As we move into the 21st Century, the world is faced with a significant shortage of healthcare workers at all levels and in all areas of care, from private practice to hospice. This shortage is compounded by the demands put on these workers to understand, access, and use information technology to provide today’s expected levels of care. At the same time, the third-party payer system continues to exert pressure on the provider and the patient to reduce costs by requiring that they follow formulary, step therapy, prior authorization and compliance programs, to name a few.
Concurrently, providers are constantly squeezed and penalized financially for not following the ever-changing requirements of the payer. This is not even touching on the issues related to litigation, as well as the demands that large institutions put on the providers because of the pressure they face. For example, a significant number of Hospitals all over the world are faced with a major issue—how to reduce the errors that take place every day— errors that are measured not just in dollars, but also in harm to patients.
The problem is already sizable – The Institute of Medicine reported in a recent study that medication errors alone cause sickness, injury or death to at least 1.5 million patients in the U.S., at a conversation cost of $3.5 billion each year. And due to a combination of factors, the problem is growing at an alarming rate. Advancements in medicine are helping people live longer, resulting in a rapidly growing aging population – during the next 25 years, the over-65 population will increase five times faster than the under-65 segment, and over-85 is the fastest growing demographic. As this aging population grows and places increased demands on the world’s healthcare systems, a worldwide nursing shortage has reached crisis proportions. Due to an aging nursing workforce and fewer people choosing nursing as a career, 69 nations in every corner of the world are experiencing a shortage that affects the quality of healthcare, with a shortage of one million nurses in the United States alone predicted by the year 2020.
Understaffed nursing levels are already blamed for nearly one fourth of unanticipated events in hospitals that resulted in death, injury or permanent loss of function. How can today’s hospitals reduce errors when the current nursing shortage requires fewer nurses to cover more patients in less time? And what can hospitals do today to prepare for the impending increase in the nursing shortage in a world that will require more nursing services than ever?