After more than a year of stop-and-start elective services, providers are ready to cut through the backlog and help patients get their healthcare back on track. Unfortunately, growing staff shortages mean many providers are struggling to meet consumer demand. Unemployment may be falling overall, but the number of people employed in healthcare dropped by more than half a million between February 2020 and September 2021. While it’s true that many positions have been cut or consolidated as budgets were squeezed, the root of the problem is not a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers.
Almost a fifth of healthcare workers quit their jobs during the pandemic, while nearly 30% of healthcare workers are considering leaving their profession altogether. Burnout, salary conflicts and, and dissatisfaction with COVID-19 protocols have been reported as primary drivers of increased early retirements and resignations. These shortages add strain on existing staff, discourage new hires and make high-quality service difficult to maintain.
The problem isn’t unique to healthcare. Across multiple industries, a “Great Resignation” is taking place, following “pandemic epiphanies” about personal priorities when it comes to balancing work and life. But for healthcare, COVID-19 has exacerbated what was already a major challenge. Without a thriving workforce, it will be even tougher to meet the care needs of an aging population burdened by rising rates of chronic conditions.
Can automation help address current and future healthcare staffing shortages?
As healthcare grapples with the ongoing pandemic and prepares for the flu season, providers should consider how new technologies built on automation can help. Dave Bennett, Chief Product Officer at Experian Health, says, “Automation is found in many areas of healthcare. It’s the future for everything – from driving down appeals and denials to automating population health management and improving the digital front door. It’s changing healthcare for the better.” Benefits include simplifying operations, reducing manual processes, and optimizing for efficient service delivery now and in the future.
“Automation is found in many areas of healthcare. It’s the future for everything – from driving down appeals and denials to automating population health management and improving the digital front door. It’s changing healthcare for the better.”
– Dave Bennett, Chief Product Officer at Experian Health
Eliminating repetitive and time-consuming tasks like data entry, manual patient registration, and prior authorizations, allows healthcare staff to focus on what matters most: delivering high-quality care. Here, we look at three areas where automation can simultaneously help to ease the burden of staff shortages and create a better patient experience.
Use case 1: automate patient access to manage the growing demand for services
One way to take the pressure off understaffed patient access teams is to allow patients to complete more of their registration and scheduling tasks themselves. Many patients prefer not to book appointments through call centers, and high call volumes are a major pressure point for staff. Similarly, manual patient registration is labor-intensive and error-prone, compromising staff time and creating bottlenecks for patients.
Automated registration and self-scheduling solutions can help patients access care without waiting in phone queues. Patients can book, cancel and reschedule appointments through their mobile devices. On the back end, data can be used to predict and manage demand, while digitized scheduling means agents can reduce time spent checking referrals against scheduling rules.
Using automation to simplify these processes not only minimizes operational strain on busy patient access teams but also reduces friction for patients who want to see the right specialist in the least amount of time.
Use case 2: automate personalized patient outreach to reduce call volumes
While many patients are keen to reschedule care that was deferred because of the pandemic, there are others who are still anxious or reluctant. Many providers are proactively reaching out to reschedule patients who missed care. However, instead of burying staff with a list of patients to call, providers should utilize automated patient reminders.
By combining data with automated patient outreach, providers can forecast demand and segment patients according to their individual needs and preferences. That way, providers can identify those who would rather reschedule care via email or a mobile app and allow them to do so. Automated messages can also be sent to remind patients of outstanding bills and link them to payment options, reducing call time for patient collections teams. Staff can then focus their time on meaningful conversations with patients.
Use case 3: automate patient collections for faster payments and a better patient experience
The surge in patient volume, alongside changing criteria for prior authorizations, has left staff with mounting paperwork to manage. The American Medical Association reported that some medical practices were spending more than two full working days per week on prior authorization paperwork. This adds additional stress to staff shortages; however, with automated prior authorization tools, staff no longer need to pore over payer policies to check for changes – the software updates in real-time.
Similarly, advanced data analytics and automation can be used to make the process of collecting payments easier for patients and staff. Accounts can be screened and segmented quickly to allow staff to prioritize those with the highest probability of being paid. Data-driven workflows are more efficient, while user-friendly interfaces allow staff to process information easily and with a lower risk of errors. As payer rules and patient coverage status change, an automated patient collections process that builds in accuracy, speed and accessibility will create a better experience for patients and staff.
Bennett also says, “At the start of the pandemic, Experian Health shifted quickly to help healthcare providers and payers solve their immediate challenges. We focused on solutions that would help healthcare organizations address contactless care, identity management, a remote workforce and staffing constraints, and scaling services to meet the scope of fighting COVID-19. Integrating automation with self-service tools is just the beginning. Our vision is to continue driving innovative and automated solutions that will improve care outcomes and transform our clients’ healthcare operations.”
These are just a few examples of how automation can create new opportunities for healthcare providers. It is a critical component to alleviating short-term pressures of understaffing (or, long-term in some cases). By leveraging technology, hospitals and medical groups can continue delivering outstanding patient experiences.
“At the start of the pandemic, Experian Health shifted quickly to help healthcare providers and payers solve their immediate challenges. We focused on solutions that would help healthcare organizations address contactless care, identity management, a remote workforce and staffing constraints, and scaling services to meet the scope of fighting COVID-19. Integrating automation with self-service tools is just the beginning. Our vision is to continue driving innovative and automated solutions that will improve care outcomes and transform our clients’ healthcare operations.”
– Dave Bennett, Chief Product Officer at Experian Health
Contact us to find out more about how Experian Health can help your organization use automation to ease workforce pressures.Contact Us