laptop, stethescope

How artificial technology can combat clinical staffing shortages and burnout   

By Marie E. Lamont

 Many industries have faced staffing shortages and turnover as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Increased burnout among clinical staff brought on by high staff turnover has wide-reaching impacts, including clinical trial success rates. Each member of the clinical trial staff has a critical role in the research success, given the complex nature of drug development procedures, from feasibility evaluations to patient recruitment and retention. In a recent 2023 report on healthcare burnout, more than 50 percent of physicians and research staff feel the effects of pervasive burnout, and more than 61 percent say that too many bureaucratic tasks are the primary contributor.  

Addressing this issue is of critical importance to the patient population since randomized clinical trials (RCTs) continue to be the most reliable resource when developing treatment options. High turnover and burnout rates in 2022 can be remedied in 2023 by implementing intelligent technology solutions that enable precision medicine while reducing the burden on clinical staff. In fact, addressing burnout through technology is one of the key pillars released in the National Academy of Medicine’s Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being report.  

Role of budgetary constraints in burnout 

The impacts of COVID-19 have not only affected research staff, but it has also led to budgetary restraints, which compound the strain on clinical trial success. Between the rapid increase in inflation rates, supply chain disruptions, and profitability margins, lifesciences leaders are left with the task of simultaneously increasing the success of trials and decreasing its cost.  

In the past, adding new technology tools has been seen as an additional stressor on healthcare staff due to the cost and disjointed nature of the tools being used across the industry. However, with the introduction of technology interoperability regulations and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), implementing technology tools can significantly reduce the burden at every level of organization operations. It can also improve the success rates of clinical trials and accelerate the development of new treatment options for the patients who need them. 

How AI can help clinical staff enhance patient engagement 

One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to patient engagement and recruitment for clinical trials is at the patient-facing level. Physicians and clinical staff play a critical role in evaluating patient clinical records to determine if they might be a fit for clinical trials. Because of the bureaucratic tasks caused by staff shortages and legacy technology tools, more time is being spent on paperwork and manual data entry than actively engaging with the patient population. Leveraging precision healthcare tools driven by AI, clinicians can complete previously manual tasks in minutes instead of hours. Not only can this decrease one of the leading causes of burnout, but it also allows clinicians to focus on what led them to join the field in the first place, identifying the best treatment options for their patients. 

How AI enhances patient-matching and trial feasibility 

The process of matching patients to clinical trials based on the detailed protocols in place to ensure its success is incredibly time-consuming and tedious when done manually. Technology tools powered by AI enable the automated processing of massive datasets to identify patient matches based on biomarkers. Utilizing these tools will allow researchers to improve trial designs and determine the best sites for each trial. When each aspect of the clinical care and research ecosystem is able to work in concert, resource efficiency will result in meaningful improvements to morale and quality of work. 

Future outlook 

There’s no denying that one of the biggest threats to the healthcare field is staff burnout and subsequent shortages. The impact of stress is wide-reaching and have been felt by everyone, from patients to industry leaders. Addressing the logistical challenges that contribute to burnout will not be a cure-all for turnover in the medical field, but it can significantly reduce one of the leading causes. By utilizing innovative technology, the efficiency, accuracy, and success of clinical trials can dramatically increase and give hope to patients who rely on clinical trials to survive. 

Marie Lamont, IQVIA  Marie E. Lamont is VP global head, integrated health practice, real world technology solution at IQVIA.