GPOs are adding value to the lives of healthcare workers

Addressing the industry trends that contribute to burnout, stress, and retention issues across the healthcare workforce.

HSCA – October 2022 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

By Todd Ebert, R.Ph., President and CEO of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA)

The American Hospital Association wrote to the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March to express their concern about the healthcare workforce shortage in hospitals, calling it a “national emergency.” In their statement, AHA projected that the shortage of nurses will reach 1.1 million by the end of 2022 and that the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033 and 3.2 million lower-wage healthcare workers by 2027.

Indeed, healthcare workers continue to endure the physical and emotional toll of caring for sicker, more complex patients. The number of COVID-19 cases may ebb and flow over time, but the healthcare system will continue to see a rise in patient acuity well past the worst waves of the pandemic. These industry trends all contribute to burnout, stress, and retention issues across the healthcare workforce. As a key partner to virtually all of America’s 7,000+ hospitals and 68,000+ non-acute care facilities, healthcare GPOs and the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA) are leading efforts to address the root causes of the healthcare workforce crisis.

Improving supply chain workflow for nurses

In February, two-thirds of U.S. hospitals had a nurse vacancy rate of 7.5% or more. Nursing staff, specifically registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs), are critical staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Nurses play an important role in procuring and documenting medications and supplies, which can become increasingly difficult when faced with shortages, heavy utilization, and backorders. An industry survey showed that supply chain issues led approximately 20% of nurses to say they considered leaving their current role. HSCA member GPO HealthTrust has worked with industry leaders to develop a nurse-centric supply chain model that includes standardizing supply and equipment processes, streamlining procedures for gathering and tracking supplies through technology, and minimizing the impact of shortages and supply substitutions with additional supply chain personnel to support nurses and other staff. HealthTrust also works with their members to ensure a consistent supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers to help them stay safe on the job. One HealthTrust provider member called the PPE supply channel “the most stable part of the supply chain today” thanks to their work with HealthTrust, which allows them to access key industry insights and get ahead of potential disruptions.

Responding to industry concerns and reimagining care delivery

According to a recent survey of more than 100 leaders representing 92 health systems across the country by HSCA member GPO Vizient, workforce retention is their most pressing challenge. To meet this challenge, Vizient member hospitals have introduced remote monitoring and tele-sitting programs to provide additional support for their existing staff. Using video and voice technology, nurses can help manage patient care by answering call lights, monitoring IV sites, and contacting other care team members when needed. This new model of care monitoring has led to higher engagement among team members, lower burnout rates, and additional training opportunities for new staff. Patients are also receiving care in a timelier manner and mortality rates have decreased due to early intervention when a patient shows signs of deterioration.

Advocating for safety in healthcare workplaces

In June 2022, federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would increase workplace protections for healthcare workers in response to an uptick in violence and threats against them across the U.S. The bipartisan Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act would establish legal penalties for assaulting or intimidating healthcare employees. Alongside the American Hospital Association and Federation of American Hospitals, HSCA members Children’s Hospital Association and Vizient voiced support for the legislation, citing the trauma that workers suffer from when they experience physical and verbal abuse in the workplace. HSCA member GPOs recognize that the safety and well-being of healthcare workers is a priority and will continue to advocate for policies and practices that strengthen healthcare workplace protections.

Delivering savings that allow for employee incentives

Healthcare group purchasing organizations continue to drive savings for hospitals and other care facilities as they face financial challenges in the wake of the pandemic. The savings GPOs provide allow their member providers to allocate additional funding to retaining, recruiting, training employees, especially those with specialty certifications or expertise in high demand. A report by the San Diego Workforce partnership recommended a significant $128 million investment in training for thousands of mental health workers to bolster staffing in area hospitals and health systems. To encourage nurses to work in-state, the University of Wisconsin health system is offering nurses $100 more per hour if they work extra shifts as part of the organization’s internal travel program. These incentives are made possible by healthcare stakeholders like GPOs who deliver critical savings to hospitals, surgery centers, community health clinics, ambulatory care centers, nursing homes, and more.

It’s more important than ever to recognize the value of healthcare workers and ensure that they receive the resources, compensation, and support they deserve – quality patient care and safety depends on it. HSCA and its member GPOs remain committed to ensuring that providers can deliver efficient and timely care to patients.

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