October 9, 2023
4 minute read

Is AI the Answer to Staff Shortages?

Zara Lord on AI: "We have junior nurses and doctors treating patients with the support and guidance of more senior team members, so why shouldn’t we use AI to support the work of clinicians?"
Is AI the Answer to Staff Shortages?
Written by
Published on
December 18, 2023

Zara Lord is an intensive care nurse who has combined her knowledge and experience of healthcare, nursing and tech to build uPaged - a healthcare workforce ecosystem that connects healthcare professionals to the opportunities they want, when they want them, in a more cost efficient, transparent, and informed manner that supports professional growth. Since launch, they've grown to a team of 20+, raised over $2M in capital and built an ecosystem of over 8,000 nurses and almost 200 healthcare facilities. 

Zara's interview on Kochie's Business Builders

Zara, what recent healthcare topic has grabbed your attention?

I’ve always been of the opinion that healthcare professionals can’t be replaced by machines, and while this still rings true, seeing the way Ai is now able to support clinicians in being more effective in their role is incredibly interesting to me. I recently learned that in a matter of seconds ChatGPT-4 is turning obscure medical shorthand from an examination into:

  1. a good quality clinical note
  2. a referral letter to a specialist
  3. an empathetically worded summary for the patient
  4. clinical decision support with prompts for further examinations recommended in the guidelines; and
  5. data from the notes being clinically coded using a clinical terminology.

Since the rollout of Clinical Information System and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), I’ve never felt more disconnected from my patients. We spend an inordinate amount of time on admin, so if Ai can do a better and faster job of the admin than I could, and I simply review it’s work, much like I would of a junior team member, and allow me to spend more time in patient facing work, then I’m here for it. We have junior nurses and doctors treating patients with the support and guidance of more senior team members, so why shouldn’t we use Ai to support the work of clinicians?

What do you believe are the most critical healthcare challenges today?

I believe that staffing continues to be the single greatest challenge facing healthcare today. 

Understaffing has been proven to negatively affect patient outcomes, staff morale and burnout. We are struggling to retain our experienced clinicians in an industry that not only needs them, but that they were once proud to serve. What should be a dignified and proud career, is more than many can bear. This can be solved through better staffing, career pathways, greater remuneration and greater career mobility for clinicians to find their place in a complicated system. 

I see a future healthcare where clinician time is such that administrative tasks are “not a good use of their time” while they focus on the more complex and critical elements of patient care. 

What was the catalyst moment for you to get involved in entrepreneurial healthcare?

I had quite a practical upbringing, growing up on a cattle station in remote north west Queensland. If we needed something fixed, we often fixed it ourselves. While working in nursing, I experienced first hand the challenges with on demand nursing, from both sides. I was receiving agency nurses I knew nothing about, and trying to allocate them to patients safely, and I worked as an agency nurse, stepping into other intensive care units and needing to prove myself quickly. The process felt broken - learning the amount of time that goes into staffing, and the high fees being charged by recruitment agencies, (much of which doesn’t go to the clinician) only to deliver non-specialised care to the patient. 

Why are you now considered an expert or mentor in the field you are in?

I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but over the past 5 years, with the support of my team, I’ve won contracts with large healthcare organisations, pitched to investors and raised capital, hired incredible people, product managed, learnt about financial modelling and done a lot of storytelling. I’ve learned when to get into the weeds of something, and when something isn't a good use of my time, and I’ve always tried to have fun while doing it. I hope that by clinicians seeing clinicians innovating, I can inspire more people to embark on solving some of the many challenges facing healthcare today.

About your AUSCEP Experience

I became a mentor in the AUSCEP program to support other clinicians going through the journey I’ve been on over the last 5 years. I’ve been so lucky with the people who have shown me support over this time, and hope that I can go a small way towards paying that forward. Innovating in healthcare is unlike that in any other industry, and there certainly isn’t a playbook for how it’s done. The AUSCEP program places clinicians in a room of clinical entrepreneurs who have been there and are doing that. The program coordinators take a very considered approach to pairing entrepreneurs with mentors who can help them with specific challenges while also being considerate of each mentor’s time. It’s a brilliant program and I highly recommend it. 

Which current participants or innovations have sparked your interest or excite you?

There are so many innovations I could list here, all of which are incredibly interesting and exciting, however the thing that has excited me more, is meeting the people who are throwing their hat in the ring to solve challenges that they are so passionate about. It’s learning about this why, and the story behind each innovation that gets me most excited.

You can learn more about Zara's journey & UPaged by heading to https://upaged.com/ or
finding Zara on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zara-lord-upaged
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