Why staff shortages are driving health systems to turn to automation — 4 insights

It's no surprise that turnover in the healthcare industry is high and rising with the ongoing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, patient volume is expected to continue to increase, putting more pressure on an already stressed system and staff. Embracing automation and improving related processes can help boost staff recruitment, engagement and retention in this tenuous environment.

During a webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Akasa, Amy Raymond, head of revenue cycle operations at Akasa, discussed the state of today's healthcare system, the tenets of engagement and recruiting and the need for automation and related training.

Four key insights:

1. The already high turnover rate for healthcare staff is increasing as stress rises with growing patient volumes. According to research presented by Ms. Raymond, 18 percent of healthcare workers have left their jobs in the last year, with an additional 12 percent expected to leave because of vaccine mandates. An alarming 93 percent of healthcare staff have reported feeling stressed, with more than 75 percent saying they are burned out. In addition, over the next eight years, outpatient volumes are expected to grow by 15 percent, adding even greater demand to an already overburdened system. As a result of expectations for increased patient volume and decreased staff, 78 percent of healthcare providers are looking to automate at least some portion of their revenue cycle within the year.

2. Revenue cycle management is often seen as nonessential, yet a poor financial experience directly impacts patient satisfaction. "Revenue cycle departments are often one of the first groups to experience layoffs, even if that department plays a direct role in the patient experience." Ms. Raymond said. "For financial decision-makers, it's easier to reduce labor in a non-patient-care-related area, but it's difficult to find the time and resources to train and upskill revenue cycle specialists."

3. Capitalizing on strengths and training focused on weaknesses increases engagement; creativity is necessary to boost recruitment. In seeking to improve employee engagement, "empower your team," Ms. Raymond said. "Training on weaknesses also helps with engagement. Axonify discovered that 92 percent of employees experience a positive impact on engagement when they receive proper training.

In recruiting new employees, organizations must be creative in establishing compensation and benefits that allow flexibility and remote work. Organizations must also expand their recruiting efforts by creating partnerships with local colleges and certification schools and reaching out to hire from unique groups outside of healthcare. An example is military spouses who often have extensive skills but are challenged in finding roles because of frequent moves.

4. Deploying AI-driven automation with the right partner and proper training can help mitigate engagement and hiring issues. "Automation helps elevate and empower your team to work at the top of their skill set," Ms. Raymond said. "My vision is that automation handles all the mundane administrative tasks while a small group of highly skilled revenue cycle analysts manage the complex problems." Automation can improve staff productivity, improve the patient experience, improve operational consistency and generate cost savings.

To accomplish this vision, organizations must employ true AI-driven automation that can automate logical, linear tasks with no human input and can learn from exceptions. Organizations also need to realize that not all automation is equal, and they need to partner with a company with extensive revenue cycle experience.

Automation can deliver value at every stage of the revenue cycle — including eligibility, authorizations, claim edits and comprehensive follow up. "It's critical to train your teams to work in collaboration with automation and treat it like a new team member," Ms. Raymond said.

Download the related Staffing Challenges ebook to learn more.

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