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HR Technology's Role in Health Care Is Growing

A female doctor using a tablet in an office.

​Nurses and their HR and information technology (IT) colleagues expect future-of-work initiatives to shake up the health care system over the next decade. Bigger investments in technology will be a key factor in enhancing team collaboration, improving performance, and boosting engagement and retention efforts, recent surveys found.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated interviewed 152 registered nurses, 101 HR leaders and 102 IT executives at health care organizations. Most respondents (93 percent of HR executives, 92 percent of hospital IT leaders and 89 percent of nurses) expect that by 2025, the health care industry will have undergone a substantive change in how it is staffed.

"All three groups were quite aligned in how they describe the future of work and how they describe the value that the future of work will bring to health care," said Nanne Finis, chief nurse executive at Kronos. "As we look at further digitalization, more technology will be in the hands of care providers, and it needs to meet those care providers where they are working."

Another study by The Workforce Institute and Regina Corso Consulting reveals that while good-paying jobs have been an attraction for nurses, in a tight labor market, HR executives in health care are emphasizing competitive employee benefits (75 percent), work/life balance (74 percent), schedule flexibility (62 percent), professional development opportunities (59 percent) and investment in modern workplace technology (52 percent) to appeal to job candidates.

While the digital experience will be critical, less than half (41 percent) of HR executives and 34 percent of nurses feel strongly that their organization currently provides tools and resources that empower them to perform to their fullest potential.

What is also striking is that human capital management (HCM) systems are increasingly being relied on to drive future-of-work initiatives. More than half of hospital HR executives turn to HCM solutions to help them track employee skills, certifications, and licensures (56 percent); automate the recruiting process (55 percent); and integrate payroll with HR and workforce management tools (54 percent).

Additionally, half of HR executives say these technologies help with the following functions, which makes their job easier:

  • Managing benefit compliance (50 percent).
  • Setting up, configuring, modifying and managing multiple benefit plan types (50 percent).
  • Sourcing candidates (49 percent).

However, more work needs to be done. Only 1 in 5 HR executives (21 percent)—and even fewer IT staff (12 percent) and nurses (11 percent)—report being "very satisfied" with the HCM technologies they currently use.

Thirty-two percent of HR executives say their organization is actively talking about future-of-work initiatives, and many of those initiatives will mean more investments in technology over time. In fact, nearly all HR executives polled in the Workforce Institute and Regina Corso Consulting survey (97 percent) believe it's important for organizations to consider the digital experience it offers employees.

As digital transformation continues to take hold across health care organizations, Finis said intelligent automation will free HR managers and other executives from many of their administrative tasks, and the data from these systems will have an impact on how HR managers carry out their daily duties.

"HR executives will have more time to give to their employees," she said. "They will also have data that will bring more informed decisions to bear. I think the real twist of this study is [uncovering] how are people preparing, what needs will they have and what are those initiatives that they should be preparing for to be ready to be successful in the future."

Another study released by HCA Healthcare gauged the sentiments of Millennial and Generation Z nurses when evaluating current and future work opportunities. The study, which polled a total of 1,250 U.S. respondents (1,000 nurses who are Millennials, ages 23-39, and 250 respondents from Generation Z, ages 18-22, who are training to become nurses) found that technology, specifically mobile platforms, are critical to improve job performance.

Forty-one percent of respondents said a mobile app that allows them to chart their own career path through matching with a company mentor, giving and receiving recognition, displaying accomplishments and staying updated on health-related news or articles helps improve their performance.

Thirty-nine percent said their performance can be enhanced through virtual nurse assistant technology that can record and document patient interactions, so they can focus on the patient instead of the paperwork involved with admission, assessment or discharge. Additionally, 36 percent said a mobile platform that allows them to consult with more-experienced nurses during new or unfamiliar situations would improve their work.

At Louisville, Ky.-based Hosparus Health, a provider of hospice care in 41 counties in Kentucky and Indiana, 250 nurses who work remotely use the Ceridian Dayforce HCM software platform to document case management tasks.

Melissa Merrifield, vice president of human resources at Hosparus Health, noted that while there are challenges when implementing new technology, such as resistance to change and a long adoption curve, especially among older nurses, health organizations have to keep in mind that care providers want to provide meaningful patient care.

"Nurses, doctors and other health care providers don't want a computer screen to distract them from being able to have conversations while they are assessing their patients," she said. "Being able to provide meaningful care is where they get their joy. When we start inserting technology as a barrier to that is when we see a lot of our burnout." 

As more technology is introduced to HCM platforms, Merrifield said HR leaders will have to invest in smarter systems that will address future needs. She said this year her organization will offer its employees Dayforce's learning management system and its on-demand pay module. 

"We have been mindful of the disruption that is created when we change systems, and so we've really tried to say, 'If we're going to change, let's make it count. Let's pick the right HCM so that two years from now, we are not back at this table having this discussion and thinking about changing again,' " she said.

Providence St. Joseph Health, based in Renton, Wash., is using a digital training platform for its clinicians. Johnny Hamilton, senior learning designer and innovation consultant for Providence St. Joseph, said advancements in technology give HR leaders better opportunities to influence C‑level executives by connecting learning to analytics, which are tied to business outcomes.

"It hasn't been until about five years ago that we have actually been able to connect the dots so that we can connect learning to business outcomes," he said. "We do that through data analytics, artificial intelligence and integrating different systems through application programming interface software," he said. "Now we can connect learning to a variety of other business metrics and key performance indicators, and we can actually say that when we move the needle with these learning interventions, it actually changes business outcomes."


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