Medhealth Review

What challenges and opportunities continue to exist within the acute healthcare settings post-Covid?

Over the past three years, healthcare, like other industries, has experienced many challenges.  The pandemic may be over, but the issues facing healthcare are not.  Critical clinical labor shortages have caused issues with maintaining care and contributing to physician and clinician burnout.  An American Hospital Association (AHA) survey revealed that job vacancies for certain types of nurses increased by up to 30% between 2019 and 2020.  By 2026, a shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers is predicted.  Non-clinical labor challenges, particularly in revenue cycle management (RCM), health information management (HIM), health information technology (HIT) and analytics are having a significant financial impact on hospitals and health systems

The primary driver of these non-clinical challenges pertain to the large percentage of workers who have continued to work remotely since the pandemic.  Healthcare organizations that are staffing today consistently need local and remote employees to operate.  Some of these departments had a hybrid model prior to Covid and are now operating in a fully remote environment.  This has created a situation like a “Free Agency” in professional sports. 

Employees are no longer hindered by proximity to find a job.  Now they can work remotely and seek out the employer with a higher salary and more benefits.  The area most affected by this new normal is the rural markets.  Not only has this created tremendous competition within markets, but it also in parallel to a labor market with less talent represented from early retirements to families making the decision for someone not to work and an overall smaller workforce from which to draw.  To combat the shortage, healthcare human resources departments are highly focused on recruitment and retention.  According to a 2022 Kauffman Hall report, 100 percent of the 86 hospital and health system participants had implemented at least one recruitment or retention strategy.

Challenges with RCM, HIM and HIT predominately exist today due to the wealth of knowledge of those who have retired on short notice with the comparison that organizations are having to move at a much faster pace in our data driven world.  Temporary staffing is an option for many organizations.  According to the 2023 Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) Temporary Staffing Platform Update, nearly three quarter (73%) of the global temporary staffing platform market stems from healthcare.  Clearly staff augmentation or temporary staffing is essential to the vitality of non-clinical healthcare operations at this time.  Healthcare analytics with artificial intelligence capabilities are attempting to drive operational excellence while technically augmenting staff and improving processes.  However, within the three workforce areas mentioned above, most are very labor intensive with slow adoption.  This does create real workflow opportunities with the right technological tools and best practices.

By Thomas Stewart, Jr, President and Co-Founder, JTS Health Partners

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