Staffing shortages among the U.S. healthcare workforce are leading to negative patient experiences, according to new research from Weave. This is especially worrisome for small healthcare practices, as patient experience is often the differentiator that sets them apart from their competitors, the report said.
Weave, which provides communication and engagement platforms for small businesses, surveyed more than 510 healthcare professionals who work at small healthcare practices, defined in the report as practices with fewer than 50 employees. The research showed that 2 out of 3 small healthcare businesses claim they are short-staffed, with little confidence that these shortages will be resolved soon.
Nearly 1 in 5 healthcare workers quit their jobs during the pandemic, with burnout and poor compensation as the most commonly-cited reasons why healthcare staff members leave.
As a result of this staffing crisis, the patient experience has “fallen by the wayside” for many healthcare clinics, said Chris Baird, Weave’s chief marketing officer. It becomes much more difficult for clinicians to create positive patient experiences when they are working longer hours and facing increasing workloads, he pointed out.
The report found that healthcare workforce shortages lead to a number of negative effects on the patient experience, including increased wait times, rushed appointments and staff inattentiveness. Small healthcare practices should be especially wary of these consequences, according to Baird.
“Healthcare practices depend on happy patients to return and refer friends and family in order to remain in business,” he said. “If the staffing shortage issue is not resolved and subsequent issues continue to arise, patients may become unsatisfied with their care and turn to clinics where appointments are readily available.”
Patient dissatisfaction can cause unfavorable online reviews and negative word of mouth, which can also dramatically hurt a small healthcare clinic’s reputation and bottom line, Baird said.
The report found that even though 97% of respondents said delivering positive patient experiences requires the right tools and technology, just 27% have invested in automatization technology for employees to effectively do their jobs.
However, cutting down on manual processes is probably the number one way for healthcare businesses to reduce their employees’ workload amid the staffing shortage, according to Baird. He pointed out that there are dozens of vendors — such as Olive, WELL Health and CareSignal — that can help healthcare staff avoid getting bogged down with manual tasks like scheduling, clinical note taking, sending appointment reminders and inputting intake forms.
In addition to investing in automation, the report recommended that healthcare businesses meet at least monthly to analyze the patient experience at their practice — it found that just half of clinics do this.
The report also recommended that healthcare practices regularly check in with employees to learn more about their job satisfaction and ways to improve staff retention. These conversations can illuminate specific pain points in staff’s workflows, allowing practices to make more targeted decisions about which automation technology to invest in.
“Amid trends like the Great Resignation and ‘quiet quitting,’ it’s never been more important to ensure that your employees are engaged and happy with the work they’re doing,” Baird said. “When employees are happy, that shines through in the ways they interact with patients and other colleagues, which without a doubt impacts the patient experience and the clinic’s success overall.”
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