The post-pandemic healthcare labor shortage has become one of the biggest industry challenges in recent memory.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought off-the-charts demand for paperwork, care, testing, and treatment, stressing healthcare workers and admin staff like never before. Burnout, exhaustion, and trauma led to a mass workforce exodus—replacing them at the same rate was impossible.
Although the pandemic is well behind us, the healthcare labor market is still reeling from the impact, and the labor shortage in healthcare, both with respect to administrative and clinical staff, is yet to be solved.
Many of the negative consequences that come with the healthcare labor shortage have been discussed at length. Yet, one aspect has gone largely unexamined: the impact of the shortage on the patient experience.
The Healthcare Labor Shortage: A Closer Look
The United States could face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. For nurses, the situation is even more dire: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 275,000 additional nurses are needed for the period that goes up to 2030.
In short, the healthcare labor shortage is severe, and it is having a profound impact on our healthcare system.
COVID-19 may have been the tipping point, but it certainly isn’t the only contributing factor.
10,000 baby boomers age into the Medicare system every day, increasing the strain on the system. Rising burnout rates, resignations, and simply not enough people pursuing healthcare careers are all making the problem worse.
The most dramatic consequence is a very likely rise in patient deaths, as there are not enough workers to provide adequate care. For instance, a recent survey conducted by the Michigan Nurses Association revealed that 42% of nurses knew of at least one death attributed to nurses being assigned to too many patients at a time.
Many other issues also arise from the healthcare labor shortage. While most are less dire than the worst case scenario mentioned above, their impact is highly likely to trickle down through the system and compound.
When a healthcare provider doesn’t have the bandwidth to meet the needs of their patients, everything from patient health to revenue takes a big hit.
Keeping the patient experience in mind is of vital importance for any healthcare provider—a positive patient experience keeps patients happy, of course, and it also drives revenue by contributing to patient loyalty, referrals, and even government reimbursement rates.
Patient Experience: More Than Just Clinical Care
The patient experience goes beyond check-ups and exams.
It covers every interaction between a healthcare provider and the patient, from scheduling an appointment, to seeing a staff member, to patient payments.
Patients are evaluating your practice’s efforts every step of the way: they consider communication and transparency, ease of access to information, actual physical attention, and everything in between.
A patient might have a pain in their lower back, and after a visit to the doctor, they come out relieved with the pain gone. It seems like an ideal situation, but what went on in the middle? Was it easy for the patient to book an appointment? Did they know what they were going to pay beforehand? Did they have positive and informative interactions with administrative staff?
The patient experience focuses on these kinds of questions—the more satisfying the answer is, the better for the patient and for the provider.
So, in the face of severe labor shortage in healthcare, what can providers do to ensure they are doing their best to foster a positive patient experience?
Best Practices for Healthcare Providers
While providers may not be able to solve the labor crisis, there are many ways and opportunities to ensure an optimal patient experience—from first contact to patient payment.
Here are five best practices healthcare providers can implement to improve the patient experience, in spite of the healthcare labor shortage.
1. Leverage Technology
Administrative spending accounts for nearly 30% of overall healthcare spending.
To maximize the talent you have on hand, consider using technology to help streamline administrative processes. Patient payments solutions like AccessOne MobilePay can save hundreds of employee hours, leaving room and time for more focused patient care.
2. Improve Communication
Patients place a high priority on clear, consistent communication.
Make information easily accessible, healthcare payments details transparent, and let patients know where they are and what to expect each step of the way. For instance, patients need clear indication that insurance has been applied to their balance and any charity care or financial assistance has been applied before introducing the concept of a payment plan. Also, allow patients to express their ideas and concerns, and make sure your methods of communication align with their preferences (particularly important for Gen Z).
3. Prioritize Training
Equip your staff with the tools and training they need to be successful in every patient interaction.
Particularly throughout the patient payment process, staff needs to be sensitive and empathetic towards the patient. To help them, provide guidelines and expectations for what high-quality patient interactions look like.
4. Consider Outsourcing
A recent KLAS survey suggests that more ambulatory revenue cycle teams are considering outsourcing due to labor shortages. Further, “leveraging outsourcing may be expensive, but it is more affordable than expenses related to recruitment, training, and employee benefits, respondents indicated.”
Finding the right partners will be key in this environment to supplement the work already being done inhouse. By outsourcing non-core services like billing, financing, or even self-pay endeavors, your existing in-house staff is free to dedicate their time to enhance the patient experience.
5. Maintain Empathy
Healthcare is one industry of many struggling with high demand and low support.
As we continue to work through the challenges together as a society, prioritize empathy and understanding with your staff and encourage staff to also give the same courtesy to patients. Patients value feeling heard, cared for, and understood, especially when facing the added stress of health issues.
The Role of Technology in Navigating Staffing Shortages
Innovative healthcare technology can do wonders to mitigate healthcare costs, cope with staff shortages, and improve the patient experience.
Healthcare fintech solutions attack all fronts at once, by:
- Automating repetitive routine tasks, which frees healthcare staff to focus and what matters most.
- Reducing paperwork, which helps providers save big on supplies and resources.
- Empowering patients to take more control over their healthcare experience, as they gain the freedom to pay when, where, and how it works for them.
When it comes to the patient’s financial experience, this last point is key: allowing patients to choose how they pay for their healthcare can have a profound impact on both your bottom line and patient satisfaction.
AccessOne’s patient financing options make it easy for patients, after insurance and any financial assistance is applied, to enroll and pay, resulting in an increase in payment collections and often a drastic reduction in AR. For one healthcare system, the time it took patients to pay balances went from 33 months down to 9 months over a period of four years.
At the end of day, patients are more actively engaged in managing payments and feel more in control of their healthcare experience.
Focus on the Patient Financial Experience With AccessOne
The labor crisis in healthcare is complex and a solution isn’t going to arrive overnight.
But the shortage doesn’t mean that you can’t focus on delivering a great patient experience. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: now is the time to demonstrate how much you care about your patients.
Do it for your patients, and do it for your organization as well. Patient satisfaction lies at the heart of any healthcare provider’s financial stability, and growth.
Regardless of whether you are experiencing a labor shortage at your organization, consider implementing AccessOne’s patient payments solutions to help drive a better experience for both patients and your staff.
Reach out to AccessOne to learn more, or schedule a demo today.