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Is AI the solution for addressing healthcare worker burnout?

The market realities of the U.S. healthcare system mean that patients feel that wait times during healthcare visits have become longer.

Image: © AFP
Image: © AFP

New research on U.S. healthcare workers revealed that a third of nurses say that patients can expect to see more and longer wait times in the current climate. The headline figure is that 58 percent of healthcare workers state they feel burnt out due to understaffing, and over half feel just as, if not more, strained than they were during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The information comes from a survey conducted by Carta Healthcare. The survey probes the most practical solution to the problem and finds that the vast majority (77 percent) of nurses believe AI is the solution to the worsening personnel shortages.

The survey was conducted drawing on the experiences of 500 U.S. healthcare workers and it established that the biggest threats to the healthcare industry are high care costs (74.3 percent), the nurse shortage (63.1 percent), and the lack of personnel to care for the aging population (58.6 percent). These results align with a Carta Healthcare October 2022 healthcare consumer survey, where consumer respondents agreed that high costs and lack of personnel were among the top concerns.

A solution could be with automation and artificial intelligence. This is because overwhelming paperwork seems to be a leading cause of healthcare burnout. To add to this, over half of healthcare workers (58 percent) say that being short staffed is the biggest factor for burnout, followed by low pay and long hours (46.6 percent). Healthcare professionals also cite the following reasons for burnout:

  • Quality of care has declined (27.9%)
  • Personnel issues (27.5%)
  • Quality of necessary supplies and equipment (26.3%)
  • Lack of leadership (23.9%)
  • Admin/paperwork (22.3%)
  • Politics/ bureaucracy and red tape (20.9%)

The market realities of the U.S. healthcare system mean that patients feel that wait times during healthcare visits have become longer (46 percent). In response to those consumer survey results; healthcare workers admit that the catalyst is a lack of staff. Thirty-five percent (35.1 percent) of respondents see staffing shortages as a significant issue.

Concerningly for healthcare sustainability, 37.1 percent of healthcare workers say they would choose another career path. When healthcare professionals were asked if they were to leave their current position, what likely would be the reason(s), responses align with the pain points that are causing burnout:

  • Low pay and long hours (53.8%)
  • Short-staffed facilities (45.4%)
  • Lack of leadership (31.5%)
  • Personnel issues (31.3%)

Healthcare workers similarly identified several factors that could increase their job satisfaction, including higher pay (65.3 percent), more staffing to limit the burden (48.2 percent), the ability to have more time for direct patient care (32.1 percent), and technological advancements to help them do their jobs (29.1 percent).

As a counter to these concerns,  healthcare professionals, based on the survey, hope that the AI-induced efficiencies, as demonstrated by other industries, will spill over to healthcare to help reduce the impact of worker shortages. Between healthcare workers and consumers, however, positive perceptions and awareness of AI in healthcare seem to differ.

For example, the majority of healthcare workers (86.1 percent) feel they have a good understanding of how AI is used in healthcare, compared to only 57 percent of patient respondents in the Carta Healthcare August 2023 healthcare AI consumer survey.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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