How Software Can Help Public Health Departments Face Employee Shortages
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health departments have been at the forefront of efforts to blunt the spread of this deadly disease. They helped with testing, organized the vaccine response, and educated citizens on how to avoid catching the virus and prevent spreading it if you were infected. And, despite this massive increase in service, they still needed to maintain their other typical public health duties. There is a genuine danger that staff in these departments have reached, or are nearing, burnout and could leave their jobs. Keep in mind that the number of public health workers declined by over 15% in the decade before the pandemic.
There are 50 state health departments, around 2,800 local health departments, and more than 300 regional and district offices. A further drop in this vital human capital means these departments will no longer be able to function or offer the required level of services. A recent analysis of the situation says that to handle the increased demands and replace departed staff, these departments need to boost their workforce by 80%, or around 80,000 new workers. This will require a monumental recruitment effort and will require hiring many different types of specialists.
Adding to the challenge is the US unemployment rate dropped to 3.8% in February 2022, which the Federal Reserve classifies as full employment. This relatively low unemployment rate means that workers can choose from several employment opportunities or demand significantly higher wages. There is some help coming. The Biden Administration says it will invest $7.4 billion to recruit and train public health workers, but it will still take time to reach the 80,000-worker goal.
So, what can be done to help tide these departments over while new staff eventually come aboard? The simplest and cheapest solution is investing in technology that can streamline operations through automation. SSG offers several solutions that can ease the workload on employees while promoting the collection of data that can highlight areas of concern before they become a crisis.
SSG’s Public Health Data Management Solution (DMS) is designed to reduce the burden on organizations tasked with collecting and processing a high volume of data (both standard and non-standard). Today, many departments manually input this information, which can take time and lead to errors or incomplete data. DMS is a solution that can automate much of this work, like cleaning and verifying data plus many other workflow processes. The software can reconcile and harmonize data used to create insightful analytics.
Powerful software like DMS can help health units do more with less. Because it can eliminate a lot of manual labor, it frees up staff to focus on more critical tasks. By leveraging the data, leaders can make better, timely decisions and allocate resources to areas with the most need.
Public health departments faced the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. They helped with testing and vaccinations, but they also educated citizens about ways to stay protected and stop the spread, all on top of their pre-pandemic duties. As these departments move forward, they could face an ongoing worker gap, leading to severe problems. But, with the right software solution, they can do more with less until management can rectify the situation.