Impact of Staff Shortage in Healthcare: How Our Services & Solutions Can Bridge the Gap During the Healthcare Exodus
Nearly four years after the CDC confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., the pandemic’s far-reaching impact still looms large, with communities across the country grappling with its enduring consequences. However, it’s not just the virus that continues to shape the healthcare landscape. Healthcare workers on the frontlines find themselves in the eye of a storm, facing unprecedented challenges from multiple sources.
The ever-evolving landscape of COVID-19, characterized by new variants and a shifting regulatory environment at federal and state levels, has placed an immense burden on healthcare professionals. They grapple not only with the medical complexities of the pandemic but also with delays in care and the complexities of patients who, influenced by firmly held personal or political beliefs, sometimes resist medical guidance.
Adding to the strain, financial performance at hospitals and health systems remains volatile due to declining patient volumes, rising labor expenses, and inflation in 2023. Despite this, many healthcare organizations have improved compared to last year, according to a recent report by Kaufman Hall.
However, it’s unmistakable that COVID-19 and the problems that have arisen in its wake have significantly affected the health and well-being of healthcare providers and hospitals alike. As a result, thousands of physicians and other healthcare workers are finding it increasingly difficult to continue in their roles. Research from Morning Consult suggests that one in five healthcare professionals have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic, with another 47% planning to leave by 2025, according to another report by Elsevier Health.
The Height of Staffing Shortages
By the end of 2022, 145,213 healthcare providers bid farewell to the profession, leaving a significant void in the healthcare workforce. There are myriad underlying reasons behind this mass exodus. Among these departing healthcare professionals, a substantial number were taking care of older adults and individuals living with disabilities, two patient groups especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
These healthcare providers bore the brunt of the pandemic’s negative consequences, as they were on the frontlines, offering care to COVID-19 patients. This entailed heightened exposure to the fear of infection, relentless work hours, and the emotional burden of coping with the loss of patients, as well as the tragic departure of their colleagues who valiantly fought against the pandemic. The toll on their mental health has been evident, with many grappling with depression and severe stress.
Of particular concern is the departure of 34,834 nurse practitioners from healthcare facilities nationwide. Although it is likely that some nurse practitioners left their jobs due to the reasons mentioned earlier, there is evidence suggesting that a significant number of them have been pursuing alternative career paths.
Of the other departures, Definitive Healthcare’s report found 71,309 physicians left their positions, 13,714 physician assistants, 15,332 physical therapists, and 10,024 licensed clinical social workers.
Impact of Staff Shortage in Healthcare: Primary Areas Affected by Crisis
The staffing shortages experienced between 2021 and 2022 had a profound impact on various healthcare specialties, reshaping the landscape of care delivery in distinct ways. Among the most significantly affected fields were internal medicine, family practice, and clinical psychology, according to Definitive Healthcare’s report. Professionals in these disciplines found themselves at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic, confronting the daunting challenges and stressors previously outlined. Their unwavering dedication to patient care came at a personal cost, contributing to the significant attrition within these specialties.
Additionally, optometry, obstetrics/gynecology, and anesthesiology witnessed a substantial departure of healthcare professionals during this period. This exodus shed light on how COVID-19 impacted healthcare practices in distinctive ways. In these specialties, patient examinations traditionally require in-person consultations, which were challenging during the pandemic due to safety concerns and restrictions. This constraint resulted in considerable financial losses, affecting healthcare practices across the board.
However, the challenges faced by anesthesiology and optometry were particularly pronounced. These fields involve complex technologies and, in some cases, necessitate physical contact with patients, making them uniquely vulnerable to the disruptions brought about by the pandemic.
Consequently, numerous practices were left with no choice but to furlough employees or, in some unfortunate cases, permanently close their doors as they struggled to adapt to the evolving healthcare landscape.
Rising Costs and New Strategies to Combat Shortages
The repercussions of healthcare staffing shortages are palpable on multiple fronts, with far-reaching consequences extending to patients, providers, and the healthcare infrastructure as a whole. When healthcare organizations find themselves grappling with inadequate staffing levels, the effects are not only felt within their operational framework but also resonate profoundly within the communities they serve.
A significant decline in patient volumes across healthcare institutions marked the early days of the pandemic in 2020. Several factors contributed to this decline, including apprehensions about contracting the coronavirus, the mandated cancellation of elective surgeries, supply chain disruptions, and capacity constraints as COVID-19 cases took precedence.
This decrease in patient volumes had a profound financial impact on health systems, plunging them into significant losses. Faced with the dual challenges of diminishing staff numbers and financial constraints, hospitals turned to contracted labor and temporary healthcare staffing agencies as a cost-effective solution. This allowed for a flexible response to the fluctuating demand for healthcare services.
However, while using contract labor initially appeared to be a prudent cost-containment measure, the picture has evolved. Definitive Healthcare’s report suggests that declining contract labor expenses may be a result of workforce reductions and staff turnover, potentially exacerbating the staffing crisis.
Beyond labor costs, healthcare institutions are grappling with other financial pressures. The rising inflation, increasing expenses for supplies and purchased services, growing bad debt, and an uptick in charity care, driven partly by changes in Medicaid eligibility, have placed hospitals under significant financial stress. Concurrently, shifts in patient preferences towards outpatient settings have created additional challenges for inpatient care, necessitating a reevaluation of healthcare delivery strategies.
Currently, hospitals are struggling to maintain their financial stability due to very narrow profit margins. Additionally, they’re navigating the confluence of rising inflation, persistent staffing shortages, and the lingering impact of COVID-19. Supply and medical costs per patient have seen substantial increases between 2021 and 2022. These financial constraints are compelling healthcare organizations to consider consolidation as a means of scaling their operations, adding more providers, beds, physician practices, and imaging centers to their networks.
Pursuing cost-efficiency and sustainability has become paramount, as healthcare leaders seek innovative strategies to ensure the continuity of quality patient care amidst a tumultuous healthcare landscape. These evolving financial dynamics underscore the urgent need for comprehensive solutions that address the challenges posed by staffing shortages, improving not only healthcare delivery but also the overall financial health of healthcare institutions.
YES Can Help You Bridge the Gap with These Solutions
In the face of the healthcare staffing crisis that has left healthcare organizations across the nation grappling with uncertainty, YES HIM Consulting offers tailored solutions designed to empower your institution to navigate these challenging times and emerge stronger than ever.
Medical Coding and Auditing:
Our proficiency in medical coding and auditing is the cornerstone of our commitment to ensuring operational efficiency within your healthcare organization. By optimizing your coding processes, we help you maximize revenue, reduce compliance risks, and improve the accuracy of medical records. Our experts meticulously review your coding practices, identify areas for improvement, and work closely with your team to implement solutions that lead to enhanced financial performance and regulatory compliance. If augmenting your coding staff with our managed coding services works better for your organization, we have a team of experienced coding consultants ready to step in. We specialize in all types of settings and specialties.
Education and Training:
At YES, we understand the importance of education and training in the healthcare sector. With our comprehensive educational programs, we offer your team the opportunity to stay updated with the latest industry standards and practices. Our experienced educators provide the knowledge and skills necessary to address staffing shortages, offering training in emerging roles and competencies. We empower your workforce to adapt to the ever-changing healthcare landscape, ensuring continuity of high-quality patient care.
Special Projects and Consulting:
In an environment where adaptability is key, our specialized projects and consulting services offer a lifeline to healthcare organizations. Our experienced consultants, with over 20 years of expertise in Health Information Management, work closely with your leadership to design and implement strategies that address your unique staffing challenges. We provide actionable insights, tailored recommendations, and project management expertise to guide you through the complex terrain of healthcare staffing. Whether it’s managing staffing gaps or facilitating the transition of departing healthcare professionals, we’re your trusted advisors.
Every healthcare organization is unique, with its own set of challenges and goals. At YES, we recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t suffice. That’s why we take the time to understand your specific needs, staffing constraints, and operational objectives. Our solutions are custom-tailored to align with your organizational culture and mission, ensuring a seamless fit that propels you toward success.
By partnering with us, you gain access to a wealth of experience and a dedicated team committed to addressing staffing shortages and improving the resilience of your healthcare organization. Our comprehensive suite of services, from coding and auditing to education, training, special projects, and consulting, ensures that we are by your side at every step of your journey.
The Importance of Partnering with Experts Like YES
In these tumultuous times, when the healthcare industry grapples with unprecedented staffing shortages and the ever-evolving challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of seeking expertise and guidance cannot be overstated. This is precisely where our firm excels.
We have honed our expertise in medical coding, auditing, education, and special projects/consulting, drawing from over two decades of experience in the HIM industry. Our seasoned consultants possess an in-depth understanding of the intricate web of healthcare operations, compliance, and regulations, making us your trusted partners in navigating the complexities of the healthcare staffing crisis.
Partnering with experts like us is an investment in the future of your healthcare organization. Our services are meticulously designed to help health systems bridge the gap between staffing shortages and the pursuit of their goals. We recognize that the challenges posed by the exodus of healthcare professionals are multifaceted and require tailored solutions. This is where our specialized knowledge and experience come to the forefront, providing you with the guidance and strategies you need to adapt, thrive, and ensure the continuity of top-quality patient care.
The healthcare industry has been in a state of constant flux, exacerbated by the enduring impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The departure of tens of thousands of healthcare practitioners has illuminated the urgency of addressing staffing shortages. While the challenges are undeniable, there is room for hope.
If you are a healthcare organization grappling with the consequences of staffing shortages, now is the time to take action. We invite you to reach out to our team and explore how our expertise and services can benefit your organization. Let us work together to tailor strategies and solutions that address your unique challenges and goals.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you bridge the gap, optimize your resources, and ensure the seamless delivery of healthcare services in these challenging times.