If you could put a finger on a single source of alarm and discomfort for healthcare practices these days, staffing shortages would be right up there at the top of the list. This ongoing battle afflicts nearly every practice and puts an added strain on your team in offering prompt quality care to patients. Staffing issues directly impact your ability to schedule and see patients, keep pace with inflation, and grow your business.

Unsurprisingly, 60% of practices are anticipating short staffing will be the biggest challenge they face in 2023.

How are staff shortages affecting my practice?

A multi-faceted dilemma, short staffing damages your practice in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • Impacts your ability to maintain targeted appointment volumes and deliver quality care.
  • Lengthens wait times for appointments and makes it more difficult to offer a satisfying patient experience.
  • Reduces appointment slot availability which risks patients switching practices to get in sooner.
  • Contributes to an overworked front office staff who have to take on more duties, leading to higher rates of burnout, resignations, and turnover.
  • Lowers your practice’s ability to retain returning patients and attract more new patients.
  • Minimizes opportunities to meet your practice’s business goals and decreases your profit margin.

What’s causing staff shortages?

While the causes are numerous, we can focus on a handful of contributing factors that have been particularly devastating. These include both macroeconomic issues as well as more localized conditions that can impact any practice:

  • A continued strong economy that’s stoking record unemployment and employees leaving low-paying positions.
  • An over-fatigued workforce fed up after two years of pandemic conditions resulting in burnout and resignations.
  • Healthcare professionals departing in droves for higher pay and better workplace conditions that results in frequent turnover.
  • Ongoing excessive workloads on administrative and provider staff.
  • Staff members demanding more pay to remain in current positions.
  • A toxic workplace culture and management that isn’t responsive to employees’ needs.

Though several of these are outside of your control, a greater portion of them can be influenced and minimized by your active efforts to improve your practices’ work environment. These include changes you can make to better support your staff, reduce monotonous manual tasks, and create a more enjoyable practice atmosphere—both for patients and staff.

What can I do to help my practice overcome challenges presented by staff shortages?

The following are some of the strategies, best practices, and tools you can apply to accommodate the maximum number of patients despite having a smaller team. Get complete details of hacks and tips to help your practice get past labor shortage troubles by downloading the free guide, “Seven Strategies to Solve Staffing Shortages.”

1. Automate Monotonous Tasks

Just like any other business sector, your staff needs the right tools to perform at a high level and give patients an optimal experience. Digital tools can help streamline manual workloads, get your staff off the phones, and allow them to simultaneously connect with more patients. Software solutions like appointment remindersrecall notificationsdigital intake, and online bill pay relieve staff of repetitive, time-consuming manual tasks so that they can focus on more complex and important tasks, like assisting your in-office patients.

2. Get Your Team Off the Phones

When your practice’s phone lines are ringing off the hook, your staff feel overwhelmed. Continuous interruptions also prevent your team from getting higher priority work done. Modern patient communications tools simplify that process by taking the pressure off your staff and allowing them to interact with patients digitally. Tools like real-time, two-way texting and online scheduling help reduce incoming calls and give patients easier and faster ways to interact with your staff. Save your staff time and their sanity while still being responsive to your patients’ needs for better access to your practice.

3. Boost Practice & Staff Flexibility

Though delivering healthcare will never be a “work from home” situation, it doesn’t mean some office functions can’t be handled outside the office. Remote technologies accessed through your smartphone can give staff the flexibility and convenience to reach patients when needed from home or after hours. A robust mobile app can help staff catch last-minute confirmations or cancellations for earlier the next day or allow staff to quickly notify scheduled patients if there is a doctor illness or weather closure. Similarly, a telehealth tool allows your providers to see patients remotely for certain appointment types, saves them time, and helps you care for patients who may have distance or transportation barriers to care.

4. Improve Onboarding & Training

New staff members need a high level of training during their onboarding experience to be successful at their positions. When they don’t get that, it can negatively impact morale and retention. That, in turn, reduces your ability to maintain minimum staffing levels and adequately care for patients. A proven patient communications technology partner can provide you with the right software training to help your staff hit the ground running. Ensure that your software partners offer the reliable support and expertise your staff needs to use their patient tools efficiently and effectively.

5. Choose Easy-to-Use Solutions

Your staff can quickly get frustrated and feel overwhelmed using patient communications tools that are complex and involve a steep learning curve. Instead, adopt software that is user-friendly and requires no more than a week of training for them to become proficient in. Select a solutions partner that integrates easily with your existing EHR or PM system and provides the best combination of time-saving automated tools, service reliability, and dependable, on-demand support. Providing your staff with the right tools will help shrink manual workloads, achieve greater job satisfaction, and reach patients more effectively.

Key Takeaways

To stop the endless carousel of staff turnover upheaval and fill vacant positions, you’ve got to do everything in your power to help staff work smarter instead of harder. Minimize your short staffing woes by implementing these best practices, methods, and tools to unburden your staff and create a more manageable and appealing practice environment that they can flourish in. You need only channel available patient communication technology solutions to help your practice boost staff retention, book more appointments, and expand your business.