In 2021 when the “Great Resignation” hit industries across the board — according to one Pew Research study — almost 20% of the U.S. workforce left their jobs. The healthcare industry was no exception with reports of 20-30% of the healthcare workforce having quit over the last two years and more still thinking about leaving the field.
This drop continues to have wide-reaching dangerous effects on the overall health and well-being of patients who need care. In this blog, we will discuss the impact of the staffing shortage on the medical field and healthcare workforce shortage solutions for surgical practices.
The Impact of the Healthcare Staffing Shortage
While no one was immune to the fallout from the Covid pandemic, healthcare workers certainly bore the brunt of it. Three out of 10 healthcare workers seriously considered leaving the profession completely during the pandemic, with the majority of them citing Covid-fueled burnout and stress.
The mass exodus of healthcare workers and administrative staff alike could not have come at a worse time, leaving many surgical practices in the lurch as demand for services increased. People who pushed off elective surgeries or other non-emergency treatments did indeed come back in full force.
Staff at many surgical practices panicked — and rightly so — with 73% of participants in an American Medical Association study reporting that staffing was and is their biggest post-pandemic challenge. The negative impacts of staff shortages include the following,
Simple supply-and-demand economics means that fewer medical professionals available to perform procedures will drive up the costs. It’s not just the clinicians, but a lack of administrative staff, including schedulers, also increases practices’ operational costs.
With so many people leaving the field, some practices are turning to temporary staffing solutions which means a near-constant need to train new staff (many of whom will only be there for a few weeks).
In some cases, there are so few “experienced” staff members left that a proper orientation and onboarding is not possible. Without well-trained staff, patients and employees all pay the price.
Decreased Quality of Care
Perhaps the most detrimental impact of the staffing shortage is the decreased quality of care that patients will receive. Fewer doctors are trying to fit in more patients, and less admin staff on deck means that the whole patient experience may be more clunky.
At best, patients feel that they are not being given the attention they need and, at worst, without the time to properly get to know and understand the patient, critical information can be missed.
How to Overcome Staff Shortage at Surgical Practices
Fortunately, it is not all gloom and doom. There are steps practices can take to adjust to this new understaffed reality. Technological tools exist that can help automate many of the repetitive daily tasks that take place in medical practice, such as:
- Scheduling in-office appointments
- Coordinating surgery
- Sending patient reminders
Automation can save many hours of time, freeing up staff for higher-level activities and bridging the gap left by the staffing shortage at surgical practices.
Surgical practices, in particular, rely heavily on several types of repetitive manual tasks to keep their operations running smoothly, including:
- Scheduling pre-op consultations
- Booking ORs
- Coordinating surgeons’ time
- Managing and reserving equipment
- Obtaining insurance authorizations
- Sending reminders and instructions to patients
- Collecting payments
Multiply this by the number of patients each surgical business services and the number of surgeries they schedule per year, and you can see how keeping up with these tasks can become strenuous, not to mention error-fraught.
The good news is that much of this work can be offloaded with technology. Several platforms on the market today are designed specifically to integrate with existing EHRs and PMs and can drastically cut down the work of human administrators and managers:
- Automatic appointment reminders including clear pre- or post-op instructions can be sent via phone, text, or email.
- Forms and insurance authorizations can be automatically and accurately generated.
- ORs and equipment can be booked and tracked, along with surgeons’ schedules ensuring that all information required for a particular surgery is stored in one place updated in real-time.
- Mobile apps allow surgeons and other staff to access and update information as needed anytime from anywhere.
What about Technology Burnout?
There is plenty of skepticism in the healthcare world around technology. The U.S. Surgeon General put out an advisory in May 2022 about the causes behind the burnout leading to the staff shortages in healthcare.
Among the leading causes was the stress of technology-related administrative tasks including updating EHRs. The same technology that was introduced in the past in order to ease the burden on healthcare employees was actually causing additional stress.
It is understandable, therefore, why some in the healthcare field may be worried about onboarding even more technology. The mere thought of having to learn a new tool and train the rest of the (limited and often temporary) staff on it may seem more daunting than simply doing all of the tasks manually.
While yes, it is true that trying to automate each task using a separate tool might be more trouble than it’s worth, especially if each tool is more complicated to use than the last.
But platforms that can be used to automate the most time-consuming and error-prone tasks will result in tangible results and measurable ROI on the investment made in the technology.
Not Enough Bandwidth for New Technology
When one of the reasons for burnout leading to the staff shortage is having the time needed to learn new technology, it’s easy to understand why there may be some pushback on suggesting the use of technology for how to deal with the shortage of surgical staff.
There is legitimate and genuine concern that due to the current limitations on the number of staff, many surgical practices simply don’t have the bandwidth necessary to take on a new platform.
They are caught in a never-ending cycle of not having the staff to do the work, but also not having the staff to learn the technology that can help make up the difference.
The only way to break that cycle is to commit to putting in the time it will take to onboard the platform and make it a priority.
This means assigning a project manager and allocating other team members and resources necessary to get the project moving. Yes, this may mean that some other tasks will be delayed, or staff will need to take on more work temporarily, but it will ultimately pay dividends.
How to Solve Staff Shortage in Surgical Facilities with Surgimate
With an ongoing healthcare workforce shortage, solutions like Surgimate Practice can serve as a valuable solution. Surgical care coordination is complex, time-consuming, and involves many stakeholders.
With Surgimate’s calendar and other features, schedulers can manage the surgical care coordination process end-to-end, reducing the time it takes to schedule a surgery in half and enabling staff to manage a higher volume of surgeries. Like every platform, Surgimate requires an onboarding process, but once a practice is up-and-running, manual work is a thing of the past and staff can instead focus on patients and provide them with the high level of care they deserve.
Learn more about Surgimate’s scheduling features and how to overcome the staff shortage in your surgical practice.