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      Navigating the Healthcare Staffing Shortage with People-First Technology

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      The healthcare sector is confronting an unprecedented staffing crisis, which has only intensified since the pandemic, and is putting strain on revenue cycle management (RCM) teams. According to a recent HFMA survey, every respondent reported open revenue cycle positions, and nearly 20% of organizations grappling with more than 30 vacancies.

      The departures have placed an enormous financial burden on providers, with a staggering yearly loss of $4.6 billion attributed to burnout in the U.S. health care system alone. More alarming still, the massive exodus is not expected to taper off soon. Currently, 40% of health care workers are considering leaving their job in the next few months, and job openings have doubled since 2020 — now exceeding 2 million.

      Specifically, the RCM labor market is witnessing a dire shortage, with 92% of hospitals reporting insufficient staffing. The implications for hospital revenues are significant and concerning. Providers face a 48% increase in billing errors and a substantial rise in challenges with customer service, scheduling, and price transparency compliance.

      In response, hospitals have restructured their models of care, scaled back services and increased their reliance on contract labor, which now accounts for 12% of total labor costs, surging from a mere two percent in 2019.

      icon-symbols-checkmarks  RELATED: Healthcare Labor Report

      The labor shortage is about more than numbers – it’s about people

      But to frame this issue solely in economic terms misses a crucial element — the human impact. Healthcare staff are experiencing serious burnout and roles in RCM are especially demanding, with staff facing a barrage of system complexities and insufficient support, leading to high turnover.

      It's clear that a financial fix isn't the sole solution. To genuinely address this crisis, providers must invest in their workforce, offering the necessary tools for more efficient and effective job performance. There's a pressing need to relieve existing staff from the mounting pressures and prioritize their well-being.

      Improve the employee experience with people-first technology

      A practical tactic lies in embracing technology — particularly in automating routine tasks. RCM technology can drastically cut down manual processes throughout the patient life cycle, boosting efficiency. Recent findings from Deloitte reveal that employing robotic process automation (RPA) can result in an average savings of 20% in full-time equivalent (FTE) resources.

      While it's not possible to automate everything simultaneously, providers can make significant headway by targeting key areas such as patient access. Virtual intake solutions offer a way to streamline many of the administrative duties that occur at the beginning of and throughout service delivery, effectively lightening the load for frontline staff members.

      Through virtual intake, the patient access teams can:

      • Simplify the check-in process by enabling patients to schedule appointments, pre-register and complete necessary documents—all online.
      • Efficiently communicate with patients using two-way text messaging.
      • Lower the rates of missed appointments by sending automated reminders.
      • Increase the rate of financial clearance for patients at earlier stages with limited need for manual input.
      • Ensure compliance with price transparency mandates and reduce the manual work tied to estimate creation.
      • Enhance payment collection before and during service by employing text-to-pay options and decreasing in-person payment interactions.

      These kinds of capabilities not only improve the experience for patients but also for the staff, without compromising personal interaction. They allow patient access employees to engage in more meaningful tasks, focusing on human interaction rather than routine paperwork, leading to higher job satisfaction.

      icon-symbols-checkmarks  RELATED: 3 Reasons to Invest in Digital Check-In Technology

      Virtual intake technologies supplement, rather than supplant, human interactions, making them more straightforward, convenient, and purposeful. For instance, patients can input their details online instead of making several unnecessary phone calls, creating efficiencies for them and the front desk teams who would otherwise be overextended.

      In light of the ongoing labor challenges, it's clear that providers must lean on technology—not as a substitute for personnel, but as a reinforcement and an enhancement to their roles and responsibilities. By diminishing administrative burdens, amplifying patient-focused activities, and automatizing process flows throughout the patient experience, virtual intake equips providers to manage the current climate and forge ahead into the future.

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