Creating a solid team of healthcare professionals and administrators is essential for maintaining a safe and efficient healthcare environment. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its rippling effects have created a healthcare staffing shortage leading to overworked and exhausted providers. It ultimately impacts safety, compliance and, by association, the quality of patient care.
Thankfully, compliance teams play a key role in building a culture of safety to retain healthcare employees and, most importantly, keep patients safe.
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Staffing-Related Compliance Challenges
While there’s a host of issues related to healthcare staffing shortages, compliance issues are some of the trickiest to address. This is largely because they emerge in areas of the business beyond where they first occur.
For instance, turnover-related compliance problems might impact a practice’s reimbursement rates because new staff aren’t familiar with the claims process and aren’t sure what to look for when reviewing and submitting. Likewise, a skeleton crew will have more to do, which opens the door to mistakes that — even though they’re knowledgeable in how to prevent them — occur because they simply don’t have time or attentiveness. Either way, the result is lost revenue for the practice.
Beyond revenue, there’s a host of reasons the compliance team needs to play a role in helping to reduce healthcare staffing shortages and turnover. Prioritizing training and policies are vital to patient safety, but it’s hard when there are so many other things that need their attention. Don’t let compliance become lax and allow avoidable mistakes to frustrate already overworked teams.
Industries Most Impacted by Healthcare Staffing Shortages
Compliance issues caused by turnover aren’t focused on any one type of healthcare facility. In fact, these issues affect facilities differently, and can have major implications if not resolved.
Mental Health Facilities
Healthcare staffing shortages have been a significant issue for mental health facilities. The challenges of filling positions with qualified professionals, combined with the impact of the pandemic, have resulted in low provider-to-patient ratios that can cause programs to close.
Moreover, the increase in substance abuse due to a lack of available medical care is staggering. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports an increase of 2.8 million substance abuse patients since the onset of the pandemic. The staffing crisis in mental health facilities has severe implications for patient care, and it’s making it difficult to operate facilities within the bounds of stringent compliance standards.
When rural hospitals face a lack of healthcare professionals they need to limit their patient capacity and reduce the number of services they can offer communities. This has resulted in overworked and stretched-thin staff, forced to take on multiple roles and work longer shifts to keep facilities running — often at the expense of compliance.
To protect against noncompliance and an increase in incidents, many facilities have shifted priorities to suspend certain services or limit the care they provide. Those providers that continue to try and operate at the level of census demand play a dangerous game as it relates to potential compliance issues.
Long-Term Care Facilities
Healthcare staffing shortages in skilled nursing and long-term care facilities can seriously impact compliance, patient care, and employee satisfaction. In terms of compliance, with less staff available, there may not be enough time to thoroughly review and manage necessary documentation and records, leading to errors and potential regulatory violations. This can also result in lower reimbursement rates and decreased revenue for the facility.
Understaffed facilities may also struggle to provide adequate and timely care to residents, leading to lower quality of life — possibly even harm. This can also increase the workload for the remaining staff, leading to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.
4 Ways the Compliance Team Can Alleviate Staffing Shortages
It’s dire that we find innovative solutions to alleviate our global staffing shortage. From increasing investment in education and training, to implementing creative recruitment strategies, healthcare leaders can take many steps to address the need for qualified workers.
Let’s explore some of the most promising ideas to reduce staffing shortages and ensure that patients receive the quality care they deserve.
1. Build a Partnership with HR
By working together, compliance and HR can streamline the process of bringing new staff on board, and reduce credentialing surprises. Open communication and collaboration between these two departments will ensure new hires get up to speed quickly and efficiently. This partnership will also help resolve potential credentialing-related issues, allowing the healthcare facility to provide quality patient care without disruptions.
2. Reduce Administrative and Manual Tasks
The traditional paper-based processes in healthcare can be time consuming and prone to errors. It’s estimated automation and workflows can save the healthcare industry $22.3B. From a compliance standpoint, you can streamline manual tasks such as assigning training, getting policies acknowledged, and incident reporting. Implementing automated systems can also reduce the risk of errors and improve compliance in documentation, making it easier for healthcare organizations to meet regulatory requirements.
3. Support Existing Staff
Creating a positive work environment that supports the employee’s professional development encourages staff to stick around. Offering flexible and convenient training options, such as online learning for mandatory training or opportunities to earn continuing education units (CEUs) is also attractive to staff who want the flexibility to learn from anywhere, at any time. By making the training process more manageable, you demonstrate that you value your staff, and their growth and development within the organization.
4. Speed Up Credentialing
Every day providers wait to be credentialed, privileged, or enrolled with payers is a day they are not seeing patients. Shorten this time with a more organized and automated system. Most credentialers spend their days bouncing between spreadsheets, browser tabs, and servers. If you could streamline that in one online workspace, how much more quickly could you get new providers in front of patients?
5. Remove Telemedicine Compliance Barriers
Telemedicine addresses healthcare staffing shortages by flexing to the provider’s schedule. Reducing the need for on-site staff in certain situations makes it possible for physicians to be in two places at once. This can also increase healthcare access for patients in underserved or remote areas. Getting everyone on board with new technology like telemedicine can be challenging, but that’s where proper training and compliance come into play. Don’t leave your less-tech-savvy nurses behind! It’s always worth it to train your team thoroughly and ensure they’re comfortable with new tech.
Let’s Get to Work Correcting Healthcare Staffing Shortages
As we’ve seen over the last few years, healthcare staffing shortages in the healthcare industry can significantly impact compliance and overall patient care. Providers need to prioritize solutions for patient care and the future of healthcare.
We must strive to maintain compliance, and the positive patient outcomes that inevitably accompany it. This starts by ensuring job satisfaction among staff, regardless of the type of facility they work in or the setting in which they administer care. And, of course, a focus on compliance in building a culture of safety and quality patient care.