board benchmarks show registered nurse vacancy rates have risen 72% and agency labor spending has increased 45% in the past two years.
This environment is having a detrimental effect on our workforce: 51% of nurses say their job is affecting their health and 35% say they feel like resigning. It is even worse for physicians.
Most leaders acknowledge these challenges, yet there has been relatively little attention paid to solving them. How can there be such a significant disconnect? One reason might be a fundamental flaw in the way we measure success: The Triple Aim. While everyone would agree patient experience, health outcomes and cost are critical, collectively these measures ignore the primary driver of value and cost: our caregivers.