Can better ultrasound workflows lead to better healthcare employee retention?

Clinician sits in hallway, frustrated with workflows and experiencing burnout

In today’s healthcare landscape, staff satisfaction isn’t just a feel-good metric; it directly impacts the bottom line. When good employees leave organizations, there isn’t just the incalculable loss of expertise. There are costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training a new employee — in addition to filling in gaps with expensive contract workers. It’s no wonder that staff retention in healthcare tops the list of industry challenges.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the United States alone lost more than 500,000 healthcare employees each month in 2022.¹

The financial implication of poor employee retention in healthcare is as concerning, with the average cost of replacing an employee ranging between six to nine months of that individual’s salary. For a specialized healthcare professional, the costs are even higher, reaching up to 200% of their annual salary.¹  As a result, hospitals are losing millions of dollars each year due to high turnover rates, with the average hospital losing $7.1 million in 2021 alone according to Becker’s Hospital CFO Report.²

Why is retention an issue if healthcare?

There are many reasons that clinicians and other healthcare personnel are heading for the doors. Long hours, lack of flexibility, and overwhelming stress are common factors contributing to burnout. These combine with the fact that many are spending less and less time doing what they went into medicine for—spending time with patients. Rather than focusing on patient care, clinicians often find themselves inundated with computer work, seemingly endless clicks, and time-consuming administrative tasks, spending an average of 15.6 hours per week on non-clinical duties

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce points to inefficient workflows, burdensome documentation requirements, and inconsistent protocols that exacerbate the exodus. These can lead to both negative patient outcomes and diminished job satisfaction.

Sonographers know these issues all too well. With 81% of health systems in the US reporting radiology technologist shortages4, burnout is a very real concern. Additionally, due to the nature of their work, 90% of sonographers experienced work-related musculoskeletal disorders.5 Streamlined ultrasound workflows with fewer clicks are one part of the solution.

What are hospitals doing to retain staff?

Efficient workflows and standardized protocols can go a long way to ease burdens on healthcare teams, and ultrasound workflows are one area where improvements may lead to better staff satisfaction.

Thanks to advances in ultrasound digital tools and AI-enabled protocols, non value-add tasks are becoming automated and simplified. The ability to easily flow data and create reports results in fewer clicks — and means that care teams can spend more time focusing on the patient rather than the platform.

The echo lab at Mount Sinai Medical Center has used GE HealthCare’s ViewPoint™ 6 software to standardize ultrasound reporting and improve efficiency. The flow of information has been streamlined and improved according to cardiologist Dr. Christos Mihos, director of Mt. Sinai’s echo lab. Mihos notes, “It allows us to get through the studies that we need and treat the patients in a timely manner. We can then easily provide the referring docs, whether they're cardiologists, surgeons or structural interventionalists, with the information that they need quickly and efficiently.”

An additional challenge for sonographers is when ultrasound machines aren’t standardized and consistently updated. Operators need to know that when they start an encounter with a patient, they won’t be left trying to work with an unfamiliar or outdated interface. Fleets of units dispersed across locations that aren’t all updated consistently cause lost time and frustration for both care team and patient. The advent of remote fleet management addresses the challenge of inconsistent ultrasound workflow and machine configurations across multiple locations leading to improved efficiency.

St. Luke’s University Health Network recently deployed GE HealthCare’s Verisound™ Fleet technology to enable greater standardized care for their patients across 300 sites and 15 campuses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Cincinnati Children’s also benefits from the assurances that Verisound Fleet provides. “You don't want certain availability on one machine and then not have that same ability on the next; that creates confusion,” said Paula Bennett, Cincinnati Children’s ultrasound radiology manager.

Fostering collaboration and connection

Many clinicians work in several locations and are not consistently connected to peers, colleagues, mentors and supervisors. This lack of connectedness can impact everything from training and growth to job satisfaction. Again, collaboration technology like GE HealthCare’s Digital Expert Connect can help foster these connections and support workers spread out geographically throughout a system.

Imagine a practitioner in a remote rural clinic easily consulting with a specialist at an academic hospital. The patient doesn’t have to risk travel to get the care she needs and she doesn’t have to wait for the expert to travel to her.

Interoperable, human-centered technology

For healthcare organizations, employee retention is a problem.  In this resource-constrained environment, improving staff retention in healthcare organizations is critical for patient care, effective and efficient operations, and cost controls.

Healthcare institutions would be well served to heed the advice from the 2022 Surgeon General’s Advisory which, among other solutions, suggests, “Reducing administrative and other workplace burdens helps health workers make time for what matters. This must include reducing administrative and documentation burdens, ensuring health information technology that is human-centered, interoperable, and equitable.”

Do your ultrasound workflows need a refresh? GE Healthcare's Verisound Ultrasound Digital & AI Solutions are focused on solving and simplifying ultrasound workflow problems - so clinicians can do what they do best: care for patients. 

1. The Real Costs of Healthcare Staff Turnover, Oracle, March 22, 2023
2. Hospitals average 100% staff turnover every 5 years, Beckers Hospital CFO Report, January 3, 2023
3. Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2021: The Recovery Begins, Medscape
4. “Radiology Staffing Shortages Nation Wide?”, AHEC online, Sept 27, 2021
5. Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders In Sonography, Society Of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Susan Murphey, https:// full/10.1177/8756479317726767