Australia, like most high-income countries, has a large and growing elderly population with almost 15% of the population 65 years and over, which is associated with increases in chronic diseases.
Additional challenges for the healthcare sector include technological changes requiring adaptation, mismatches between the supply of healthcare staff and patients’ demands, an increase in the number of regulations and protocols, and budget restrictions.
The “thunderbolt” of the COVID-19 pandemic — a critical healthcare issue that put tremendous strain on healthcare systems — demonstrated the speed at which infections could spread across the globe. This caused healthcare organisations to urgently organise their workplaces and immediately adapt to new ways of working to ensure a continuity of care during a tense and uncertain time.
Healthcare organisations face diverse and often interrelated challenges that affect overall wellbeing: Ranging from financial constraints that impact staffing and workload, to pressure to provide quality patient care and increased administrative tasks. The pandemic has only made this worse.
COVID-19 most certainly left its mark and continues to do so. With more than five hundred million registered cases globally and different measures of social distancing and remote working policies in place, it has touched all of us.
However, the pandemic has hit the clinical workforce especially hard. Serving on the frontline of the pandemic has impacted their physical and mental wellbeing and exacerbated existing problems.
98% of clinicians who participated in a Nuance and HIMSS’ online survey last year, said they had experienced feelings of burnout. When asked about the impact of COVID-19, 48% of clinicians based in Australia said it had exacerbated their feelings of burnout or overload.
Even after the pandemic has loosened its grip on healthcare systems, it continues to impact the work and wellbeing of healthcare professionals.
The long-term effects of the pandemic create a set of new challenges for hospitals, which can be observed globally at various levels:
- Staff shortages
- backlogs on medical and surgical procedures
- high staff turnover, absenteeism and resignations
- overload and burnout in nurses and clinicians
- increased risk of potential errors in patient care.
The emotional strain and increased pressure on Australian healthcare professionals has caused considerable distress, with demand soaring for mental health support.
Clinicians’ and nurses’ mental health and longevity in the workforce are major concerns for the maintenance of a high-functioning Australian health system. In a poll of more than 10,000 Australian healthcare professionals, conducted by the Royal Melbourne Hospital, 61% reported anxiety, 58% reported being burnt out and 28% reported depression, with many planning to leave due to mental health concerns.
Clinical documentation is one of the most time-consuming EMR tasks and is a large contributor to overload and burnout.
Doctors practising in hospitals and clinics also have interventions, procedures, visits, ward rounds and staff meetings to deal with daily.
During these tasks, medical practices, clinics and hospitals must document clinical data to be registered into the electronic medical record (EMR), health/medical application or traceability tool to be transmitted and shared with other healthcare providers through the My Health Record or other healthcare system and/or to be delivered to the patient.
68% of clinical documentation is narrative and difficult to capture in the standard templates and click boxes of an EMR. An Australian qualitative investigation says that the documentation practices of clinicians are complex, causing duplication and redundancy. Completing the medical record requires even more time, which doctors are already lacking. The heavy documentation load also poses a risk to a valued doctor-patient relationship.
Supporting the care relationship, monitoring patients’ health status, assessing, supervising, and coordinating nursing and health services are the daily activities of nurses. In addition, recording the details of the nursing tasks performed in retrospect is necessary to ensure continuity of care and clinical data transmissions. As they still have few mobile devices to manage their nursing records, 64% of nurses enter the info whenever they have a moment during the working day.
Clinicians’ work has changed radically in recent years, at least in part due to computerisation. Adaptation is a necessity and skills have been extended to new technologies which should normally facilitate the daily work of healthcare professionals and refocus them on what matters most, care for their patients. However, for every hour spent with a patient, 2 hours of desk work are needed to fill in the documents in the EMR or any other health application. Doctors and nurses spend 50% or more of their day on clinical documentation processes. Added to this is the time spent searching for information when it is most needed.
Technology that can reduce the time spent on routine-based and documentation-based tasks, gives back time to clinicians to focus on what matters most — patient care.
Dragon Medical One, a conversational AI workflow assistant and documentation companion can help. Dragon Medical One uses artificial intelligence to accurately capture voice-generated content directly into clinical systems. More than just a speech recognition solution, Dragon Medical One has helped at Mackay Base Hospital to give time back to clinicians, increase job satisfaction and reduce stress.
To read the whitepaper “Supporting clinician wellbeing: caring for the healthcare workforce” and find out how Australia compares to other countries regarding clinician wellbeing, download here.