Solving the Healthcare Staffing Crisis

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HSF-thumb1By now, most healthcare leaders have no need to be reminded of the staffing challenges taxing hospitals and organizations today, and as Marla Durben Hirsch observed in a recent article at FierceHealthcare, the recruitment and retention of healthcare employees will only become increasingly “difficult in the age of healthcare reform, with its focus on new payment models, such as accountable and value-based care.”

In fact, one recruitment expert said the next five years will see “staffing needs [growing] exponentially.”

So, how can healthcare organizations solve these challenges? Hirsch offers three possible solutions:

First, as the need for primary-care and emergency-department physicians grows, even as shortages worsen, hospitals should consider buying up more physician practices, employing more physicians in full-time capacities, and expanding the number of mid-level practitioners, such as nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists, on staff.

With budgets bursting at their seams, mid-level practitioners especially could prove to be a “lower-cost alternative” to bringing more physicians onboard.

“Care extenders can deal with a lot of short fall and fill in gaps. They’ll be picking up the slack when there aren’t enough physicians,” Dr. Bill Fera of Pittsburgh-based Ernst & Young’s Health Advisory Group said.

Second, hospitals should institute more physicians in leadership capacities.

ACOs will work most effectively if physicians take leadership roles in their organizations, Hirsch writes. Developing these leaders internally, as opposed to relying on the brutally competitive job market, could be the latest trend among hospitals: “Healthcare organizations are turning to their own talent pipeline to identify and groom physician leaders. Hospitals, already familiar with their affiliated physicians, can develop leaders from their own medical staff quickly.”

Third, with no easy solution to these crises, executive teams will have to be creative and think outside the conventional box in augmenting staffing shortages.

Yes, there is a shortage of physicians, nurses, home-health staff, and personal-care aides, and this shortage will not be solved immediately. So, it’s time, Hirsch continues, to look at alternatives that can keep employee morale high and staffing needs minimal.

“Technology, such as self-service registration kiosks, voice-recognition equipment, and remote monitoring can take the place of some employees and enable organizations to use staff elsewhere. Predictive modeling programs can help determine staff scheduling needs and identify patient-flow logistic bottlenecks so that hospitals can reassign employees accordingly. Combined EHR/practice management systems can streamline billing and reduce the number of billing personnel needed.”

How are you and your organization coping with staffing shortages? What are some of the solutions you’ve implemented to meet your staffing needs?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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