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National Labor Shortage: “The Big Quit” Needs Contactless Care Solutions

With about 1 in 5 healthcare workers leaving medicine since the pandemic began, many are calling it “The Big Quit.”

The U.S. healthcare sector has lost nearly half a million workers since February 2020, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eighteen percent of healthcare staff have quit since the pandemic began, while 12 percent have been laid off, according to research from Morning Consult.

This labor shortage has defied the expectations of economic experts, who now estimate that the problem will last for years due to the quitting and retirements. 

Despite these staffing challenges, health systems and medical groups must continue to serve patients. Many patients who deferred care during the various surges of the COVID-19 pandemic are again seeking care. However, they are now facing long waits for an appointment due to the demand as well as staffing challenges. 

Worse yet, more than half of patients who either deferred or were unable to access care during the pandemic suffered negative health consequences. When a patient’s health worsens, it drives even greater demand for care – with a diminishing supply of clinicians.

Easing Access through Contactless Care

During the pandemic, healthcare providers began modifying their clinical workflows to enable “contactless care.” In short, contactless care describes a patient experience delivered in a way that avoids unnecessary person-to-person contact, similar to experiences in many other industries, such as banking, aviation and retail. It leverages digital (“contactless”) technologies and tools to deliver healthcare and health-related services for everything from appointment scheduling and check-in to virtual consult and online payment. 

Although these technology-enabled workflows were developed to limit the spread of COVID-19, healthcare providers discovered efficiencies that enabled them to advance the patient journey faster, reduce the burden on office staff and see more patients per day while maintaining safe, high-quality care.

For patients, contactless care workflows eliminate crowded waiting rooms, high-touch areas, wait times and travel. In these and many other ways, contactless care meets consumer demand for ease, access, convenience, transparency and speed, which has not diminished despite the lower risk of coronavirus transmission among vaccinated patients.

Reducing Clinician Burden

By streamlining administrative workflows and facilitating care, contactless care can also help a smaller staff work more efficiently and improve clinicians’ experience, which can encourage employee retention. For example, even a seemingly small 10 percent drop in workload can greatly reduce the experience of burnout.

The elements of clinicians’ workload that would deliver the greatest impact include the repetitive data collection activities that are necessary to deliver high-quality care but could be safely automated. By one estimate, almost half of a doctor’s work day is spent on administrative work that includes these activities, while only 27 percent is spent on direct clinical care. That means for each hour of clinical face-to-face time physicians spend with patients, an additional two are filled with administrative and clerical tasks. 

Digital appointment scheduling, for example, is an important aspect of patient care because it’s where the provider first learns about the patient’s complaint, concern or preventive care needs. It certainly can be safely automated with technology. Similarly, patients can use a personal smartphone or tablet to verify their insurance, sign consent forms and authorization releases, verify or update clinical information and more—all of which help ease the burden on the clinicians, saving hundreds of staff hours and reducing data entry errors. 

The patient-entered information procured through these technologies can also help inform clinical decisions. It can achieve this by enabling providers to prepare for the clinical encounter with more time to analyze the data and create probative questions to ask the patient during the appointment, whether virtual or in-person. 

Finding the Right Technology

Although technology makes contactless care a reality, some solutions can increase the burden on both clinicians and patients. That is why selecting a comprehensive, fully-integrated contactless care platform focused on not only improving the efficiency of providers but also the patient’s experience is so critical. 

Such technology automates administrative tasks before, during and after the appointment (such as bill payment), off-loading those duties from clinicians and staff. Moreover, contactless solutions allow physicians to document directly into the electronic health record (EHR) while conducting a video consultation without switching environments. They also support critical documentation needs without taking attention away from the patient. 

As of this writing, the labor shortage across most industries – especially healthcare – shows no sign of slowing. Practices must adapt to this new environment by redesigning workflows to enable clinicians to accomplish more with less. By leveraging technology to shift the focus away from administration to direct patient care, providers can maximize the value their employees deliver to the organization and the quality of care they deliver to the patients.

Learn how the cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant Epion Platform automates and integrates patient access to alleviate administrative bottlenecks, helping deliver a more consistent, tailored and delightful patient experience across all touchpoints.