Staffing challenges continue to be the top challenge for medical practices in 2022. While the problem is faced by virtually all industries today, its impacts have been significantly worse in healthcare which has been on the frontlines of the pandemic for the past two years. The MGMA predicts that these challenges will continue through the end of this year. Front office staff at medical practices have been among the hardest hit, which impacts practice’s ability to provide acceptable patient care.
Practices continue to increase hiring, offer pay increases and retention bonuses to keep their front office staff. Forward thinking offices are now increasingly turning to technology for solutions. They are adopting tools that reduce manual workloads and improve staff efficiency. Taking away time-consuming tasks that can be better handled by computers allows practices to divert resources to revenue generating tasks. They also mean that they do not have to hire new staff. Further, experts suggest that reducing repetitive manual work reduces boredom, which in turn improves employee retention.
There is no one technology solution meets all the needs of the practice. The problems is multi-pronged and requires an array of solutions to be implemented in synch. Opportunities for automation and self-service exist in several areas, including automating intake process, consent management, payment, patient communication and scheduling.
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Recent report by McKinsey points to a lasting effect of the pandemic – patients are now shopping for easy, seamless and convenient care experiences from their providers. They are switching insurance providers and plans to get the customer treatment that they have grown to expect in other services. In response, successful practices have invested in multiple technology solutions to meet their needs. Even smaller and mid-size practices have joined in. Below is a list of three areas that all medical practices should be considering today, with example solutions.
- Automated appointment reminders: [Example: Luma Health]
- Online scheduling portals [Example: Phreesia]
- Voice assistant to answer phone calls [Example: VoCall]
Too often, medical practices assume that online tools and back-office technology will solve all their issues. The problem is that the end-user does not necessarily want nor understand how to use that technology. Studies show that 65% of patients prefer to call the office like they always have, at a time that is convenient to them – not when the practice happens to be open. VoCall closes that gap, by allowing patients to call the same number they normally do 24/7, and confirm, cancel or change appointments. This in turn takes off a large percentage of the calls a practice receives – especially during that familiar Monday morning rush.
Even with all the talk about patient engagement, most practices do not do enough to improve their patient experience. In fact, we find practice managers and doctors are unaware of how their patients interact with their clinic and the various applications and methods they use. Most get sold on a product and think their problems will be solved. Even the follow-up surveys of their patients tend to be too generic to be actionable, without real insights on what their patients need are. The Covid pandemic has made this problem worse, with many practices just trying to survive, or dig themselves out, let alone focus on what patients want.
As a technology solution provider, we are curious when we hear the phrase “we have got it covered with X product” when we ask practices about the tools they are using improving efficiency. For example, when re-scheduling and confirming appointments, some patients prefer phone calls, others text, and a few are OK with self-serve portals. Requiring all patients to use portals is simply not practical – try telling grandpa he needs to download an app before he can see a doctor. On the other hand, many working parents do not have the time to call a doctor’s office during working hours and appreciate the convenience of an online portal. We have yet to find a single solution that meets all the needs of all these patient groups together.
If you are ready to make significant impacts on your practice staffing and patient engagement by leveraging technology, we can help. Our solution VoCall helps practices of any size reduce the burden on their staff while giving patients easy access to managing their appointments. It integrates seamlessly into existing tools you have in place to manage patient appointments. With an attractive price point at a fraction of the cost of adding manpower, it can be fully integrated into mid-size practices in less than two weeks.
VoCall is a scheduling voice assistant for medical practices that uses natural language voice technology to allow patients to easily call and manage their appointments over the phone.
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