Why Flexibility Matters for Healthcare Facilities

The landscape of healthcare is shifting under our noses. Between volatile case counts and rapid developments with healthcare technology, “sticking to what you know” just doesn’t cut it. Instead, healthcare facilities must adapt to the innovations and changes made in recent years. They have to build for and encourage a flexible approach and framework for the operations. Only then can they cut down on needless costs while simultaneously improving patient outcomes. What exactly does this entail, however? What does flexibility in healthcare look like? What does this mean for the workers and patients involved in the process? To find out all this and more, read on.

Defining flexibility

Flexibility can mean different things to different people. Before moving forward, it pays to define the term within its context. In the world of healthcare, a flexible operation can adapt or shift its functions to the current needs of both the patients and the employees. This could mean adapting new technologies to speed up operations, improve failure to rescue ratios while reducing the physical and mental burden on the HCP. Measures to promote work-life balance would also fall under this, as it is a pressing issue currently affecting a good number of the nursing population.

Ideally, a healthcare facility possess the following crucial attributes, to ensure flexible and smooth operations:

  • Versatility is the ability to utilize a space or tool for multiple purposes with zero adjustments.
  • Modifiability allows facilities to tweak spaces or objects with minimum input or assistance from facilities and contractors.
  • Convertibility is repurposing a space for completely new use and commonly requires some heavy renovation and assistance.
  • Scalability is the capacity for a space to change in its size or capacity, depending on the facility’s current demands.

Key Examples

What does a “flexible healthcare facility” look like? What are the measurable advantages to embracing current technologies and shifting the very framework of your operations? To answer this question, we will go over a number of flexible healthcare measures and how they boost the effectiveness of patient care.

Expanding telemedicine services

The pandemic turned healthcare facilities upside down, in a number of ways. At the height of COVID case counts, patients were unable to leave their own homes for the healthcare guidance that they needed. Though social distancing has eased up, more immunocompromised individuals are still rightfully hesitant to leave their own houses for any treatment that is not immediately life-threatening. No matter how far we distance ourselves from the COVID pandemic, there will still be a sense of uncertainty and anxiousness.

In response, an increasing number of hospitals have set up or expanded upon their telemedicine services. Patients can now consult their doctors through phone calls, emails or video chats without having to go in-person for each session. Between patients who cannot afford to go outside, and working individuals who cannot fit a check-up within their busy schedules, it is little wonder that telemedicine has gained such prominence over the past few years. In November 2021, the telehealth industry grew up to 38% compared to where it was pre-pandemic.Adopting these services lets facilities operate more flexibility and efficiently with this specific, but prominent group of patients.

Better data management technology

For as long as healthcare has been around, patients have entrusted their sensitive information to the healthcare facilities, in order to facilitate the most accurate diagnoses and best treatment possible. In return, it is up to these hospitals and offices to secure this data as best as they can, while letting it remain easily accessible to approved staff and personnel. Back then, these files were stored in large rooms filled with files and file cabinets. However, the onset of the digital revolution has changed operations forever. More and more facilities are adapting IT solutions to securely store data through cloud services.

More traditional-minded individuals may be intimidated, but the benefits are numerous. With just a phone or a laptop, critical patient data can be shared, or accessed instantaneously, as opposed to hastily sorting through an avalanche of folders. None of this convenience comes at the cost of security, since files can be safely protected with password-encryption among other security measures. Storing digital data makes operations far more scalable as well, since it is easier to store numerous digital files than it is to make space for increasingly more paperwork. Finally, in the event of a data breach or an outage, most cloud systems come with extensive backup solutions that lets you recover critical documents with minimum hassle. More widespread adoption of these secure digital information technologies leads to more flexibility in the long run.

Flexible staffing solutions

The pandemic pushed facilities to their breaking points. Hospitals were overworked, understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the sudden surge of COVID patients. Simply hiring more full time nurses was not an option, as the facilities will become overstaffed once the case counts start to plummet. Facilities would then have to contend with excessive labor costs for a minimum return. It was clear that something needed to be done, in order to find the perfect middle ground. In response, hospitals turned to hiring more per diem nurses. Over the past two years, facilities across the country have spent billions of dollars on nurse staffing agencies alone.

Instead of recklessly onboarding a number of full time hires, facilities now have the scalability to bring in extra help as needed, for a defined period of time. HCPs also benefited from this arrangement, as per diem nurses were paid more favorably compared to their full time counterparts. Nurse staffing agencies benefitted the most early on, but innovative platforms like Vitawerks brought nurse staffing to new heights. With advanced AI technology, facilities can now be matched with the best qualified nurses in just a matter of hours. Whether it is a sudden vacancy or a full time nurse using their vacation time, facilities now have the flexibility to account for sudden manpower shortages at a moment’s notice.

A Wise Investment

Making such adjustments to a healthcare facility’s operations will not come cheap. Facilities must invest a number of resources to make the changes necessary to achieve flexibility. Though daunting at first, this move pays dividends in the future. It lets companies seamlessly adjust to changing patient and healthcare technology trends. Flexible facilities can change their operations as needed, improve both their efficiency and the quality of patient outcomes across the board. Establishing a flexible framework will be essential for the healthcare industry to continue thriving in the future.