Overcoming Labor Shortages Through Automation and Outsourced Services: Part One
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Overcoming Labor Shortages Through Automation and Outsourced Services: Part One

Overcoming Labor Shortages Through Automation and Outsourced Services: Part One

Part One of this three-part blog series on coding and revenue cycle management staffing challenges takes a high-level look at some of the forces driving the chronic – and worsening – shortage of experienced professionals.

From burnout to resignations and terminations, the pandemic has exacerbated yet another long-term industry challenge – the chronic coding and revenue cycle management (RCM) staffing shortage that has healthcare organizations struggling to keep revenue flowing without enough qualified professionals to handle key processes. Already the fastest growing white-collar administrative professions in healthcare, the American Hospital Association predicts medical records, billing and compliance positions will grow by as much as 13% by 2026.

As the shortage worsens, so too will its short- and long-term impacts. Already under extreme financial pressure due to the pandemic, healthcare organizations are now also faced with greater regulatory uncertainty and audit scrutiny. As a result, solving the staffing shortage is a top priority for many health information management (HIM) directors and CFOs, particularly considering turnover rates that rose by almost 5% across all healthcare jobs over the last decade.

The resulting ripple effect of climbing RCM and coding vacancies directly impacts healthcare organizations’ bottom lines in the form of slower time to bill and reimbursement delays, as well as higher costs associated with recruitment, onboarding, orientation, retention, overtime pay and temporary employees. Also factored into turnover costs, which typically range from a high of 150% of annual salary for mid-level employees to a more conservative estimate of 20% of an employee’s annual salary, are indirect expenses related to lost time and productivity.

Adding to the tally are the higher recruitment costs and salaries associated with stiffer competition for experienced professionals in key positions within revenue cycle management, whose salary demands will continue to climb as competition intensifies. Consider how those figures might look knowing that recruitment costs already equal about 20% of a coder’s salary. The average median salary for a coder is $45,240 per year, or $21.75 per hour, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, the AAPC notes that certified coders earn 39% more than non-certified coders – yet another increased cost borne by organizations seeking qualified professionals.

Onboarding and training new hires increases the recruitment price tag by an additional $1,286 per year per employee, including initial and on-the-job training, continuing education, cost of orientation. Finally, the hidden cost of lost opportunity and low employee morale must be factored into the final tally.

To overcome these costly coding and RCM staffing challenges, many healthcare organizations are turning to a hybrid of outsourcing and technology – specifically artificial intelligence (AI) and automation – to fill the void left by the exodus of experienced professionals with no corresponding influx of new staff. The remainder of this blog series will explore these options and provide guidance on best practices to help ensure the right blend of each to close the gaps created by staffing shortages.

Part Two will look at outsourcing, AI, and automation, while Part Three is focused on making the right choices and establishing metrics to monitor performance to ensure success.

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Learn more about the benefits of adopting a hybrid outsourcing/technology-enabled approach, how to leverage AI and back-end RCM process automation, and best practices for selecting an outsourcing and technology partner by downloading the full white paper today.

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