Short on staff? Efficiency—not hiring—may be the best answer


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Teagan Kuruna, MPH, associate content director at Phreesia

The COVID-19 pandemic has exhausted healthcare providers and staff alike. And yet, patients still need care—and those who skipped medical visits over the past year and a half are trying to catch up now, adding to the pressures healthcare organizations face.

Tackling this new reality can be daunting, and the obvious solution might seem to be to continue hiring more staff. But for many healthcare organizations, that’s simply not a viable option. They’ve already had trouble filling non-clinical roles for years, citing challenges such as limited career growth potential in many roles and changing expectations from potential employees.

And now, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned that problem into a crisis. Because it’s not the only industry eager to add workers to its payrolls, healthcare finds itself in direct competition with other sectors. Industries like food service, hospitality and retail also have huge numbers of open positions—and they are raising wages to fill them. This means that your front-desk staff, whose skills can be applied in a variety of employment settings, can find higher-paying jobs in other sectors.

“Staff turnover is reaching new, unfortunate heights,” says Elizabeth Woodcock, medical practice and revenue cycle management expert. “The staffing crisis is not a short-term issue that can be overcome in six months. The result of COVID is that your staff can work for anyone, anywhere in the world, from home.”

Instead of hiring, healthcare organizations can forge ahead with a straightforward solution: Reduce manual workloads and improve staff efficiency through technology.

By automating time-consuming processes such as intake, consent management, payments and scheduling—and turning those tasks over to patients—medical practices and health systems can alleviate their hiring challenges and boost staff efficiency without adding new employees. Automating many tasks also can help ease employee burnout and increase retention by opening up staff time to concentrate on higher-value tasks, including focusing on the patient experience.

In fact, patients increasingly expect their healthcare providers to provide the same easy, flexible and convenient consumer experience they get in other services.

For example, adding two-way text messaging capabilities to your practice lets staff efficiently and quickly communicate with patients in the way they expect. Giving patients the ability to self-schedule their visits or integrating an appointment request form on your website is exactly the type of tech-enabled access that patients want. And making payments easier—by collecting copays during registration and letting patients set up their own payment plans, for instance—makes their experience even more patient-centered.

Automating and digitizing your front-desk processes can allow you to keep patients as your top priority while reducing staff burnout. Instead of worrying about how to get back to how things used to be, use technology to create a more efficient and modern healthcare organization. As Woodcock says, “’Staffing’ may never be the same.”

Learn how Phreesia can help you improve staff efficiency.

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