Best practices in handling staff shortages in healthcare Revenue Cycle Management

Best practices in handling staff shortages in healthcare revenue cycle management

Finding adequate and skilled workers is a daunting task for healthcare staffing managers in the US. The problem is acute in support services like revenue cycle management. Retaining sufficient staff strength is another difficult task and many experience severe shortage.

Any medical facility is as good as its resource availability – be it medical caregivers or the support functionaries. Today, maintaining adequate staff all the time is extremely difficult”
Arnetta Weans, Hiring Manager

Delivering quality job at the right time is a persistent task every organization face, especially for key processes like Medical Billing and Collection, HCC Coding, Medical Transcription etc. Staff shortages happen mainly due to lack of adequate quality man-power; but spikes in business volume, non-availability and vacations also contribute to this. “There can always be a situation where a staff member quits unexpectedly or goes on leave for a long period of time because of pregnancy, illness, accident, or any other emergency. This has a direct impact on organizational revenue, quality of patient care, overall work load on other staff members and also the drive and confidence among the employees” says John Toleado, HR Manager who works in US Healthcare industry for past 7 years. He says “Outsourcing is the one-word answer this industry has been trusting for the past decade or so”

Cross-training: A Band-Aid Solution

In many organizations, available staff provides coverage by picking up work when staff shortage arises. This happens effectively only if the whole unit works as a team. The deliverables become team responsibility. It requires cross-training in various functions except for certain roles which demand specific skills that comes only with professional training. Employees have to accept cross-learning as a condition for getting hired . This strategy may ease out sudden shortfall of resources.

Arnetta recommends this approach as a stop-gap arrangement only. She says “High level of man management capabilities come into play when this approach is taken, which at many times turns tricky. If not properly managed, additional responsibility sharing may not happen evenly among the available resources and this may result in employee frustration and exit. “

Start Hiring Preparation Early On: Does it really work

Lack of suitable staff could hamper an organization’s effort to increase productivity and will result in preventing the business from reaching its full potential. But waiting for the most suitable resource indefinitely during the hiring process can end up with vacancies remaining open for long duration. So preparations for optimum staffing should start early on.

Adjusting hiring norms to onboard a mix of talent is a good method for managing this situation. This can boost the diversity of the workforce contributing to the above said team work. Even though it is an easy way-out, this is not a suggested best practice as organizations may end up hiring a sub-optimal resource. Decreased quality in deliverables and difficulty in hiring the desired qualified resources may also become a hurdle in future.

Cost and Efficiency Matters

While stop-gap solutions help manage the staff shortage situation in many organizations, it comes with a caveat – the negative impact it brings on cost and efficiency. Cross training needs budget and for certain skills, the training cost can be really high. Even with adequate training, for specialized roles, the efficiency comes down and creates serious service quality challenges. So, handling staff shortage through cross-training shall not be used as a long-term strategy.

Outsourcing: A reliable strategy that delivers

Outsourcing is a proven strategy that cuts across industries and has been the one-stop solution for staffing shortages in healthcare support functions. Many contracting organizations stack a pool of highly qualified resources with them. As John Toleado, HR Manager working in the healthcare sector adds

The advantages with outsourcing is that they touch the ground running as the resources are qualified, trained, and most often experienced too. Maintaining standards and offering an alternate arrangement if one person doesn’t turn up suddenly, rests with the contracting partner”.
John Toleado, HR Manager

Benefits of outsourcing in Health care

Additional workforce management tasks associated with employee orientation, training, documentation upkeep etc. can be offloaded if such partners are contracted. Outsourcing saves on infrastructure and technology costs and also helps Healthcare Managers focus more on core areas, all resulting in happy customers. Staff shortages in healthcare services like Medical Coding, Medical Billing and Collection, DNFB Management, Medical Transcriptions etc. are best managed through outsourcing due to the complexity and periodic changes that are inherent to these functions.

No one can predict a pattern of staffing shortage and it is better to be proactive and be prepared. Staying profitable and effective is fundamental to success in business. Having a suitably sized contracting partner who can scale-up and scale-down on-demand is the most ideal and cost-effective strategy in managing staff shortages. It helps the internal team to stay focused while the outsourcing partner handles challenges like sudden increase in workload, unannounced staff shortages and getting up-to-date on changes. An effective and profitable organization can only deliver quality patient care. End of the day, the ethical responsibility of patient care shall not be compromised due to staffing shortages.

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