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      Outsmart the Labor Shortage with People-First Technology

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      While the “Great Resignation” of the post-COVID era has strained virtually every industry, healthcare sits on top of the list. Providers have lost 20-30% of their workforce since 2020, and the projections to return to normal range estimate several years to fully recover. The disruption is costing providers dearly, with $4.6 billion in annual burnout loss to the U.S. healthcare system. Additional stats in our recent FinThrive Healthcare Labor Report are equally dire, including:

      These trends apply across the healthcare workforce, but can be seen particularly starkly in the revenue cycle management (RCM) labor market. 92% of hospitals surveyed report labor shortages in RCM. Almost all have RCM positions open, with one-fifth of respondents looking to fill more than 30 RCM roles. Of frontline healthcare workers, employees responsible for administrative duties, like RCM teams, also report the highest levels of burnout: 36% have considered no longer working in healthcare. 

      In other words, many people responsible for keeping providers’ revenue machines running are quite simply – done. 

      Get Started with Virtual Intake.

      How the RCM labor shortage impacts provider revenue

      The ramifications of the labor shortage in RCM positions are significant to hospital revenue. Without enough employees in RCM roles, providers experience:

      • 48% more patient billing errors
      • 45% longer hold times for scheduling and customer service calls
      • 44% more cancellations and rescheduling due to staff shortages
      • 29% increase in issues with price transparency compliance
      • 20% more operational deficiencies

      Hospitals have tackled these challenges in a number of ways. McKinsey found that more than half of the organizations have changed their care model, while almost half reduced inpatient capacity and operating room capacity. Hospitals rely more on contract labor, which now accounts for 12% of total labor expenses – up from 2% in 2019. They are also outsourcing many more responsibilities, from coding to collections to billing, and exploring new ways to attract and retain new talent.

      Despite these strategies, however, the path forward remains problematic. Experts predict that labor costs will drive expenses higher than revenue growth over the next year. Providers need new solutions – and a new approach – to emerge from this climate unscathed.

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

      While the many statistics listed above paint a clear picture of the severity of the current labor shortage in healthcare, they miss a crucial piece of the puzzle: the people behind the numbers.

      “Labor shortage” is a macroeconomic term that accurately, if impersonally, describes the state of our current market. What it doesn’t capture is why this is occurring. Healthcare staff are seriously, fundamentally burned out. They have been through years of an unprecedented global pandemic that put their health and livelihoods at stake. They were on the frontlines of one of the biggest health crises of our lifetime and they can’t continue to operate at the same high frequency. 

      Today’s healthcare workers are overworked, often underpaid, and in the case of RCM teams, frequently under-trained and poorly supported. For these folks, there are too many systems to learn, too many logins to manage, too many insurance complexities to memorize, and not nearly enough people to help them get there. In roles that already see high turnover, it’s simply too much. 

      Providers must go beyond financial solutions to address these parts of the equation – the people parts. They need to focus on keeping their staff by giving them tools to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. In addition to addressing the challenges of hiring new positions, hospitals must take the pressure off of the folks who continue to show up. 

      Improve the employee experience with people-first technology

      What does that look like in practice? For starters, automate wherever possible. Cutting-edge RCM technology can automate processes across the patient lifecycle, from sending automated appointment reminders to eligibility research to adjusting claims. In fact, a recent Deloitte report found that implementing robotic process automation (RPA) yields an average of 20% FTE savings. 

      You can’t, however, automate everything at once. Providers can make meaningful strides by focusing on specific use cases, like patient access. Virtual Intake solutions automate and digitize many of the steps before and at point of service, dramatically reducing the burden on front-line employees. With Virtual Intake, patient access teams can:

      • Streamline the patient check-in process with self-service appointment scheduling, online pre-registration and document completion, and virtual check-in
      • Communicate with patients more efficiently, including bi-directional text communication
      • Decrease no-show rates by automating appointment reminders
      • Financially clear more patients, earlier in the process, with fewer manual interactions
      • Support price transparency compliance and reduce manual effort of creating estimates
      • Use text-to-pay to increase pre- and point-of-service payments, while minimizing “at the desk” interactions 

      Capabilities like these accelerate the digital experience for both patients and staff without taking away the human factor. They empower patient access employees to do higher-value work with people – not just paperwork – which translates to greater job satisfaction. Virtual Intake tools and other technologies don’t replace exchanges with people, they make them simpler, more convenient, and more targeted. Instead of wasting everyone’s time with three duplicative phone calls, patients simply fill out their information online. It’s easier for them, and less frustrating and resource-intensive for front-desk teams. 

      The current labor climate isn’t going away any time soon. Providers must look to technology for help – not to replace people, but to augment and support their duties and responsibilities. Solutions like Virtual Intake Management do precisely that. By reducing the administrative burden, boosting the amount of value-added/patient-centric work, and automating and streamlining processes across the patient lifecycle, Virtual Intake can help providers weather the storm today and tomorrow.

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