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Is it Time to Reevaluate the Standards for Staffing Healthcare Professionals?

Ask any physician or healthcare practice administrator about their biggest struggles and they may tell you about government regulations, payment systems, or insurance and patient volume. But you’ll really see their despair when you bring up human resources.

Whether it’s hiring people, managing them, keeping them happy, or, of course, paying for them, one of the greatest and most consistent challenges in healthcare stems from organizational effectiveness. This should come as no surprise since current physician practices spend 65% of billing on overhead, and nearly half of that is associated with staffing. Employee effectiveness and productivity is naturally a top priority, and it’s clearly putting extra stress on healthcare professionals.

A Process Problem, Not a People Problem

After 30 plus years in healthcare, I not only feel their pain but I see it regularly. Not much has improved since my early days in the industry when the fax machine broke through as the most innovative way to improve workflow and productivity. But much like my full head of dark hair, those days are long gone. The fax machine that once symbolized efficiency for any given practice is now the source of ineffective, inconvenient, and frustrating problems for so many providers and their staff.

“The fax machine that once symbolized efficiency for any given practice is now the source of ineffective, inconvenient, and frustrating problems for so many providers and their staff. ”

Recently, I met with a very busy provider group that perfectly illustrates how poor technology interferes with staff productivity and causes unnecessary frustration for the management. This group had twenty full time schedulers but are still buried in work and struggling with quality! Their dependency on the technology of the past resulted in the expected problems of accuracy and lost productivity, so I was asked to visit with them and provide some insights on how automation could help.

Being a numbers guy, I immediately started quantifying their effort, aligned it to industry benchmarks and tried to validate the gap. The crazy thing was that by the numbers this group was very impressive. According to industry standards, everything should have been running smoothly for this provider group, but their daily stress and less than good results proved otherwise.

So what was going wrong?

Problems With the Benchmarks

The problem comes from the industry standards for effectiveness never adapting to the the 21st century. These benchmarks are based on what has always been done, not what could be better. So, from a strictly numerical perspective, a staffing model may look accurate per nation benchmarks even though the quality is low.

Many provider groups I work with experience this problem. They hit the standards, sometimes are even below the standard, but can’t understand why they are still struggling with performance. Despite having the 20+ people that actually exceeds the benchmark. When I communicated all this to my client, she hung her head in disappointment.

“So I guess this is just the way it is?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “it is the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

I proposed to her a different approach, one that went beyond the industry standards that are built with yesterday’s technology and processes in mind and utilized today’s technology, not faxes and phone calls. As my daughter would say, even email is old school now. With this approach, patients could book their own appointments online, and referring providers could access the calendars of receiving providers and schedule referral appointments right at the point of care. With one click, all the patient data would get sent straight to the receiver’s EMR and much of the insurance matching and availability back and forth would just happen in milliseconds.

She was compelled, but not convinced.

“What about patient information, Dave?”

It’s validated and sent directly into your EMR.

“Insurance match?”

Validated, and you only receive patients that are aligned to your insurance.

“But we’d run the risk of double booking due to having two schedules that might get out of sync.”

Nope, I told her. You won’t have two schedules, just one that is accessible per your rules. It will never be out of sync because there is nothing to sync. It’s your existing EHR schedule just being made available using your rules to other sending providers.

“But all the providers will have to be on the same EMR, right?”

With a big grin on my face, I replied “Nope, and that is the coolest part.”

She leaned in as I explained Blockit’s ability to integrate with any EMR. Slowly, she started to see how much easier her world would be with this kind of automation. Then we went back to the staffing numbers.

Relieving the Stress With a Better Solution

I said “let’s do the same math again except this time let’s use those estimates we came up with considering Blockit’s digital care coordination solution within your workflow.” We went through all the same calculations we did for her 20 schedulers, but added Blockit’s automation.

We reduced her staff down from 20 full-time schedules to four!

We used all the same math and numbers. The difference was that we applied Blockit, the ONLY truly integrated scheduling and care coordination solution that accommodates all those assumptions and more.

The results shocked her, but I assured her that I’ve seen how these results play out time and time again. This practice leader’s story is representative of what I see all day every day. The industry standards gave her a chance to see how her practice stacked up against the others, but those standards are based on a highly inefficient and very outdated approach to the business of healthcare that sadly has become the “norm” in healthcare. They didn’t actually solve the problems she experienced everyday and actually gave her a false sense of security while leaving her frustrated with poor performance.

Once she finally embraced the possibilities of an innovative, yet proven solution, she began to see how much she could actually improve her operating quality and cost.

“It’s time to update the industry benchmarks and for innovation to no longer add complexity and burden.”

It’s time to update the industry “benchmarks” and for innovation to no longer add complexity and burden. Technology solutions should improve efficiency, quality and cost in healthcare and in order to ensure improved care delivery we must demand that it does. After three decades in the industry, I am finally seeing it in the care coordination space, and I look forward to a future of impactful tech that finally delivers improved results. So much so that the “benchmarks” will change as well.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Blockit’s innovative digital care coordination solution, book a time to talk with one of our team members by clicking here.


Dave Gregorio is the Chief Customer Officer at Blockit and the author of the Purpose Quotient®, a nationally recognized framework for Organizational Development. A 30 year healthcare industry professional with a passion for people, Dave is the founder of the Heroes to Healthcare mission and CEO of ImPowerQ Associates LLC.


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