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Impact of healthcare staffing shortages on revenue cycle management

Published: November 6, 2023 by Experian Health

Staffing shortages are the new normal in healthcare. Most news headlines focus on gaps between the supply of providers and the growing demand for care. However, a recent survey by Experian Health, released in November 2023. shows the massive impact staffing shortages have on back office revenue cycle where these functions intersect with front-of-house patient engagement. Strikingly, the healthcare staffing shortage statistics in the survey show revenue cycle executives are 100% in agreement—staffing shortages significantly affect reimbursement workflows to the detriment of patients and healthcare employees.

Experian Health’s report, Short-staffed for the long term, surveyed 200 healthcare executives responsible for revenue cycle functions. The goal was to gauge the impact of worker shortages on revenue cycle management and patient engagement. While the pandemic brought these shortages into the public purview, this new data shows most providers believe healthcare staffing gaps are chronic and here to stay. These results reinforce The State of Patient Access 2023 survey, where 87% of providers blamed staffing shortages for declining access to care.

As the healthcare industry continues to struggle with an ever-increasing staffing shortage, it has become increasingly evident that if left unresolved, this situation can wreak havoc on revenue cycle management (RCM). The latest survey illustrates the need for new strategies to alleviate healthcare worker shortfalls. This article explores the most recent healthcare staffing shortage statistics and some key findings from the study to help determine how healthcare providers can turn these challenges into opportunities.

Experian Health surveyed 200 revenue cycle executives to determine the impact of staffing shortages on reimbursement and patient engagement. Download the report to get the full results.

Finding 1: Most revenue cycle leaders believe staffing shortfalls negatively affect payer reimbursements and collections.

  • 96% of survey respondents indicated a lack of qualified workers has a detrimental impact on organizational revenue channels.
  • 80% say turnover in their department ranges from 11 to 40%, much higher than the national average of 3.8%.

When healthcare organizations lack revenue cycle talent, they risk missing performance goals. High turnover and the departure of experienced staff create information deserts within healthcare organizations. It forces new team members to train faster, handle bigger caseloads before they’re ready, and potentially burnout from stress. The pressure to do more faster creates a higher volume of preventable claims errors that lead to denials. The survey showed all these factors at play, and their negative impact on reimbursement, collections, and the patient experience.

While the traditional way to alleviate staffing shortages is to increase recruiting and retention efforts, these approaches no longer work when there simply isn’t enough available staff to hire and train. Healthcare organizations must consider new partnerships with technology providers who offer automation tools to streamline human workflows. Revenue cycle management software eliminates repetitive tasks and lessens errors that lead to rejected claims. Digital technology can help solve labor shortages by reducing staff workloads and improving operational performance. Automation can streamline collections by prioritizing the accounts most likely to pay. These tools help existing revenue cycle teams work more efficiently while enhancing patient encounters.

Finding 2: Healthcare staffing shortages roadblock a positive patient experience.

  • 8 of 10 survey respondents say patient experience suffers due to gaps in staffing coverage.
  • 55% report the patient experience is most heavily affected at intake, and 50% say at appointment scheduling.

Staffing shortages and turnover cause an undue burden on the healthcare workers left behind. The survey asked respondents to indicate the top pain points experienced by revenue cycle professionals, and one of the major challenges was staff burnout. Stress has a detrimental effect on patient interactions throughout the revenue cycle. The survey shows staffing shortages impede patient satisfaction in critical areas within revenue cycle functions, including:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Patient registration
  • Prior authorization
  • Insurance coverage confirmation
  • Patient estimates

Revenue cycle interactions can be delicate, requiring extreme patience and clear communication. Healthcare organizations must provide the support their revenue cycle teams need to handle these crucial conversations appropriately. To improve the patient experience, organizations must first improve the workflows and workloads of these critical back-office teams. When healthcare organizations have the right tools to eliminate manual tasks that bog down revenue cycle staff, these professionals can spend more time on the compassionate handling of patients and their accounts.

Providers have the opportunity to solve these challenges with digital patient engagement solutions that improve workflow efficiencies at every level of the revenue cycle. Patient scheduling software creates a self-service environment that 73% of healthcare customers prefer. Patient intake improves with online software that automates the tedious paperwork that tie up staff. Better technology can create price transparency without manual effort, ensuring patients understand their responsibilities up front instead of facing surprises during or after care delivery. Finally, a frictionless online payment platform allows patients to handle their obligations seamlessly without staff intervention.

Finding 3: Errors arise when healthcare providers are short staffed, leading to claims denials.

  • 70% of survey respondents say staff shortages exacerbate denial rates.
  • 92% of survey respondents said new staff members make errors that negatively impact claims processing.

Some of the most common reasons for healthcare claim denials include:

  • Incomplete collection of claims data
  • Coding errors
  • Billing errors
  • Eligibility verification errors
  • Missed insurance verification

Healthcare operations and revenue cycles are full of manual processes. RevCycleIntelligence reports one-third of prior authorizations are completed manually, and two-thirds of hospitals haven’t automated any part of their denials management processes. Yet technology has made significant strides toward reducing these error-prone manual tasks. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), with solutions like AI Advantage™, within the complexities of claims processing could cut provider spending by up to 10% annually. Eliminating repetitive tasks with automated claims management solutions improves the lives of staff, cuts manual errors that tie up cash flow in reimbursement wrangling, and creates a better, less stressful environment for customers.

Reducing the impact of healthcare staffing shortages with revenue cycle automation and technology

Sometimes, 100% agreement isn’t the desired outcome. In this case, the healthcare staffing shortage statistics found in the survey shows healthcare providers agree unanimously that chronic staffing shortages create a problematic environment for employees that costs revenue and patient engagement.

While technology exists that can maximize revenue staff workflows to extend the reach of overburdened employees; survey participants suggest that healthcare organizations continue to approach solving these issues by adding staff. But healthcare’s staffing challenges are not new. While organizations have historically invested revenue in higher salaries and sign-on bonuses to attract staff, technology offers a new opportunity for history to avoid repeating itself.

It’s time for healthcare organizations to support their teams with automation. These tools alleviate mundane, error-prone tasks that tie up staff. Experian Health offers these organizations a way to improve the lives of everyone within the revenue cycle by allowing back and front-office teams to focus on patient care, rather than filling in forms. It’s a more humane way to handle a very human staffing crisis.

Download the surveyor connect with an Experian Health expert today to learn how we can help your healthcare organization combat staffing shortages.

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