For healthcare organizations, maximizing staff resources and realizing related productivity objectives remains an ever-present challenge. Within the scope of the newer outcomes-based care models and shared-risk reimbursement programs, staff optimization—or, simply stated, two outputs for every input—has never been more critical or top-of-mind with healthcare leaders. So, how can providers maximize staff utilization? Many turn to technology as a potential solution. One technology that is often overlooked is the facility’s phone system. Why? Generally, it is because the healthcare facility’s very old, outdated phone system is used only for basic phone features, such as calls or voicemails.
In contrast, with today’s cloud communications systems, providers can truly unify their clinical communications to improve staff utilization and efficiency. An all-in-one cloud communications platform helps providers accomplish this in four main ways:
- Build consistent patient flows while reducing no-shows
- Support patients with first-call resolution
- Provide easy, efficient patient-to-provider access
- Connect staff across secure, integrated collaboration tools
Why it’s imperative to solve healthcare staff utilization challenges
Healthcare staffing shortages
Healthcare faces a massive staffing shortage in the coming years. By the year 2030, staffing experts predict there will be a deficit of almost 105,000 doctors in the US. Two-thirds of executives at hospitals with over 1,000 employees currently deal with a shortage of nurses or expect to within the next three years.
There are simply not enough qualified candidates to fill the gaps. In a 2018 survey, only five percent of respondents thought their hospital found good candidates in a timely manner. Just over a third rated their recruiting process as good, meaning that the healthcare facility was able to find the right candidates in a timely manner. In lieu of the ongoing staffing challenges, providers can better optimize care teams through the use of enhanced collaboration capabilities.
Patient appointment abandonment rates
Throw into the mix the perennial problem of the dreaded patient no-show. Estimates place the cost of no-shows at over $150 billion. Every missed appointment costs your practice revenue.
Dr. Tashfeen Ekram, a doctor and entrepreneur, calculated the cost of no-shows to practices. With a no-show rate of 18.8 percent, multiplied by 21 appointment slots per day, then multiplied by the average of $150 in revenue per appointment and 264 business days a year, you’re left with an annual loss of $156,341 per provider. No matter how successful your practice, you can’t afford that cost.
The plague of no-shows impacts clinics and other ambulatory scheduling environments. When patients don’t keep their appointments, it’s impossible to create accurate schedules. The result: wasted clinician and administrative staff time and resources. Additionally, staff might also try to book other patients in “no-show” slots, which takes away from other, potentially more valuable tasks.
No-shows also hurt the patients who do show up on time for their appointments. If the staff tries to overbook providers to make up for no-shows, on-time, in-office patients will experience longer wait times. Should the staff decide to push back the schedule to wait for a no-show patient, the patients who are already there end up waiting needlessly. Moreover, no-shows take up appointment spots that could be allotted to new patients who will actually visit the office and generate additional revenue.
Efficient scheduling procedures help you operate effectively to maximize practice profitability. With a healthcare cloud communications platform that includes integrated contact center solutions, providers can completely reimagine how they approach patient outreach to dramatically improve scheduling workflows.
The challenge of care coordination and team collaboration
Another staff utilization challenge is the lack of a streamlined process for staff collaboration and communication during critical patient care coordination transitions (i.e., patient discharges and transfers). Within larger provider organizations, poor communications technology costs valuable hours as staff members struggle to coordinate care across dispersed stakeholders within the healthcare system.
Without the right collaboration tools, staff satisfaction and attrition rates cannot be effectively addressed. On the bright side, modern communications technology shaves time from repetitive workflows and makes it easy for care teams to reach each other.
How a cloud communications system improves healthcare staff utilization
A cloud communications system improves healthcare staff utilization by reducing no-shows via automated appointment reminders, routing calls intelligently so that patients quickly get the assistance they need, helping patients easily connect to providers, and facilitating seamless real-time collaboration between care team members.
Reducing no-shows with automated appointment reminders
Thirty-six percent of patients simply forget that they have an appointment, so they don’t show up, and their absence results in missed revenue for you. Yet, you can take a simple action to prevent this from happening by reminding patients of their appointments.
A healthcare communications system can send out an automated SMS notification 24 hours before a patient’s scheduled appointment, serving as a reminder of its upcoming date, time, and location. Putting measures in place that decrease no-shows means you’re efficiently using staff resources; no one sits around waiting for patients.
Enabling intelligent call routing
If patients pick up the phone yet can’t get through to your practice, this means you’re not effectively scheduling appointments. In turn, you’re also wasting your staffing resources because the barriers are too high to book appointments. A healthcare communications system plays an important role in helping patients schedule appointments with you, for both small and larger practices alike.
At a small practice, an omnichannel healthcare communications system sends phone calls to a desk phone, a mobile phone, and a laptop. After three rings, the system forwards the call to a mobile phone in the back office. A staffer answers the phone and walks to the front desk to book the appointment.
Larger practices with patient access center technology can also benefit from healthcare communications systems. Within an IVR system, the patient selects the appointment scheduling option, and the phone call automatically routes to the contact center. The patient’s information pops up on the screen, and the agent books the earliest available appointment. This technology ensures that the patient successfully schedules an appointment, while your practice employs staff resources effectively.
Helping patients connect to providers easily
Sometimes, patients don’t need to book an appointment; they just have a question. If you provide a means for connecting patients with providers, the patient avoids booking an appointment, leaving your staffers untapped.
A healthcare cloud communications system enables discharged patients to reach appropriate team members, who can answer questions that could prevent complications or readmissions. Through portals, patients can launch video chats with patient care navigators, who communicate in real time with providers. Patients get the help they need, while healthcare providers still get their work done.
Helping staff seamlessly communicate with each other
A unified healthcare communications system facilitates easy real-time staff communication and collaboration, utilizing any device they prefer to connect securely with cloud technology. This leads to faster care coordination, maximized staff utilization, improved patient (and staff) satisfaction, and ultimately, cost savings for your practice.
RingCentral: a healthcare cloud communications system to help you maximize staff utilization
With a comprehensive, integrated healthcare communications system, you can get the most out of your staff resources. RingCentral’s healthcare cloud communications system sends out automated appointment reminders, intelligently routes patient calls, and provides methods for patients to easily connect to their providers to get the help they need. See how cloud communications can transform your healthcare organization. Request a demo.
Originally published Feb 06, 2020, updated Apr 23, 2021