Harnessing Technology To Solve Workforce Shortages And Burnout In Healthcare

By Susanne Hodges and Charlie Lougheed for Healthcare Business Today

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Every day, millions of healthcare professionals come to the aid of Americans. It’s what they do. It’s their job. But right now, those healthcare workers are in need of help. Workforce shortages are expected to grow over the next decade, leading to increased clinician burnout. Hospital systems already know this. But it’s an easier problem to identify than to address. A physician shortage of upwards of 140,000 is predicted by 2036. A recent report from the U.S. Chamber notes that by 2030, we can expect 42 of the 50 states to have a nursing shortage. Upwards of 70% of doctors in their 40s plan to retire early, in their 50s or early 60s. And, as Baby Boomers age and unhealthy lifestyles persist, demands on our healthcare system will increase. While we look for more long-lasting solutions to this workforce problem, health systems must look for immediate answers.

One way to bolster a healthcare workforce is with locum tenens or travel clinicians. It’s an essential method for filling healthcare supply and demand gaps. Locums grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be a popular option for clinicians due to the pay and flexibility these positions can offer. But, with growing workforce concerns, the process of placing locums must be expedited. Fortunately, this is achievable. 

Connected Networks And Automation Mean Faster Credentialing, Less Burden For Clinicians And Staff, And Improved Access To Care For Patients

Speed and efficiency are crucial in deploying locum tenens physicians. Each day a critical role or shift goes unfilled, existing staff must either stretch beyond capacity or, worse yet, be unable to treat a patient. 

Due to the complexity of locums’ backgrounds, their onboarding process can be cumbersome, repetitive, and arduous, mainly due to the credentialing and privileging requirements needed for each new position. Clinicians often have to repeatedly enter the same information into different forms, which is time-consuming for those with full-time positions.. Healthcare must advance to align with modern technological standards. It’s time for healthcare to catch up to modern technology. We don’t apply for car insurance and bank loans by entering everything about our past into forms; instead, those forms are auto-populated by existing information collected from online sources to ease the burden of a busy consumer and reduce errors and omissions. Our nation’s healthcare workers deserve the same convenience, and the credentialing staff that supports them need better data to do their jobs efficiently.  

While locums can be a more expensive option than a permanent hire,  in the long run, a clinician vacancy is far more costly for health systems compared to a temporary one. According to a Merritt Hawkins report, a physician generates over $9,000 in daily revenue for a healthcare system. With health systems facing closure and continuing to make difficult financial decisions every day, fast-tracking a locum to the bedside is financially advantageous for a healthy system in need.  

Technology exists to auto-populate a clinician’s information from thousands of data sources, slashing the paperwork and credentialing time in half. A speedier process that requires less paperwork reduces administrative burdens and leaves clinicians with more time to spend with patients. In order to truly impact this growing shortage, these age-old, manual processes need to be streamlined across the healthcare industry – from health systems to staffing agencies. The work done by LocumTenens.com and Axuall is one example of where technology and process re-engineering improved efficiency and clinician satisfaction by over 50%.

Clinician Phenotype

A phenotype is a medical term that defines a set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of it with the environment. Beyond adoption of solutions to increase onboarding speed, the aggregation of clinician data, and the development of clinician phenotypes can do more to empower and inform healthcare organizations. Clinician data allows for better matching. Insights into a clinician’s specialties, work history, and patient care patterns provide a more comprehensive view of a candidate for a role.. Health systems can use this data to deploy locum tenens clinicians based on their specific needs, and locum tenens agencies can, in turn, use this data to ensure a rich, relevant clinician candidate pool. 

Think of it in terms of any major league sport: when a team scouts and then drafts a new player. They are selected based on all available data regarding their skills, performance, and position. You don’t see baseball teams signing pitchers from one team to play first base on another. A clinician’s  phenotype provides information and insight for organizations to plan, recruit, and quickly deploy the best players for their care teams. 

When locum tenens placement agencies work closely with health systems, they can respond more quickly, accurately anticipate demand,  and ensure staffing solutions align with the health systems’ goals. In other words, every player gets placed in the best position. This collaborative approach is crucial for creating a more resilient healthcare workforce that can adapt to changing needs and challenges. Healthcare already uses patient big data to analyze and predict patterns; it’s time to do the same with clinician data. 


Looking ahead, the role of technology in healthcare staffing will continue to evolve. As healthcare facilities face increasing cost pressures, particularly around labor, there is a growing need for innovative solutions to maximize the efficiency of their workforce, both with employed staff and with locum tenens clinicians. Data is king. Any way data can create cost savings, fuel more informed decisions, and deliver a better working experience for clinicians and better patient care must be considered. Locum tenens may be a temporary solution for some health systems, but it’s a workforce solution that’s been around for decades. When coupled with the industry-wide adoption of innovative solutions, leveraging clinician big data the healthcare ecosystem can improve speed and effectiveness in clinician deployment and take the critical steps forward in proactively addressing clinician shortages. 

NPR’s Cool Science Radio Talks Workforce Intelligence

Axuall CEO Charlie Lougheed shares talks big data and workforce intelligence on NPR's Cool Science Radio.

Cool Science Radio

The intersection of healthcare and technology

By Lynn Ware PeekKatie Mullaly


Big data and workforce intelligence are transforming the healthcare industry and doing so just in time for an unprecedented shortage of healthcare workforce. Some predictions anticipate a physician shortage of upwards of 140,000 by 2036 and many states are already experiencing a nursing shortage. Technology can streamline the healthcare industry to make a clinician’s job far more efficient. Charlie Lougheed, the CEO of workforce intelligence company Axuall, explains how healthcare is changing. Listen Now!

Lynn Ware Peek
KPCW Co-Host / Producer
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Katie Mullaly
Cool Science Radio Co-Host
See stories by Katie Mullaly

Addressing Healthcare Workforce Shortages Beyond Band-Aids

Solving this problem will require a multi-pronged approach that includes recruitment, technology, and help from lawmakers.

By Charlie Lougheed 

MedCity News published on June 14, 2024

Healthcare is humans. A hospital is merely a building without physicians, nurses, cleaning teams, food service workers, volunteers, and everyone else who serves the patients inside. This industry of people makes up almost 20% of the United States economy, so when there is a people problem with healthcare, there is also an economic problem within the country. And all signs are pointing to the current workforce shortages becoming more problematic over the next decade. Some predictions anticipate a physician shortage of upwards of 140,000 by 2036. Meanwhile, a recent report from the US Chamber notes that by 2030, we can expect 42 of the 50 states to have a nursing shortage, a challenge many states are already experiencing. There’s no on-off switch to fix this problem, no way to simply create more clinicians. Solving this problem will require a multi-pronged approach that includes recruitment, technology, and help from lawmakers.


Congress isn’t blind to the grim predictions. Senator Tim Kaine recently introduced a bill called the “Welcome Back to the Health Care Workforce Act.” The proposed legislation aims to create easier pathways to employment for the approximately 270,000 immigrants in the United States with health-related degrees who are unemployed or underemployed. It’s a bold move, knowing that any legislation that touches on immigration is sure to be a lightning rod for debate. But we are in an all-hands-on-deck situation, and any pathway to alleviate the pressures our health systems are experiencing must be given serious and thoughtful consideration.  

To further clear this path, continued efforts should be made to alleviate the financial burden and prohibitive costs associated with healthcare-related education expenses. The costs range between $35-65K to receive a BSN in the U.S., while the costs associated with earning the initials “M.D.” soar above $220,000. As a country, if we’re willing to pay for the college education of those who serve in the military, we should equally commit ourselves to further developing grants and scholarships and explore legislative paths to fund the education of the people on the front lines of our emergency rooms, pediatrician offices, and nursing homes – regardless of their country of origin.


We can’t legislate our way out of the problem. Better, more impactful recruitment practices are absolutely essential. And I’m not talking about more LinkedIn messages from headhunters. We need a complete re-do to the approach. Think of the armed services. Remember those “Be all you can be” and “The few, the proud, the Marines” commercials? They were often shown at a welcoming career fair booth, where uniformed military members handed out glossy brochures and told stories of heroism. These tactics motivated young men and women to serve, and that framework is one that should be considered in healthcare. The U.S. healthcare system must find ways to excite young minds in high school and demonstrate opportunities that are both rewarding and attainable.

Workforce environment

Healthcare workers — from ER doctors to food service employees — have numerous competitive career opportunities. Whether it’s a competing health system or the Amazon warehouse the next town over, hospitals must prioritize a safe, supportive working environment to retain staff combating burnout at an alarming rate. 

As a society, we pin increased rates of burnout and clinician attrition to the pandemic, but the reality is that Covid-19 only exacerbated long-standing underlying causes. To address these issues, health systems must develop and implement policies, programs, and solutions that not only address and help prevent burnout but also educate staff to identify warning signs of burnout among their peers. 

Health systems should seek counsel from clinicians and build out perks accordingly. While encouraging paid leave, sick leave, and family leave, flexible and autonomous scheduling, and zero-tolerance policies to combat racism and discrimination sounds great in theory, these initiatives only attract and retain staff when implemented heartfeltly across the organization.

Additionally, these critical team members must have a seat at the table when discussing new policies and processes long before implementation. Whether it’s implementing a peer-to-peer mental health support group or introducing a new technology designed to streamline administrative workflows, clinician buy-in is no longer a nice to have.


Artificial intelligence is the fix for seemingly everything, but it will also play a role in addressing workforce shortages. By no means am I making any suggestions that AI will take the role of clinicians or the supporting healthcare staff. Where this high-powered computing will be most effective is crunching vast amounts of data to allow for better human decision-making. There are petabytes of data in healthcare, a chunk of which focuses on providers alone. Artificial intelligence can decipher trends and provide recommendations for health system executives to best use their workforce, even with shortages.

Useful tech goes beyond AI. There are forms of workforce intelligence that can simplify inefficiencies, like identifying and prioritizing hiring needs across a health system based on trending patient data. Or credentialing clinicians, a painfully slow process, taking weeks to months to complete. Introducing digital solutions to what is often done via fax machine will get more clinicians, whether in permanent roles or locums, to the patient’s bedside faster.  


The workforce of the largest industry in the largest economy is drowning. It needs a lifeline. It needs 10 lifelines. Demand for care is rising, and the current amount of clinicians will not satisfy that demand. There will be burnout. Some of the best, most compassionate people will be pushed to the brink and find other work. Healthcare will need a plan and help to keep this workforce afloat. It will need creative and nonpartisan solutions. And while it’s easy to focus on the money of this $4.5 trillion industry, it’s the quality of care that is at risk. To take care of our collective well-being in the future, we need to take care of our current clinical workforce now.

Photo credit: Chinnapong, Getty Images