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Q&A with Dr. Keith Dressler: The Rippling Effects of Healthcare Provider Staff Shortages

In several of our recent blogs, we’ve touched on the staff shortage in healthcare, sharing tips to address this issue through alleviating administrative burden. Recent studies show that nearly a third of nurses are planning to leave the profession this year due to burnout and high-stress work environments, and according to the American Medical Association, we’ll see a shortage of physicians by 2025.

These numbers are alarming, and we’ll continue to see harrowing effects. It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a surge in digital transformation as many healthcare executives are looking to break free from administrative tasks to free their time for clinical care. But we’re still seeing many practices utilize legacy communications, using texting as the last resort instead of the first option. Additionally, many of the modernized communications that practices are implementing are non-compliant and putting patient data at risk.

To dive further into this topic, our Marketing Creative Director at Rhinogram, McKenzie Bergenback sat down with Dr. Keith Dressler to discuss how the staff shortage is affecting compliance and protocols.

Bergenback: Can you summarize the staffing shortages observed at your system?

Dr. Dressler: The great staffing shortage is impacting every member of a provider organization, across all specialties – from office staff, to nurses, to physicians. This dramatic workforce reduction that we’re seeing is attributed to many things, including COVID policies that individuals aren’t willing to comply with (vaccine mandates), and more often, extreme fatigue and burnout. Pre-COVID, many healthcare organizations struggled with not having the appropriate number of staff on board. Fast forward to present day, and the burnout is further igniting the staffing shortage, as healthcare workers have become overburdened with insurmountable workloads as they manage more tasks than there are hours in a day.

Bergenback: Has the staffing shortage affected protocols or compliance, and what temporary solutions have provider organizations implemented to work around these issues?

Dr. Dressler: Due to staffing shortages, healthcare organizations are scrambling to hire staff – and in many cases, have turned to hiring individuals with a lack of experience, training and comprehensive knowledge. Having said that, even those with experience and training are forced to work in such high-stress environments with imbalanced workloads. As a result, more errors are being made, and many providers are turning to non-compliant platforms to assist in easing burden and streamlining workflow.

Patients have been demanding contactless care and more modern communication with their providers for years. With the onset of the pandemic, this demand quickly transformed into a necessity. CMS, for one, understood the need for quicker and safer patient access to providers, laxing mandatory compliance protocols for telehealth and virtual care services. This resulted in many practices adopting non-compliant platforms. In fact, fast forward to the present and practices are using anything they can to contact/interact with their patients (FaceTime, texting via their personal cellphone, etc.) – for virtual visits, appointment reminders, prescription refills, etc. – in effort to streamline workflow and ease burden. Additionally, staff, nurses and doctors are texting internally via their personal cellphones, sharing patient data to try and increase efficiency and get the job done as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, these platforms have no safeguards implemented to protect PHI – ultimately putting patient data at risk. Furthermore, practices using these platforms void of HIPAA-compliant technology means the providers using them are not getting reimbursed.

Bergenback: What long-term solutions would help mitigate these issues?

Dr. Dressler: The most sustainable long-term solution would be to implement a HIPAA-compliant, virtual care platform – like Rhinogram. To truly meet patients how and where they want to be reached, you must ensure your virtual care platform includes patient-initiated collaborative texting. With Rhinogram, I’ve witnessed specific cases where practices were able to reduce the number of staff needed by 30%, taking care of 6-10 patients in the same amount of time it would take to receive/make one phone call.

When you look at the bigger picture of the great workforce shortage, many practices would be able to fill staffing gaps with these solutions. Implementing this technology not only reduces staff burden and streamlines workflow, but most importantly, it ensures that patient data is protected.

Virtual care technology should not just be a component added into your everyday workflow, it should be an extension of your staff. Through use of this technology, communications between providers, staff and patients don’t decrease – they just switch form. Rhinogram is on a mission to get healthcare staff back to their why. More than just HIPAA compliant texting or appointment messaging, Rhinogram allows practices to provide excellent patient care, increase patient engagement, and reduce staff burden.

Find out how your organization can benefit from our virtual care platform by requesting a demo.

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