Causes of healthcare staffing shortages and how technology can help

Published: March 12, 2024 by Experian Health


There is growing concern that the healthcare industry needs more clinical and administrative staff to handle care demands. The crisis affects patients beyond treatment delays or lower care quality. Staff shortages in the revenue cycle create problems with patient engagement, billing, and collections. A recent Experian Health survey reveals unanimous concerns among providers about the challenges posed by workforce shortages. But what are the root causes of staffing shortages in healthcare? Is there a remedy for healthcare organizations struggling to find the talent they need? This article dives into the survey findings and the ways healthcare providers can address staffing shortages effectively.

Finding 1: Staff turnover is a significant cause of healthcare staffing shortages.

  • 80% of providers report turnover between 11-40%.
  • Nearly one in 10 say turnover is between 41-60%.

The causes of staff shortages were evident before COVID. A rapidly aging Baby Boomer population and limited availability of training in areas such as nursing led to predictions that looming staff shortages were on the horizon. The pandemic exacerbated the situation, leading to a mass exodus of workers and The Great Resignation. Some reports show healthcare lost 20% of its workforce, including 30% of nurses.

Today, the average hospital turns over one-quarter of its staff annually, an increase of more than 6% from the prior year.As a result, the State of Patient Access 2023 reported nearly 50% of providers say access to care is worsening.

Simultaneously, healthcare is bogged down with administrative tasks. Increasing evidence shows providers must turn to automation software to decrease human workloads and stretch small teams further.

These automated tools can:

Automation can improve the work-life balance of healthcare staff, potentially closing the revolving turnover door, one of the most significant causes of staff shortages. For example, IU Health implemented automated guided scheduling, which helped scale their operations, reduce scheduling errors and improve staff efficiency.

Finding 2: Finding and hiring staff is an undue burden for healthcare providers.

  • 73% of respondents said finding qualified staff is difficult.
  • 61% reported that meeting entry-level staff’s salary expectations is a challenge.

Healthcare organizations feel the staffing crisis at every level.A recent Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) poll cited the difficulties in hiring revenue cycle staff:

  • 34% of respondents stated hiring medical coders is their biggest challenge.
  • 26% stated billers were difficult to find.
  • One-third said finding schedulers and prior authorization staff is hard.
  • Other hiring challenges included revenue cycle management (RCM) managers.

When and if healthcare providers find staff, bringing them into the fold is costly.Experian Health’s staffing survey showed most organizations struggle to meet the salary expectations of even the least experienced members of their teams.

The causes of staff shortages can be remedied by leveraging new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tools. Tools like AI Advantage™ can automate and transform claim denials management, a problem costing healthcare providers around $250 billion annually.

Experian Health’s State of Claims 2022 survey showed the most common causes of denied claims include:

  • Missing or incomplete prior authorizations.
  • Failure to verify provider eligibility.
  • Inaccurate medical coding.

AI Advantage reduces denial rates by scrubbing claims and flagging errors before submission. After claim submission, the software prioritizes the most high-value denials for correction to maximize revenue generation. Organizations like Schneck Medical Center use these tools to reduce denials by 4.6% each month. The facility also increased the speed of claims submissions. Tasks that used to take 12 to 15 minutes to rework now process in less than five minutes, lessening the need for hiring more staff and improving the workloads of their existing team.

Finding 3: Burnout is a top contributor to staffing shortages.

  • 53% of poll respondents said staff burnout is a key cause of the current staff shortage.
  • 48% said the new expectation for schedule flexibility and hybrid work models also contributes to the healthcare workforce shortage.

Burnout is one of the most significant causes of staff shortages impeding high quality care and wreaking havoc on the revenue cycle. The latest data shows the percentages of clinical and administrative burnout in healthcare is approaching or exceeding 50% in most job categories:

  • 56% of nurses report burnout symptoms.
  • 54% of clinical staff.
  • 47% of doctors.
  • 46% of non-clinical staff.

Cost-cutting and increasing care demands have led to increasing fatigue in healthcare staff. But technology exists to automate back office functions that could free up staff time. For example, organizations like Kootenai Health saved close to 60 hours of staff time in over 8 weeks by automating the presumptive charity process Patient Financial Clearance. Stanford Health used Collections Optimization Manager to cut 672 hours each month from overburdened back office staff.

The COVID pandemic also changed expectations about how and where Americans should work. Remote work became normal; three years post-COVID, 58% of the American workforce report working remotely at least one day a week. The same data also shows that when workers have the chance to work virtually, 87% take it.

Healthcare is not immune to the desire for more schedule flexibility. Becker’s Hospital Review states, “Many workers desire the ability to work remotely, even if they only get the option a few days a week. Flexibility allows people to maintain work-life balance—and in a high-burnout field like healthcare, balance can be crucial.”

Surveys show 31% of healthcare roles are remote full-time while 14% offer this flexibility part-time. The problem is that many healthcare positions cannot allow this flexibility—and the industry competes with others that do. To remain competitive, healthcare organizations must embrace technology to offer work flexibility.

Cloud-based digital technology is beneficial in areas like the revenue cycle. For example, automated technology from Experian Health can:

  • Use advanced analytics to streamline workflows.
  • Facilitate patient self-service.
  • Minimize staff time spent on manual tasks.

AI-powered automation tools can lessen staff burnout by allowing them to work smarter. These tools provide the workforce with the scheduling flexibility they desire.

Eliminate the causes of healthcare staffing shortages with better technology

AI and automation technology in healthcare can lessen worker fatigue, lighten workloads, and give administrative workers the schedule flexibility they demand. Experian Health offers healthcare providers better technology to improve the lives of their staff, increase patient satisfaction, and generate more revenue.

Download the survey or connect with an Experian Health expert today to learn how we can help your organization tackle the causes of healthcare staffing shortages effectively.

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