Since COVID-19 was first diagnosed three years ago, some healthcare workers and staff have struggled to keep up with the demands of working in their professions. As a result, many have left the industry for good. One survey found that jobs by the end of 2021. The influx of new workers has not entirely made up for this shortage: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found 176,000 fewer healthcare workers than in February 2020.
This staff shortage has put many healthcare providers in a difficult position. It impacts not just care but also the critical administrative responsibilities to maintain a successful practice. The skeleton staff can exacerbate problems and leave providers scrambling in the wake of burnout or medical errors.
Practices need to evaluate what they can do and the tools they can utilize to ease the burden of staff shortages and maintain customer care. Here is how staff deficits impact collections and how the right healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM) technology can help practices improve efficiency for their staff — and their bottom line.
The Current Landscape of Collections & Staffing Shortage
In the wake of the pandemic, healthcare’s mental and physical toll became too much for some medical workers. Frontline healthcare workers like nurses left practices, and there were not enough new staff ready to replace them.
These shortages impacted more than nurses and physicians. It led the many staff members who oversee administrative tasks to look for opportunities elsewhere. The lack of resources and support has created new challenges in some of the most critical collections tasks.
Increased Workload for Existing Staff
Even when workers leave, the same tasks must be completed. Minimal staffing puts a bigger load on workers, fueling many of the problems that led to the shortages in the first place. An unsustainable workload results in further burnout and churn, leading to further shortages and instability.
Risk of Revenue Loss
Tired and overworked staff can cause multiple mistakes, leading to lost revenue. Staffing shortages can negatively impact the overall financial health of a healthcare organization.
When there are not enough staff members to handle the billing processes efficiently, it may delay sending out invoices or claims submissions to insurance companies or even result in missed payment deadlines, impacting revenue.
Staffing shortages can also lead to increased errors in the billing process and mistakes such as incorrect billing codes, duplicate billing, or underbilling. These errors will require additional time and resources to correct, which staff may not have, leading to additional lost revenue.
Overworked staff will also lack the time to follow up and fix insurance denials. Providers may miss the opportunity to appeal the denial or correct the issue, which results in even more missed payments.
Reduced Patient Follow-up
Patient follow-up is a critical aspect of the collections process. Staffing shortages can make following up with patients with outstanding balances challenging. This may result in missed opportunities to set up payments or collect on overdue accounts, leading to increased bad debt and lost revenue.
Adhering to various regulations, such as HIPAA and FDCPA, takes time and resources. Staffing shortages may make it difficult for organizations to ensure compliance with these regulations. Failing to do so can result in fines, penalties, potential legal issues, and lost customer trust.
Compromised Patient Relationships
While the medical profession plays a large part in shaping the patient experience, the collections process also plays a key role in their impression of a practice. Staffing shortages can cause a negative experience, damaging patient relationships and the provider’s reputation.
Inadequate staffing can lead to insufficient patient communication regarding billing and payment responsibilities. It can also make it difficult for staff to promptly respond to patient inquiries or concerns about their bills. A lack of a prompt response can result in confusion, frustration, and dissatisfaction among patients.
Staffing shortages can also lead to increased workload and stress for the remaining employees, which may affect their ability to empathize with patients and understand their financial struggles. A perceived lack of a compassionate approach to collections could damage the patient-provider relationship.
Leveraging Streamlined Collections Solutions to Combat Staffing Shortages
While the issues impacting staffing shortages are impossible for one practice to tackle, providers can offer their staff the right tools to help lighten their load and avoid overworking staff members.
A suitable collections solution can help providers combat shortages by improving efficiency, reducing errors, and optimizing the overall process. Some of the key benefits include:
The right solution will incorporate automation, reducing manual tasks and saving staff time. For example, it can send reminders, process payments, and update account information. By automating repetitive tasks, staff can focus on more complex issues and reduce the strain caused by shortages.
Advanced collections solutions can help reduce billing errors by automatically verifying insurance eligibility, checking for discrepancies, and identifying underpayments. By minimizing errors, providers can reduce the time spent correcting issues and improve patient satisfaction.
Enhanced Analytics and Reporting
The right solution has analytic and reporting features that help providers track the key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the collections process. In turn, these metrics can help identify areas that need improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize their collections strategy.
Better Patient Communication
Integrated communication tools allow staff to easily send billing statements, payment reminders, and other notifications to patients through multiple channels, such as email, text, or phone calls. Such an approach can be crucial for collecting payments: 44% of patients pay medical bills faster when they get their notifications about billing digitally or through their phone.
The right streamlined solution can help providers comply with HIPAA and other healthcare regulations by incorporating built-in compliance features and safeguards.
Enhanced Payment Options
Solutions offer flexible payment options, such as online portals, payment options, and payment plans. By making it easier for patients to pay their bills, providers can improve collection rates and reduce the burden on staff.
Preparing for the Future of Healthcare with a Collection Solution
Fewer staff members could cause challenges for many practices. However, providers can optimize their collections process, reduce the impact of staffing shortages, and ultimately improve their financial performance and patient satisfaction by adopting a streamlined collections solution, such as those provided by GeBBS Healthcare Solutions. Contact us today at gebbs.com to see how our experts can help you tackle staffing shortages with a scalable solution.