How to Fill Staffing Gaps Without Hiring
By Hadi Chaudhry
Hadi Chaudhry is president and CEO of CareCloud of Somerset, NJ.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 500,000 workers have left the field since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, burnout continues to plague the workforce. Clinicians and support staff are suffering, but administrative teams are feeling the stress as well. Jobs that were lost when revenues fell off a cliff are now hard to refill. Many furloughed workers have decided to explore other industries or leave the workforce entirely, either to stay home with their families or to avoid vaccine mandates.
As a result, back-office workers have become stretched thin. Claims processing, especially due to new challenges like COVID lab tests, number in the millions of extra claims every week.
New alternatives are helping to ease the two-sided problem of unfilled positions and overworked staffers. Robotic process automation (RPA) is one tool for offloading mundane and repetitive tasks that plague support and administrative workers. Robotic processes can handle everything from claims denials and payment processing to document management. On the clinical side, RPA can automate wellness checks, medical uploads, and CPT code verifications.
RPA can be immensely productive for any healthcare organization. The microbots in RPA solutions are capable of increasing revenue by working through backlogs of thousands of transactions or claims in a single day. Underpayments, appeals, and filing limits are all candidates for RPA automation.
Another solution to staffing gaps is temporary or long-term workforce extension services. These outsourced services take routine, repetitive tasks off the backs of existing workers, saving practices up to 80% in resource costs.
Many payers and revenue cycle companies already depend on workforce extension services, and their use in provider organizations is accelerating. Many workforce extension providers offer talented, highly trained staff that are fully trained in scores of EHR, billing, and practice management systems. Solutions can be very specific and quickly mobilized, with specialists available for a hospital’s specific host applications.
Automation and on-demand workforces perform best when organizations work collaboratively with consultants and service providers. When considering RPA, medical groups should work alongside service providers to address the most repetitive tasks, such as checking claims status, pre-authorizations, and insurance discoveries.
Organizations can use RPA for the most mundane tasks, leaving on-demand staff to handle more complex duties where a human touch is needed. Oftentimes the 80/20 rule applies — automation can resolve 80% of all routine back-office tasks, while the remaining 20% may require involvement of skilled revenue professionals.
It’s critical that solutions are implemented earlier rather than later. Hoping that situations will resolve themselves is misguided. Both automated platforms and workforce extensions typically take two to four weeks to implement, but the timeline for workforce extension will depend on the size of the incoming team. The longer an organization waits, the more difficult it is to work through backlogs and prioritize results.
On-demand and automated solutions can help with many challenges healthcare employers face, from adequately supporting remote workers to reducing stress and enabling employees to concentrate on patient engaging and revenue-increasing tasks. Small practices, large medical clinics, hospitals, and health systems alike are aware that we’re in a challenging hiring environment. Filling gaps with automation and supplemental staffing is the best way for weary workers, as well as their employers, to succeed.