5 Ways Digitization Can Help Address Healthcare Staffing Shortages

Many healthcare organizations are finding it harder than ever to find qualified personnel. The U.S. Department of Health and Services predicts increasingly serious healthcare staffing problems over the course of the next decade. By 2033, they expect a shortage of 3 million low-wage health workers and 140,00 physicians. 

While staffing shortages have been on the horizon for a while, the pandemic accelerated the process and exposed new complications. For example, healthcare organizations have long expected to run into a lack of trained, permanent employees and an aging population. But those issues have been unexpectedly compounded by new problems like worker burnout and lack of job flexibility.

The burden keeps increasing—yet many healthcare institutions are missing out on a key trend that can help ease this issue: digitization. In this post, we’ll dive into specific ways that digitization that can help reduce the potential obstacles posed by the healthcare staffing shortage.

Burnout continues to be a significant challenge for healthcare workers

Employee burnout is the result of a variety of reasons—low pay, a long road to specialization, administrative red tape and the increasing patient population. In the United States, one in six people are over the age of 65. Those people are more prone to illness and there’s been a corresponding increase in the population of people with chronic diseases, which overloads the healthcare system with patients.

The shrinking employee count and the increasing patient count combine to create an overburdened healthcare workforce that can’t effectively handle the workload. Archaic administrative processes don’t help the matter either. A Docusign study found that around 40% of healthcare employees spend more than five hours a week faxing, printing and scanning documents. That’s 5200 hours per employee wasted each year on paperwork.

However, if healthcare institutions invested resources in digitizing systems, it could save hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road. Plus, employees could reduce the amount of time they spend on repetitive paperwork tasks, and give them more time to utilize their expertise by spending time with patients.

Hospice Savannah uses Docusign PowerForms to let patients register for vaccinations digitally. In that workflow, nurses receive real-time notifications about the process and can confirm eligibility faster. After each vaccination, Docusign automatically updates the government registry. This system removes unnecessary delays from the process and lets employees focus on providing a better patient experience.

Digitization alleviates the pain of staffing shortages in healthcare

Healthcare consumers are becoming aware of the capabilities of modern technology and have increased expectations of their healthcare providers. They want information faster, a better patient experience and secure record keeping.

These improvements can be provided, but they require healthcare systems that are digital and interoperable so that different systems can work together. Companies like EngageMD have saved up to two hours per patient by using Docusign to complete the patient intake and consent process. The burden on administrative staff is significantly reduced, giving providers more time to spend on patient appointments.

A certain level of efficiency can also impact talent attraction and retention if it is evident in the hiring process. Healthcare workers won’t want to join an organization that will burden them with outdated processes.

Here are a few specific instances of how digitization can improve common workflows in the healthcare industry:

1. Implement application tracking systems to consolidate job applications

Application tracking systems (ATS) are indispensable in today’s hiring market. When organizations receive hundreds of applications for a single job posting, resources must be allocated to sift through all those files. In addition to the labor costs of manual applicant review, there’s also an increased risk of error. An ATS solves these issues by automating the entire process.

Here are a few benefits:

  • Candidates can optimize their resume for discoverability
  • Hiring managers can search for candidates using keywords
  • The system automates the candidate-matching process
  • Hiring managers can make data-driven hiring decisions 

76% of people abandon forms when filling them out becomes too burdensome. One of the most common reasons for abandonment is the requirement to repeatedly fill out the same data. Docusign Web Forms can help your team avoid this burden by autopopulating patient information that has already been provided.

2. Send offer letters digitally and get them signed electronically

Remote and hybrid work is rising, which means organizations can recruit and hire candidates from new locations. To securely manage document exchange with these candidates, healthcare teams need to digitize the offer signing process.

Instead of sending paperwork physically and waiting weeks to get it signed, electronic signatures can shorten the process to a matter of minutes. A Docusign study found that teams can save up to 300 hours of labor by adopting e-signatures and taking advantage of opportunities to use templates and automation.

This also accelerates the time to close candidates as candidates can return these papers within 24 hours of receiving them. It prevents the need to fax documents and reduces the possibility of errors.

3. Invest in digital credentialing systems to reduce onboarding time

Credentialing is not negotiable when you’re hiring healthcare professionals. It ensures they have the requisite qualifications, certifications and experience to deliver optimal patient care.

It can take up to two weeks to verify medical credentials and adding paper-based processes to the mix only makes it take longer. Those delays are difficult for both the company and new hires. It also slows down the onboarding process.

With digital credentialing systems, HR teams can request verification and receive answers quickly through secure, compliant systems. When integrated with e-signature solutions, the approval process becomes simpler because information is autopopulated and documents only require an electronic signature.

If information is required for an audit, you don’t have to go searching for physical records since documentation is stored within the same system.

4. Manage employee contracts digitally and standardize the process

While some employees are hired indefinitely, others are hired on a contractual basis. As the organization’s size increases, keeping track of employee data over time becomes more difficult.

For example, if you manually track contract expiration, there’s a risk of missing contract renewal. This means you won’t be prepared to renew or offboard the employee when the time comes.

A Docusign and Forrester study found that the top three challenges when it comes to agreements were:

  • Duplicate work to re-enter data into a system of record
  • Manual routing of agreements to different teams
  • Errors due to data being incorrectly captured 

However, digital systems can automate this process, which means you can create a standardized contract management system. For example, you can create an agreement workflow that automatically sends a contract to different internal stakeholders for review and signature after a candidate signs it.

5. Create a digital onboarding system to improve compliance 

While the hiring process is your chance to create a first impression, the onboarding process is a chance to build a solid relationship with employees. Many organizations have inefficient onboarding systems that make it difficult for HR teams and new hires to work together.

There are a lot of documents involved in onboarding (W-9 forms, confidentiality agreements, nondisclosure or noncompete agreements, etc.) and inaccurate or illegible data can be a bottleneck that prevents new hires from getting started quickly. A secure digital onboarding system prevents that backup by allowing HR teams to send customized envelopes to each new hire, which consolidates information in one place.

It also ensures compliance with industry regulations concerning data privacy and security. Over 70% of users agree they experience fewer security incidents after switching to e-signature solutions. For instance, if employee information is disclosed without consent, that could attract a hefty fine due to the lack of protection measures in place. Teams that use an encrypted e-signature solution can avoid this issue. They also get a digital audit trail for every movement, allowing them to track the onboarding process throughout each step of the process.

Prioritize digitization to combat the healthcare staffing shortage

As healthcare organizations find ways to manage complications of staffing shortages and employee burnout, a common solution is to reduce the burden of administrative processes. Investing in technologies that make operations easier and less manual can improve staff satisfaction, which has positive long-term effects on talent retention and attraction.

Throughout the employee lifecycle, identify paperwork processes that add administrative burden to your employees and look for technology that can make their life easier. Solving these problems will create an environment where employees can spend less time on administrative complexities and devote more attention to delivering exceptional patient care. Docusign eSignature is a digitization tool that can radically simplify common processes like employee onboarding, credentialing, contract management, patient intake and more.

Learn more about Docusign solutions for healthcare and how you can improve the employee experience.