Today’s physicians continue to face many challenges including having less time to spend with patients. They report spending just 27% of their time with patients and 50% of their time entering data into electronic health records (Source: Annals of Internal Medicine). Also hindering their practices is the myriad of administrative burdens resulting from having to regularly report data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to receive reimbursements. Additionally, they face ethical challenges as they try to balance patients’ needs with their ability to pay, as well as end-of-life decisions. One challenge, which has contributed in part to some of the aforementioned challenges, is that of medical staffing shortages. While shortages existed well before Covid-19, they have subsequently worsened due to the pandemic.
Labor Shortages Changing the Physician Practice Landscape
In addition to the pandemic, another factor contributing to physician practices’ medical staffing shortages is the acquisition by many practices by hospitals and healthcare systems. The trend, which is occurring at a faster pace in rural areas than urban locations, left approximately 49% of physicians working in physician-owned practices in 2020 versus 54% in 2018 (Source: American Medical Association). For small practices, attracting medical staff is especially difficult.
In order to attract and retain medical staff, many practices are adopting new strategies. They are increasing compensation, offering flexible schedules, providing transportation allowances, and offering other perks (e.g., wellness programs, free lunches, etc.). However, these measures do not fully address the problem, and therefore they are turning to alternative staffing solutions.
Outsourcing Nurses and Medical Assistants
A nursing workforce analysis prepared by Dr. David Auerbach and published in Health Affairs (April 2022) found that the total supply of RNs decreased by more than 100,000 from 2020 to 2021, which is the largest decrease in over four decades. In addition to hospitals, physician practices have suffered from this shortage. As a result, they are turning to resources which can provide them with experienced RNs, as well as medical assistants, to support their practice needs.
At Amalgamated Medical Care Management, we have developed our Clinical Advantage Remote Engagement Solution (CARES) program to help physician practices address their RN and medical assistant shortages.
Our U.S.-based, remote, licensed staff are available nationwide, 24/7, and adhere to evidence-based guidelines in the performance of their duties. They are fully-integrated with a physician practice’s team and can perform various tasks which include, but are not limited to:
- Provide Telephonic Patient Assessments and Education
- Monitor Patients’ Electronic Medical Records
- Respond to Patient Questions through the Electronic Medical Record Portal
- Triage Patients and Provide Specialists Referrals
- Review Lab and Test Results and Manage Medication Refills
- Schedule Appointments
By fully integrating into the existing clinic workflow and technology systems, physician practices can be assured that their patients’ needs are being met in a timely manner by experienced RNs and Medical Assistants with specialized training, education and certifications.
According to an April 5, 2022, poll conducted by the MGMA of physician practices which asked which medical staff were the most difficult to recruit:
- 44% said medical assistants (MAs),
- 27% said nurses,
- 18% said administrative/billing staff, and
- 10% said other clinical staff.
Note: The poll had 675 applicable responses.
Clearly, physicians need to consider new ways to meet their staffing needs and not just rely on using employee perks to attract new staff members.