A few weeks ago, we suggested 7 ways that Tech Sector companies could survive during the crisis. One was to offer a service for free to markets in need. Lokko has done precisely that, offering its mobile job app for locum healthcare workers, free to hospitals and clinics.
Wanted: healthcare workers
Recently, in an attempt to bolster healthcare resources, PM Scott Morrison automatically listed 40,000 retired doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists as able to return to the system.
According to the same SMH article, medical graduates are applying for practitioner registration ‘in droves’ too, and final year medical students have been asked to consider entering hospital service early.
The NSW Government is retraining physiotherapists to be available to fit ventilators to those suffering severe COVID-19, so doctors can be freed up for others in Intensive Care Units.
These developments highlight the shortage of qualified medical staff caused by the crisis, and the importance of boosting resources quickly to contain the pandemic.
Mobile app for practices and practitioners
Lokko is a mobile app which helps clinics and hospitals (practices) to find locums (part-time practitioners) and locums to find jobs and shifts, in particular for doctors and physiotherapists. The app is well-placed to help out and, by offering its service free during the crisis, its creators can really make a difference.
As Nick Batchelor, co-founder of Lokko, says: ‘We think it’s very important to lend a hand to the healthcare sector right now, and we’re very happy to do it. Every helping hand counts’.
How does Lokko work?
Lokko is a job board’ where practices can post shifts. Practitioners can easily search, receive alerts and apply so the two parties can find each other, quickly and cost-effectively. In the COVID-19 context, speed and ease of use are vital.
Practitioners can upload their certifications and other details and both parties can chat. The app isn’t restricted to locums either; it’s also suitable for permanent positions. It’s a matter of clicking one choice or the other.
Practices can create listings that only their team of practitioners can see, or they can tap into the entire database and open the opportunity to everyone on Lokko. This ‘team’ function allows for better management of short-term gaps as well as relieving over-worked or sick staff. “We’ve heard of some practices taking a photo of a spreadsheet and texting it to their database, so the app streamlines that process immensely,” said Batchelor
How else can this be done?
So, do practices and practitioners find each other now?
One alternative is for practices to list their roles on major job seeker sites, but there’s a chance of receiving no responses or an avalanche of unsuitable ones. More than that, this approach isn’t suited to filling shifts quickly, when staff get sick or are forced into isolation due to COVID-19. Lokko also provides a number of industry-specific aspects that make a generic job board archaic. There are future plans to expand the functionality of the app to allow for better scheduling, more streamlined verification processes and reviews.
More staff, same money
Another option for practices is to use healthcare recruiters; the problem here is that each only has its own candidate database, and it can take many weeks to find a suitable candidate. This option is also not well-suited to short-term placements or filling vacant shifts due to unforeseen illness or isolation. It can simply be too expensive for a small clinic to hire a recruiter to fill a short-term placement. The result is that patient appointments are pushed back, and clinic owners and staff are put under extreme pressure to make up the lost appointment time, somewhere and somehow.
Then there’s the recruiting fee. According to Batchelor, ‘Going the recruitment route can be slow and costly. We’ve had hospitals tell us that for every placement fee they pay, they could employ an extra member of staff. Considering the critical shortage of staff in the healthcare sector, fees like this are a huge drain on the sector and the public purse. Our goal is to halve recruitment costs in the first 12 months of a hospital coming on board, and then halve it again in the next 12 months.’
Single central database
The advantage of Lokko is that it’s a central database of jobs and practitioners, not limited by existing relationships or databases.
At the moment, Lokko is focused on doctors and physiotherapists in clinics and hospitals, but it could easily expand to other therapies and to nursing, a very large pool of in-demand practitioners.
Another area of demand is Aged Care, where extra doctors and therapists are already in high demand and short supply. During COVID-19, the sector is under even more strain and, being able to find available staff at short notice cost-effectively, is even more important.
For many physiotherapists, COVID-19 has had a different impact; unless the therapy is essential, many patients are cancelling sessions causing some practices to close. These trained resources could easily be mobilised in hospitals, by making their availability known via Lokko.
The healthcare sector is a demanding one with high burnout rates for practitioners, even in non-COVID-19 times. Right now, staff are under even greater strain with longer hours and higher risks.
Being able to access a bigger pool of part-time practitioners, quickly and cost-effectively while resting others, is a big bonus for hospitals and clinics. And the more practices and practitioners listed on Lokko, the greater the benefit to everyone.
This is another inspiring example of a local software company helping others in times of crisis. I wish Nick and the team every success with Lokko.