A mini revolution is already underway in Israel. Many hospitals are beginning to adopt high-tech solutions and a forward-looking mindset when planning their annual budgets. Yes, this new approach was jump-started in part because of the Covid 19 crisis, but this is only the beginning. It is time for hospitals to prepare for the next big public healthcare challenge, which will surely come.
Now that the Corona Virus is pretty much behind us, masks have come off — in open spaces at least — and despite the recent localized outbreaks, there is an atmosphere of “return to normal” in the air. This is the time to prepare for the next major healthcare crisis. Covid 19 is already passe. In Israel today, the emphasis is on getting back to daily routines.
Indeed, hospitals have returned to the familiar routine of maneuvering between insufficient budgets, poor operational management and blurred boundaries between patient care and administrative duties. A return to routine means hospitals will continue to provide medical services at the inadequate level it was at before Covid 19, while the challenge is to improve the system so that it works more efficiently on a daily basis and be ready to deal with future security and epidemiological emergencies that will surely come.
Each of us has a friend or acquaintance who works at a medical center, or a relative who has received medical services at a hospital. At the end of the day, we all want nurses to deal less with administrative issues and concentrate more on patient care, for physicians to be compensated better for their dedication and for the State to budget more than it currently does to healthcare. But, and this is a big “but,” the media dictates the agenda. Even now in the aftermath of Covid 19, we are not seeing journalists rushing to conduct in-depth reporting on the state of our medical institutions. Politicians have stopped praising our dedicated medical professionals on the morning talk shows and the directors of our healthcare institutions are also disappearing from TV studios. The “15 minutes of fame” that the Israeli healthcare system enjoyed has come to an end and with them the promises of larger budget allocations.
One of the greatest tests of the Corona Virus pandemic was its logistical and operational challenges, which exposed the soft underbelly of medical centers in Israel, with its underperforming managerial and logistic capabilities. Hospitals will continue to “pick up the pieces,” and address the systemic shortcomings revealed by the pandemic. The real battle must start now as the Israeli healthcare system prepares for the next public health crisis, the next war, or the next natural disaster.
As with any great endeavor, we will start with an assessment of what to preserve and what needs improvement. Hospitals’ logistical and operational management failures in light of the Covid 19 pandemic has revealed the need for high-tech solutions. At the beginning of the epidemic (for those who have already forgotten) we dealt extensively with the shortage of tests, respirators, protective gear and the complexities of vaccine transport and storage. The media reporting at the time paid less attention to therapeutic and clinical aspects. There is no doubt as to the dedication and professionalism of the medical staff at all levels. But what about helping them streamline the processes? Fewer stickers and forms and more automated, technology-based solutions from the high-tech country of the Middle East?
Automating many of the operational aspects of a medical center can significantly reduce hospital staff time on administrative tasks, which will improve our health systems and help us deal with the next public health threat with sensitivity and determination — just like the brothers and sisters in hospitals who work tirelessly every day and every night, especially during the recent pandemic. They deserve recognition in their own right and not to be seen as in the shadows of the physicians.
It’s hard to believe, but about one third of nurses’ time spent on their duties is typically not related to patient care at all. Nursing staff constantly maneuver between patients’ needs, doctors’ orders, administrative documentation and countless logistical tasks. Quality patient care often suffers. Duties unrelated to patient care should be offloaded from the nursing team to other parties. Manual processes can become automated processes and traditional communication and documentation can go digital.
Not all is grim. A mini-revolution has already begun, with many hospitals adopting a more high-tech oriented mindset as they plan next year’s underfunded budgets. The recent pandemic triggered a new openness to funding technology-based solutions. It is just a start. Meanwhile, for those who missed it, during the Covid 19 crisis, robots helped communicate with isolated patients and work processes were improved thanks to digital solutions. While important aids to the overworked staff, these measures were reactive rather than pro-active. This is exactly where state and private healthcare systems can be smarter. It is time for hospitals to demand progress and prepare for the next challenge.