Experts forecast that by 2025, the US will face a shortage of more than 400,000 home health aides and 29,400 nurse practitioners, in addition to other healthcare professions. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the crisis is due in large part to aging baby boomers. What is also unsettling is the anticipated shortage of as many as 122,000 physicians by 2032 paired with 48% growth in the over-65 population.
The good news is that the looming shortage of healthcare professionals can be helped with creative problem-solving. When faced with staffing challenges, the following five examples of digital transformation – geared toward efficiency and cost reduction – may be healthcare’s knight in shining armor.
Telehealth continues to grow in popularity since the global pandemic and it is solving a multitude of healthcare issues, including provider shortages. For an aging population that may have weakened immune systems, telehealth provides healthcare with a reduced risk of exposure to contagious diseases. It also serves as an effective solution for clinician shortages, especially among rural and other underserved populations.
Remote patient monitoring telehealth reduces the need for in-person visits and can free up much-needed time for additional in-person appointments. Remote monitoring is ideal for patients with acute and chronic conditions that require ongoing tracking, such as high blood pressure, weight loss or gain, heart conditions, diabetes, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, and asthma.
Telehealth can have a positive impact on a practice’s bottom line by opening the window of time in which patients can be seen. In addition, according to the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), a primary care physician can typically see about 12 patients within a four-hour shift. However, with telehealth, physicians may be able to “see” 16 or more patients in that same timeframe – and still receive Medicare payments at the same rate as in-person visits. In addition, telehealth can expand geographic practice areas significantly.
Interoperability allows EHRs to communicate securely with entities external of a practice such as pharmacists, specialists, and even patients. With immediate access to critical healthcare data, providers can save time by avoiding errors and having all the information they need to make quicker, more informed decisions for patient care.
Those kinds of efficiencies can help prevent hours of wasted time that can be freed up for spending more time with patients despite a staffing shortage and while accommodating an expanding patient base. It also means that staff can spend additional time with patients instead of searching for data and records.
3.) Optimized Workflows
When intelligently configured, an EHR system can help make healthcare more efficient, streamline workflows, and provide quick and easy access to medical records by patient and provider alike. EHR optimization eliminates tedious issues such as unnecessary clicks, needless alerts, and redundant tasks.
Customizing the EHR user experience according to each role can streamline workflows and save time and cost for short-staffed practices. Features such as auto-filled forms can relieve staff burnout and improve retention. Improved workflows also can calibrate reporting, coding, claims, and revenue cycle management so staff can focus on patient care instead of juggling payer issues.
For example, one of our primary care practice clients was struggling with high staff turnover, a dwindling clientele and low reimbursement rates. Through EHR optimization, including improved templates and modified alerts, updated staff training, streamlined workflows, and automated billing and reporting, we were able to help them achieve greater time-savings and increased collection rates.
4.) Clinical Decision Support
As EHR technology improves, healthcare providers have an increasing amount of patient data at their fingertips. While improved patient data is a good thing, it can also overwhelm providers. Clinical decision support through the EHR system can parse that data and make it much easier for providers to integrate evidence-based knowledge into patient care – saving time and cost while improving outcomes.
5.) Increased Patient Engagement
Patient engagement tools, such as online appointment scheduling and automated patient reminders, can be huge time-savers for medical practice providers and staff by eliminating manual data entry and paperwork processing.
Engaged patients also are more likely to be proactive in their own healthcare, including health screenings, which can help providers identify health risks sooner and before they become more serious, costly, and result in increased visits.
Technology as a Tool to Save Time and Reduce Costs
Fortunately, if utilized thoughtfully, technology can help providers mitigate labor shortages and maintain – or even increase – reimbursements while still providing high quality patient care. In the future, technology will be vital to facing emerging challenges, particularly provider shortages in an ageing population.
CHAD ANGUILM is Vice President of Growth at Medical Advantage, which is a national healthcare consulting firm serving independent practices, practice groups, Managed Services Organizations (MSOs), and health plans and is a subsidiary of the TDC Group, the nation’s largest physician-owned malpractice insurer. For more information on electronic health records, visit the company’s website at https://www.medicaladvantage.com/solutions/, or contact Chad Anguilm directly at [email protected].