The report usually focuses on clinical problems like diagnostic errors or cybersecurity attacks. While those issues still exist, the pandemic disrupted health system operations during the past two years. Hospitalizations are decreasing but many in healthcare expect COVID-19 will continue as a public health crisis.
The not-for-profit patient safety organization reported that staff shortages actively threaten patient care by creating longer wait times for care.
"Shortages in the healthcare workforce and mental health challenges were broadly known and well-documented for years," said Dr. Marcus Schabacker, president and CEO of ECRI. "Both physicians and nurses were at risk of burnout, emotional exhaustion and depression prior to 2020, but the pandemic made both issues significantly worse."
ECRI recommends health systems evaluate the impact of staffing ratios on safety and quality incidents and outcomes, and to offer more flexible work hours, use care extenders and map workloads for every shift.
Organizations can also investigate what might decrease turnover rates, and create worker satisfaction surveys. In the most dire of circumstances, hospitals may have to close units or divert patients, which many rural providers have already had to do. The cost of shortages extends to the balance sheet as well, as labor expenses have consistently risen.