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What to Do About Staffing Shortages that are Crushing Today's Healthcare Practices
For many of today’s healthcare practice managers, the dream of staffing at 100% and running an efficient back office is further from reality than it has been in years.
What’s the problem? It’s not technology. Sure, some healthcare administrative tech solutions are indeed cumbersome, but many actually help.
And it’s not workload. While demands from regulatory bodies, payers, and other providers can be ridiculously bulky to process, on a per-patient basis that workload has been pretty stable.
The problem is people, or more specifically, a lack of them. Today’s healthcare industry has an unprecedented shortage of administrative and office support workers that is profoundly affecting the typical practice’s efficiency, revenue, morale, and even care quality. Many providers believe the shortage is threatening the ongoing viability of their practice.
Let’s explore the origins and consequences of back-office staffing shortages and discuss a potential solution to mitigate the issue: the use of virtual staff.
The impact of a shortage of back-office staff in healthcare
The pandemic has been blamed for many of the problems in the world; however, it didn't cause the shortage of healthcare workers. It did, however, compound it in a significant way. Whether driven by better paying or less stressful opportunities or a reticence to return to a healthcare office environment, it is estimated that nearly one in five healthcare workers has resigned since March 2020.
This shortage has made it difficult for providers to run their practices due to the lack of office help. The clerical and administrative staff shortage has resulted in prior authorizations and insurance verifications that pile up and therefore limit throughput, longer wait times for referrals, and even delays in answering phones. Because these tasks must be done one way or another, other staff have had to add them to their plates, even if it takes them away from their main responsibilities. As a result, treatment delays, oversights, and errors are more likely to occur as practices attempt to manage the same workload with less support.
In an MGMA poll from September 2021, 73% of medical group practices responded that staffing was the leading COVID-19 challenge going into 2022. A poll the following February revealed that almost half of the respondents said that staff turnover rates worsened in the past quarter.
As you likely see in your own practice, we may be moving further away from the pandemic, but staffing rates are showing no signs of improving.
Virtual staff can meet your needs
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, specialized virtual services that deploy offshore, English-speaking staff have become viable options for healthcare practices to consider. The use of virtual staff has become popular in recent years throughout the healthcare industry, as seen in the sharp increase in the use of virtual medical scribe services. Such services have proven to be cost-effective ways to access highly-trained professionals without needing physical office space or additional equipment. Now, the virtual concept is gaining traction to overcome back-office staffing gaps and improve efficiency.
Healthcare practices, at their core, focus on providing quality patient care. However, it's common for practices today to get derailed by non-core business functions: front-desk administration, billing, insurance claims, and more. Having access to people who can handle these tasks allows you to quickly fill in your gaps. It is an option that can unburden your in-house staff, treat patients efficiently and improve the experience for everyone. It also helps you unclog issues across the revenue cycle before they translate into cash flow problems.
What are the benefits of virtual staff?
Virtual staff can provide healthcare practices with a more flexible and scalable workforce that can be accessed as needed, either as a temporary supplement to existing staff or on an ongoing basis. Many practices find it best to work with a domestically-based virtual staffing service to ensure accountability and customer service, and some U.S.-based services have built infrastructure overseas to recruit, train, and manage robust teams to deliver staff support services. This typically results in affordable costs that are often lower than the practice would pay for in-house support staff.
The use of virtual staff can help healthcare organizations reduce operational costs, increase productivity across their entire practice and improve morale and patient care quality.
Think of virtual staff as an extension of your office that keeps your bottlenecks clear and adapts to your needs. They work seamlessly with your in-office staff and within your EMR or other technology platforms to keep your back office running smoothly.
Trained and experienced virtual staff can assist with the following:
- Prior Authorizations
- Medical Coding
- Charge Entry & Review
- Payment Posting
- Denials Management
- Payer Follow-up
- Pre-chart Prep & Uploading Patient Documents into your EHR
- Updating Patients' Medical History Questionnaire
- Edit patient charts created with AI and VR software
By partnering with a reputable virtual staffing provider, healthcare practices can access a pool of highly skilled professionals trained and experienced in healthcare administration and office management roles.
It might be just what you need to turn dreams of an efficient practice into reality.
Physicians Angels is the industry's first Virtual Scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician's EMR, along with our Staffing Angels virtual back office support services. Our services save the physician an average of 10 hours per week, thereby improving patient throughput and contributing to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit www.physiciansangels.com or contact us.