Today, healthcare practices must embrace technologies that other industries have used for decades to solve challenges like staffing shortages. Patient-facing technologies, in particular, can help relieve short-staffed care teams. New practice technologies lead to greater productivity, improved patient engagement and experience, reduced burden on staff, and decreased costs.
A Changing Landscape
The Covid-19 pandemic, alongside the Great Resignation, has reshaped how people think about the world of work. Many industries now struggle to recruit and retain qualified, reliable employees.
Healthcare is no exception to this trend, with providers experiencing severe staff shortages across the industry. According to predictions published by Moody’s Investors Service, these staff shortages are expected to continue throughout 2022 and far into the future.
Government lawmakers and industry leaders are working towards strategies to ease the staff shortage crisis. However, healthcare providers still need to deliver sufficient access to safe and timely patient care, alleviate pressure on existing staff, maintain their reputation, and manage their cash flow.
Here we look at six ways digital patient engagement tools that allow patients to self-serve can ease staff shortages in healthcare.
1. Pre-visit Registration With Digital Intake Forms
Equipping patients with the best platform to complete online pre-registration using secure digital forms, assessments, and eSignatures removes significant pressure from registrar staff. At the same time, it gives patients the intuitive digital experience they want and expect.
Staff can also check medical information and insurance details and verify these details pre-visit to make arrivals and patient experience far smoother for everyone.
The more pre-visit admin tasks patients can complete for themselves, the better. It reduces the need for time-consuming staff input, improves data accuracy, enhances patient and staff satisfaction, and increases the likelihood of positive patient outcomes.
2. Self-scheduling With Automated Appointments Reminders
Online scheduling (via user-friendly online portals or apps) is a major step towards better patient flow and an engaging patient experience. It also minimizes manual tasks and call volumes that put pressure on under-staffed teams.
Freed from answering phones to schedule patient appointments, send reminders, reschedule, and schedule follow-ups, staff can focus more time and energy on critical patient-facing activities.
Introducing an online reservation system includes benefits like:
- More efficient appointment management
- Reduced admin and front desk workload
- Increased staff efficiency and satisfaction
- Better resource allocation to avoid over- or under-booking.
With the right scheduling system in place, once a patient has booked an appointment, they can receive automated appointment reminders via text message and valuable information about what to do before, during, and after their visit.
Together, these methods increase patient engagement and satisfaction, reduce no-shows, and help avoid revenue loss. Online appointment booking also eases staff shortages, reducing the burden on your front desk staff.
3. Self Check-in and Wait Time View
Though it was initially introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic, the virtual waiting room is still a popular way to streamline the patient arrivals process. It can significantly ease the challenges caused by staff shortages.
Instead of battling with chaotic, busy waiting rooms and stressed staff, patients can safely check in remotely on arrival with a cell phone. Staff can inform patients of wait times without having patients come to the front desk. In turn, fewer patients crowding the lobby reduces bottlenecks and improves patient flow.
Patient-driven arrivals keep patients engaged, informed, and reassured in real time. Informed patients don’t need to interrupt staff with questions or concerns. In addition, they minimize stress for busy reception staff and enable them to locate and track patients from door to discharge easily.
4. Pre- and Post-visit Patient Education
Patient engagement solutions provide high-quality, customized patient education about the condition and course of treatment. Engagement tools also supply surveys, self-care information, and service news, driving improved health outcomes.
Using automated tools and chatbots to deliver patient education can significantly ease the burden on physicians, nurses, and other frontline health workers. Automating tasks better suited for a computer frees up care teams to practice at the top of their licenses.
These data-driven patient engagement technologies serve as a 24/7 extension of the care team. They engage and guide patients along their care journey, including taking medications, attending follow-up appointments, preparing correctly for procedures, or having necessary screenings. As a result, they help patients better manage their health and healthcare providers better manage their caseloads.
5. Post-visit Prescription Refills and Medication Reminders
Poor medication adherence significantly increases hospital visits, nursing home admissions, and hospital readmissions. Moreover, poor adherence puts a considerable burden on healthcare providers who are already short-staffed.
There are multiple reasons for non-adherence, including low health literacy. However, one of the main factors identified through various studies is that patients simply forget to take them.
According to several studies, patients who are highly engaged with their healthcare team and receive timely patient-provider communication via mobile devices have greater medication adherence. For example, one study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that mobile apps improved compliance and resulted in a higher level of patient engagement through regular post-visit refills and medication text reminders.
Investing in personalized mobile-friendly communication that encourages patients to research their condition, look up information about medications, connect with a pharmacist, and build healthier habits can also be used effectively to improve medication adherence.
6. Automated Prior Authorization and Payment Plans
The American Medical Association reported that some healthcare providers spend more than two full working days each week on prior authorization paperwork, billing procedures, and payment collections. These are big admin pain points for many healthcare providers, especially those experiencing staff shortages.
Automating prior authorizations can simplify and perfect this process, enhancing operational efficiency, improving patient engagement, saving staff time, and reducing costs.
Additionally, using engagement tools for upfront payment alerts, billing options, and payment reminders can help patients be more financially responsible and reduce missed or overdue payments. Receiving medical bills via email or text is more convenient for most patients. Pending bill notifications allow them to access their statements and pay online.
Easy payment processing saves valuable staff time otherwise wasted on mailing paper statements, processing mailed payments, posting payments into a management system, and making multiple calls to patients about payments due.
As payer rules and patient coverage status constantly change, automated prior authorization and billing processes increase accuracy, speed, and accessibility. Digital payment tools ultimately create a far better patient experience without placing any extra burden on healthcare staff or practice workflows.
Finding the Best Patient Engagement Software for Your Practice
Patients want access to digital engagement solutions that create a safer, more flexible, and more satisfying healthcare experience. Healthcare providers want to find software to enable existing staff to work more efficiently and to their highest ability while reducing costs. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find simple solutions that address both.
Today, new digital engagement solutions and data-driven technologies can help remove unnecessary manual tasks, reduce errors, and offer insights to improve patient-facing and back-office workflows. Together, they create a safer, more patient-friendly experience, complement person-to-person interactions, and help ease the pressures of staff shortages.
With the latest boom in healthcare technology, the biggest problem for healthcare providers isn’t finding solutions to staffing shortages so much as deciding which are the best solutions for them.
At PatientTrak, we listen carefully to the challenges you’re trying to resolve, whether that’s streamlining arrivals, fixing scheduling issues, improving internal communications, reducing no-shows, or increasing patient engagement.
Our patient flow, engagement, and reputation management solutions are configured to suit your organization’s needs and will help your staff become more effective, efficient, and engaged in their work.
Our team is here to support your team, ensure they are properly trained on our software solutions, and benefit from workflow efficiencies from day one.