Many healthcare providers are currently facing staff shortages in their front desk registration areas. The last year has been traumatic for healthcare providers and now many are having difficulty finding individuals to fill open registration staff positions.
Why is this happening at this time? There are many trends that have had an effect on the ability of healthcare providers to hire staff. These include the following:
1) Increased concerns for safety. The pandemic created a situation where front desk staff were potentially exposed to infected patients. Healthcare providers implemented screening and temperature checks as one tool to detect infected patients but front desk staff are still concerned with potential infection.
2) Healthcare facility challenges with reimbursement/contracts to allow wage pay, FTE (full time employee) assignment for work. The ability of the healthcare provider to hire full time employees at competitive wages is affected by many things including reimbursement rates, financial budgets, hiring policies, etc.
3) Front-line high demands on regulatory measures/data capture to meet requirements (Meaningful Use, Joint Commission, EMTALA, several more). The job of a front desk staff member is complex and requires knowledge of many regulations and workflows as well as the ability to interact in a positive manner with patients under stress from their illness or concerns.
4) Patient demand/expectations. The lockdowns during the pandemic exposed individuals to new and innovative ways to transact their personal communications and business. Groceries can be ordered on their mobile devices for delivery or curbside pickup. Healthcare services can be performed by telehealth visits. Communication with family and friends was done by virtual meetings on their phones. They expect their healthcare providers to provide the same service tools, to not wait for long periods of time in crowded waiting areas in the facility and to be able use self-service to get information, register, and get their healthcare services.
5) Competitive job market for non-clinical positions. The headlines in the news today are about the shortage of workers, raising wage rates, and the number of unfilled jobs. Front desk staff positions in healthcare have not been high paying jobs and individuals now have more competitive opportunities that pay more and are viewed as “safer.” While some potential workers have dropped out of the workforce pool and others are not looking due to the increased unemployment benefits, those that are looking for new jobs have multiple jobs to consider.
Recruitment issues in the healthcare industry have not just arisen due the pandemic and the after effects of the pandemic, this has been a trend for some time. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare support positions have been one of the fastest growing job sectors for many years.
Industry measurements of patient satisfaction with their healthcare provider show that the front desk registration staff has a large impact on patient satisfaction. Interactions with staff, ease of communication, wait times for service, ability to easily get needed information, and friendliness of the registration staff all significantly affect patient satisfaction and patient retention.
How are healthcare providers managing this staff shortage issue? Today’s consumer expects healthcare to provide the same services and conveniences they have seen in the retail sector. Mobile phone apps that allow easy communications, provide immediate information, make interactions simple, fast, and easy are desired by patients. Patient self-service via mobile devices or self-service kiosks are desired by patients and used by many healthcare providers to lessen the load on the registration team. Patients can easily do all the registration tasks themselves without interaction with the registration staff allowing the provider to have less staff and thereby solving the staffing shortage issue.
PatientWorks Corporation has implemented patient self-service mobile and kiosk solutions at leading healthcare institutions.