Burnout and workforce shortages have long been issues across the healthcare industry, but in recent years, they’ve dominated the headlines. There’s been a nearly continuous news cycle about the impact: longer wait times, reduced availability of services, increased healthcare costs, fewer providers, and reduced quality of care, to name a few.
In response to these challenges, technology vendors have been touting their ability to automate time-consuming processes and reduce manual workload for provider organizations. This automation not only promises to improve efficiency but also enhances patient access to care. While the specific needs and impact may vary between individual practices, several technology areas have shown promise in achieving these goals. Here’s what to look for:
- Automated Appointment Scheduling
One of the most promising technology areas is automated appointment scheduling. In a recent Kyruus industry report, 61 percent of patients surveyed said online appointment scheduling is extremely or very important to choosing a new provider, service, or location for care. By enabling patients to schedule appointments online when it’s convenient for them to do so, practices significantly reduce the time spent on manual scheduling. This not only improves efficiency but also gives patients more control over their healthcare journey.
- Patient Engagement and Self-Service Tools
Allowing patients to manage their own health information through mobile check-in, information verification, and two-way mobile communication has been shown to reduce the burden on the practice team. By empowering patients to take an active role in their healthcare, practices can streamline processes and improve efficiency while also enhancing patient access to care.
- Telemedicine Solutions
Telemedicine solutions have gained significant traction in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. By eliminating administrative processes associated with in-person visits, providers can see more patients, reduce staff workload, and offer patients the convenience of receiving care from the comfort of their own homes. This not only improves efficiency but also enhances patient access to care, especially for individuals in remote or underserved areas.
Balancing Efficiency Gains and Change Management Burden
While the benefits of automation and new technologies are clear, it is essential for organizational leadership to carefully assess when the right time is to make a change. Balancing efficiency gains with the risks of implementation overload and change management is a complex task and deserves thoughtful consideration of:
- Workload: Engage staff to identify current workload burdens and prioritize areas for technology solutions.
- Processes and Systems: Evaluate which manual tasks can be automated to reduce burden and improve efficiency.
- Costs: Consider hardware, software, and training costs in relation to the expected benefits of reduced workload, improved patient satisfaction, and overall efficiency.
- Staff Buy-in: Involve staff in decision-making and discovery during the selection and implementation process to increase the likelihood of successful adoption.
- Long-Term Goals and External Factors: Evaluate external industry trends and align technology solutions with the organization’s long-term goals to ensure scalability and future optimization.
Implementing New Technology Systems – Best Practices for a Smooth Transition
Implementing a new technology system can be a complex endeavor, but following these best practices can help ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to day-to-day operations:
- Planning and Preparation: Develop a detailed implementation plan with clear responsibilities, timelines, and milestones.
- Communication: Ensure effective communication among team members, highlighting the benefits of the new solution and providing information on training and support.
- User Testing: Consider conducting pilot testing with a small group before rolling out the new solution to the entire practice.
- Support and Training: Provide sufficient support and training to all staff members to ensure their comfort and proficiency in using the new solution.
- Data Migration: Pay close attention to the quality of data as it is moved from the old system to the new system to avoid any loss or compromise.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: Continuously monitor and evaluate the process flow, staff adoption, and overall results to ensure they align with the initial plan.
Justifying Investments in New Technology
In the face of increasing financial pressure, medical group leaders must incorporate staffing and workforce considerations into their business case to justify investments in new technology. Here are some measures that can help demonstrate a strong business case:
- Labor Costs: Assess how the new technology may impact overall labor costs, such as reducing manual tasks, overtime, and the cost of turnover due to burnout
- Time Savings: Calculate and compare the time spent on tasks by impacted staff and the organization as a whole before and after implementation.
- Staff Utilization: Identify opportunities to redeploy staff members from reduced workload areas to areas that need additional support.
- Patient Satisfaction and Quality of Care: Measure the impact of the technology change on patient satisfaction, diagnosis, treatment, and the rate of medical errors.
- Compliance: Consider the impact of the new solution on overall compliance with complex standards and regulations, such as CMS, HIPAA, and HITECH.
Technology holds great promise in addressing the challenges of workforce shortages and burnout in the healthcare industry. Automated appointment scheduling, patient engagement and self-service tools, and telemedicine solutions are just a few examples of how technology can improve efficiency and enhance patient access. By carefully balancing efficiency gains with change management burden, implementing best practices for a smooth transition, and incorporating staffing and workforce considerations into business cases, healthcare organizations can successfully leverage technology to navigate the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.