RCM Staff Shortages Are Making It a Lot Harder for Providers to Get Paid

RCM Staff Shortages Are Making It a Lot Harder for Providers to Get Paid

Healthcare’s workforce shortage is one of the most pressing — perhaps the most pressing — issue plaguing the industry. Discussions around this topic usually center around providers’ lack of physicians and nurses, but there’s a sweeping shortage of front and back office staff members, too.

Experian Health, a company that sells revenue cycle management and patient engagement technology to providers, released a report last week shining light on this issue. 

To understand more about the healthcare sector’s workforce shortage among office support staff, the company surveyed 200 employees who are responsible for staffing the revenue cycle function at healthcare providers. Each one of the respondents said that staff shortages are having a significant negative impact on their organization’s revenue cycle and patient engagement. 

While respondents agreed that workforce shortages are hurting their organizations’ revenue channels, their opinions differed a bit when it came to answering the question of whether payer reimbursement or patient collection is suffering most. A full 32% of survey participants said patient collection has been the hardest-hit area, versus 22% for payer reimbursement, and 42% of respondents said the impact is equal among both categories.

Of those who said payer reimbursement has been affected the most, 70% also reported that escalating denial rates are a result. Among the survey participants who said patient collection has been hit hardest, 83% also said it’s now harder to follow up on late payments or offer assistance to patients who are struggling to pay.

On the patient experience side of things, the areas that are hurting most due to staff shortages all have to do with patients’ access to care — things like appointment scheduling, intake, prior authorization approval, confirmation of insurance coverage and patient cost estimates.

Nearly 70% of respondents said they believe that staffing levels for support office workers will continue to be a problem into the future. The survey participants also highlighted turnover as a major issue, with 80% saying their organization’s turnover for revenue cycle management staff is between 11-40%. For 8% of respondents, this turnover rate was 41-60%.

The remedies that providers are turning to so address this problem are unsustainable, as they require the organization to spend more money. Some of these solutions include increasing salary ranges, providing signing bonuses, increased use of overtime, cross-training staff, and greater utilization of temporary staff or outsourced workers. 

Hiring new workers to fill support staff positions often comes with a price, the report noted. Respondents pointed out that new staff members are often prone to making errors, such as incomplete collection of claim information, coding errors and mistakes verifying eligibility.

Photo: bayhayalet, Getty Images

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