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How do you balance understaffing during the pandemic? By turning data Into knowledge blog image

How do you balance understaffing during the pandemic? By turning data into knowledge

by Dr. Nasim Afsar

Published on 5/5/2022

Before joining Cerner, I was the chief operating officer at a healthcare delivery system and saw firsthand how COVID-19 impacted healthcare. Cases were high. We were constantly concerned if enough rooms were available in the intensive-care unit or enough caregivers were on staff to provide adequate care. This constant concern fueled burnout across health professionals.

COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the many opportunities we have to improve healthcare, including leveraging real-time data. The more data we can translate into insights, the better we can help healthcare providers and teams with patient care and administrative functions reduce challenges such as staffing and scheduling.

One of the major improvements can come from creating insights to predict and proactively understand staffing requirements to address the needs of patients. 

Cerner has invaluable near-real-time data insights that can help. The Lights On Network® analyzes millions of de-identified patient records to continue to elevate medical care. The data has helped predict and realize when a surge was beginning and when ranges returned to “normal” – both from operations and clinician-satisfaction perspectives. Information is gathered during daily monitoring of inpatient and outpatient visits, census, COVID-19 test numbers and other factors.

During the most recent peak of COVID-19, our teams focused on five physician specialties to understand the staffing impact across our healthcare delivery partners in the U.S.: Emergency Department, Surgery, Critical Care, Hospitalists and Infectious Disease. While more patients were represented across those specialties, two specialties saw significant increases:

  • Infectious disease providers saw 23.5% more patients compared to pre-pandemic levels (many saw 30% more).
  • Critical care providers saw 10.4% more patients compared to pre-pandemic levels (many saw 30% more).
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Additional data showed we could help our healthcare delivery partners predict workflows needed when cases surged. Data also helped identify clinicians who had stayed after hours or took work home – enabling leadership to reach out to them for extra support ahead of burnout.

“Utilizing powerful tools such as Lights On Network, we know is going to be to the benefit of the patient, the provider and, ultimately, the community we serve.” – Anthony Uy, Chief Medical Information Officer, Charleston Area Medical Center.

With COVID-19 numbers vacillating across the globe, and as we continue to learn more about long-term effects, we understand more than ever the power of predictive insights. Together, we can transform and improve the practice of medicine.

Nasim Afsar, MD, MBA, is the chief health officer at Cerner.