Small healthcare practices must be careful not to let the patient experience slip amid staff shortages - MedCity News

Understaffing in the US healthcare workforce leads to negative patient experiences, according to new research from Weaving. This is particularly concerning for small healthcare practices, as the patient experience is often the hallmark that sets them apart from their competitors, the report said.

Weave, which provides communication and engagement platforms to small businesses, surveyed more than 510 healthcare professionals who work in small healthcare practices, defined in the report as practices with fewer than 50 employees. The survey found that 2 out of 3 small healthcare businesses say they have staff shortages, with little confidence that this shortage will be addressed soon.

Almost 1 in 5 healthcare workers quit their jobs during the pandemic, with burnout and poor pay being the most commonly cited reasons for healthcare staff members to leave.

As a result of this staffing crisis, the patient experience has been “lost” for many healthcare clinics, said Chris Baird, Weave’s chief marketing officer. It becomes much more difficult for clinicians to create positive patient experiences when they work longer hours and face increasing workloads, he pointed out.

The report found that healthcare workforce shortages lead to a number of negative effects on the patient experience, including increased waiting times, rushed appointments and inattentive staff. Small health practices should be especially wary of these consequences, according to Baird.

“Healthcare practices depend on happy patients to come back and refer friends and family to stay in business,” he said. “If the problem of understaffing is not addressed and subsequent problems continue to arise, patients may become dissatisfied with their care and turn to clinics where appointments are readily available.”

Patient dissatisfaction can cause unfavorable online reviews and negative word-of-mouth, which can also dramatically hurt a small health clinic’s reputation and bottom line, Baird said.

The report found that while 97% of respondents said that providing a positive patient experience requires the right tools and technology, only 27% have invested in automation technology to enable employees to do their jobs effectively.

However, reducing manual processes is likely the number one way for healthcare businesses to reduce employee workloads amid staffing shortages, according to Baird. He pointed out that there are dozens of suppliers – such as Olive, OK Hello and CareSignal — which can help healthcare staff avoid getting bogged down in manual tasks such as scheduling, keeping clinical notes, sending appointment reminders and entering admission forms.

In addition to investing in automation, the report recommends that healthcare businesses meet at least once a month to analyze patient experiences in their practice – it found that only half of clinics do this.

The report also recommends that healthcare practices regularly screen employees to learn more about their job satisfaction and ways to improve staff retention. These conversations can illuminate specific pain points in staff workflows, allowing practices to make more targeted decisions about which automation technology to invest in.

“Against the background of trends such as the Great Resignation andquiet refusal“, it’s never been more important to ensure your employees are engaged and satisfied with the work they do,” Baird said. “When employees are happy, it shines through in the way they interact with patients and other colleagues, which undoubtedly impacts the patient experience and the success of the clinic as a whole.”

Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images

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