The healthcare sector is grappling with a momentous challenge — a severe shortage of nursing and other admin and medical staff. This deficit, already a significant issue, was further exacerbated by the 2020 pandemic and has carried on into 2023, leading to the largest dip in nursing employment in over four decades. To address this, health administrators and staffing agencies are increasingly turning to gig economy apps to meet the rising demand for flexibility, autonomy, and better compensation from nursing and supporting staff. These apps open the door to a wider labor market and present an attractive alternative to conventional temporary staffing agencies.

However, the gig economy model introduces a certain level of uncertainty, particularly around the reliable and timely payments for filled shifts, posing a risk for healthcare institutions. As a result, many organizations are exploring additional or alternative incentives to retain existing staff and attract new talent. One such innovative solution is real-time payments, or payments processed as close to real-time as possible.

As the gig marketplace for hiring nurses and supporting staff continues to burgeon, it is anticipated that this competitive hiring landscape will persist. Prompt or instantaneous payments have proven to be a compelling hiring tool in other gig marketplaces, and it is likely to hold the same allure in the healthcare sector. As healthcare firms revamp their customer-facing payment platforms, they should also consider upgrading their payroll systems to enable such options. This could prove to be a game-changer in the high-stakes environment of the current staff shortages.

But the gig economy in healthcare is not limited to just nursing staff. There are other areas of the healthcare gig economy, such as 'purchased services' vendors, administrative staff, doctors, and other medical staff, where real-time payments and pay by text can offer significant benefits. For instance, 'purchased services' vendors, who provide essential services ranging from laundry to IT, can benefit from real-time payments ensuring prompt compensation for their services. Likewise, doctors working on a freelance basis can have more control over their finances with real-time payments, reducing the financial stress often associated with delayed payments.

Similarly, administrative staff working on a contract basis can take advantage of real-time payments to better manage their financial situation. They can receive payments immediately after completing a shift, improving their cash flow and reducing the need for payday loans or credit cards to cover expenses between paychecks. Furthermore, pay by text can make the process even more convenient, allowing these workers to receive their payments directly to their mobile devices, no matter where they are.

The gig economy, projected to constitute half of the U.S. workforce by 2020, is changing the way people work and earn, focusing more on "work" rather than a traditional "job." The healthcare industry, though a pioneer in the gig economy fifty years ago with a freelancing job market ahead of its time, has lagged in updating its hiring practices and embracing staffing innovations.

Refocusing on the flexibility that freelance and contract work offers is one way to mitigate burnout and decrease turnover rates. Gig work allows healthcare professionals, be it nurses, doctors, or administrative staff, the liberty to create their own schedules, paired with the opportunity to increase their earning potential.

The shift towards a more flexible, on-demand staffing model in healthcare is imperative. Embracing a more structured "freelance" approach to staffing across all roles is a future-forward move that will help the healthcare industry stay on pace with the ever-evolving aspects of care continuum. Real-time payments are a pivotal part of this shift, granting healthcare professionals more control over their finances and empowering them to earn on their own terms.

The healthcare industry must continue to harness the potential of the gig economy and real-time payments to address the ongoing staff shortage crisis. The future of healthcare staffing lies in the gig economy.