Report shows staffing levels, burnout and rising healthcare costs are top concerns for Pacific Northwest healthcare workers – State of Reform

The top three concerns for healthcare workers in the Pacific Northwest are staffing levels, provider/staff burnout, and rising health care costs, according to a recent study.

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Schwabe and The Business Journals surveyed healthcare professionals to gain a better understanding of the state of the industry, both now and in the future, and provide key insights into industry trends and growth opportunities. The State of Healthcare in the Pacific Northwest report examines the experiences and concerns of 600 healthcare executives, providers, employees and patients.

I was happy to see how positive the findings were, overall, on the state of health care in the Northwest, he said Anne Talcott, Healthcare and Life Sciences group leader at Schwabe. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified some problems that already existed. But it also showed that industry could respond. The use of telehealth and the implementation of technological advances may have taken longer if the pandemic had not occurred. There was a lot of optimism.

The majority of patients who responded to the survey said they were at least somewhat satisfied with the quality of care, convenience and affordability of the healthcare they received. Oregon ranked highest in quality of care, with 86% of respondents reporting satisfaction, compared to 77% in Washington.

Patients in Oregon and Washington had different opinions about negative impressions of health care. Oregon respondents were at least 15 percent more concerned about costs, lack of access, and understanding of health-related records. Nearly 10 percent more of Washington residents say unequal access to care among various socioeconomic and racial groups drives their negative perceptions of the industry.

Respondent comments suggested that increased price transparency, promotion of health literacy, and incentives to support positive behaviors can motivate patients to become more active in their health care.

Understaffing and employee burnout outweighed the concerns of all respondents. The report found that 72 percent of Northwest healthcare providers said the continued shortage of providers and trained/experienced staff will be the biggest trend affecting the industry over the next one to two years.

Kelly Riggs, an employment attorney and member of the Schwabes Healthcare and Life Sciences group, said several factors are impacting the healthcare workforce in the United States.

A number of people are dropping out of healthcare careers, Riggs said. And suppliers and staff need more time off work. They are having their own health issues.

Various recruiting/staffing initiatives could help improve the challenges, Riggs said. Oregon House Bill 2697 intends to implement minimum standards of nurse-patient staffing at hospitals. The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems and state unions initially disagreed on the bill, but two parties recently came to an agreement compromised in supporting it.

That bill aims to ensure hospitals have minimum levels of nursing staffing at all times, Riggs said. Many hospitals have difficulty hiring and recruiting staff. This bill would increase staffing levels. It should help alleviate daily burnout if and when it is implemented.

Talcott noted that one-third of respondents identified the use of technology as another way to reduce healthcare employee burnout.

Telehealth has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic, and even using the technology to increase workflow allows staff to treat more patients and improve the staff-patient relationship, Talcott said. Things like patient portals for intake and workflow enable faculties to improve the staff-patient relationship. However, one challenge may be access. Rural areas struggle with internet access.

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