From the onset of the pandemic, burnout has been one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare workers. Beyond the physical aspect of being overworked and risking one’s own health to help those in need, there is also the toll the jobs takes on mental health. And burnout doesn’t only affect front-line workers. While nurses and doctors may face the brunt of pandemic-related woes, administrative burdens also impacts office staff and C-suite executives. It truly is a top-to-bottom issue.
This burnout, coupled with other issues like employee vaccine mandates and patients behaving badly, has no doubt taken its toll on healthcare workers. And the result? Resignations. Just as The Great Resignation rocked Corporate America, the healthcare industry has also felt the effects. It’s such an issue that industry CEOs ranked personnel shortages as the number one challenge they face, according to new survey results from the American College of Healthcare Executives. And the recent numbers do not lie. Hospitals lost 5,100 jobs in December 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with nursing and residential care facilities losing 6,100 jobs the same month, respectively. And it’s not just front-line workers that are resigning. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) claims 88 percent of medical practices have had difficulties recruiting front office staff.
Much of the operational tasks handled by front office employees are critical to the functioning of a practice – coding, scheduling, bill processing – need to be done regardless of staff limitations. Administrative burnout is real, and when there is an overall decrease in staff, the remaining employees are often left to pick up the slack.
Increasing costs and budgets
According to Mercer’s 2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis, which examined predictive healthcare labor statistics over the next 10 years across all 50 states, labor shortages should be expected as the U.S works through the COVID-19 pandemic. With the issue of resignations and burnout not going away any time soon, leaders need to find ways to adjust. If healthcare employers want to gain and retain workers, money talks. While offering higher-than-usual salaries and additions like sign-on bonuses may not have been originally in the budget, it may be the right route to circumvent staffing issues. And as inflation and the overall cost of living rises, employers are finding that more money than usual may need to be allotted for payment increases too. A MGMA Stat poll found that fifty percent of healthcare practices budgeted more than usual for workers’ cost-of-living increases for 2022. With costs anticipated to rise, practices need to get ahead of their budgetary planning to put themselves in the best position, staffing-wise, to succeed in years to come.
Staffing the Practice of the Future
One way that organizations are trying to navigate staffing issues is though flexibility. A 2022 MGMA poll found that 59% of medical group practices shifted workers to permanent and/or hybrid work in 2021. Said workers included roles like coders, call center representatives and administrative positions. One year after the onset of the pandemic, an MGMA Stat poll showed that one in five practices said that more than 25 percent of their workforce was remote at least half the time. One of the nation’s largest health systems, the Cleveland Clinic, currently has nearly 8,000 administrative employees in at least a partially remote work model. Leadership is seeing the advantages of remote work, including reduced overhead costs, more satisfied employees and the ability to cast a wider recruiting net that is no longer limited to a single geographic region.
Over the last two years or so, organizations witnessed the positive outcome of remote work and decided not to switch back to traditional models. Another, more proactive way to alleviate administrative burnout is to get things right the first time. The key to this is having the right technology in place, like claims management and eligibility verifications, that can increase automation and create the most efficient workflows. Business processing services, including end-to-end billing and credentialing services can alleviate manual work and automate processes. Outsourcing is another logical path to take when there is just not enough hands in-house to manage day-to-day tasks.
With remote work and outsourcing now seen as viable options, organizations must adjust to keep with the times. If the C-Suite wants to retain and recruit talent, finding solutions that are satisfactory for the employee and employer should be a top concern for 2022 and beyond. Overall, organizations need to meet the needs of their employees. These needs may be vast and varied, but most executives would agree that it centers on flexibility, connectivity and technology.
Organizations looking for assistance implementing automation and RCM resources can learn more about ways TriZetto Provider Solutions can help by visiting trizettoprovider.com/ezclaim.