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The Great Resignation and its Impact on Eye Care
It’s safe to say the healthcare industry is feeling the effects of the Great Resignation. It’s such an issue that healthcare CEOs ranked personnel shortages as the number one challenge they face, according to survey results from the American College of Healthcare Executives. But beyond the large health systems, practices of all specialties have been impacted, including those in the eye care industry. The most common concerns affecting the day-to-day operations of optometry practices and optical dispensaries include employee shortages due to the pandemic, the state of the job market and the economy. Practice owners are finding that a competitive, employee-friendly market means that qualified staff are inclined to chase better paying, or more flexible, opportunities. In fact, according to a Jobson study conducted by VSP Vision™ in May 2021, hiring is the most difficult staffing component facing optical providers, followed by training-related issues. Respondents also shared that hiring for opticians specifically has proved to be the most difficult.
Additionally, the burnout that has plagued the healthcare industry comes in many forms. Administrative burdens tied to the overall state of the industry has hit practices big and small, from their office staff to decision makers. Burnout has no doubt taken its toll. And the result? Resignations. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) claims 88 percent of medical practices have had difficulties recruiting front office staff. However, the truth is that much of the operational tasks handled by front office employees are critical to the standard operation of a practice – coding, scheduling, bill processing – and needs to be done regardless of staff limitations.
Staffing the eye care practice of the future
According to Mercer’s 2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis, which examined predictive healthcare labor statistics over the next 10 years across all 50 states, labor shortages should be expected as the U.S continues to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic. With the issue of resignations and burnout not going away any time soon, practices need to find ways to adjust.
One way that organizations are trying to navigate staffing issues is through job flexibility. A 2022 MGMA poll found that 59% of medical group practices shifted workers to permanent and/or hybrid work in 2021. Said workers included roles like coders and administrative positions. One year after the onset of the pandemic, an MGMA Stat poll showed that one in five practices said that more than 25 percent of their workforce was remote at least half the time. Staffing woes are hitting healthcare hard across the industry, from small independent practices to larger organizations. In fact, one of the nation’s largest health systems, the Cleveland Clinic, has nearly 8,000 administrative employees in at least a partially remote work model.
You get what you pay for
If providers want to gain and retain workers, money talks. Employers need to navigate the right route to circumvent staffing issues. And as inflation and the overall cost of living rises, employers are finding that more money than usual may need to be allotted for compensation increases too. An MGMA poll found that fifty percent of healthcare practices budgeted more than usual for workers’ cost-of-living increases for 2022. With costs anticipated to rise, practices need to get ahead of their budgetary planning to put themselves in the best position, staffing-wise, to succeed in years to come.
Economic woes add to the pain
Currently, supply chain hurdles, rising inflation and an impending recession also need to be dealt with. Supply chain issues are trickling down to eyecare providers, so much so that Contact Lens Spectrum found that over 70 percent of ECPs reported inventory issues of late. The eyecare industry is not immune to rising costs either. Providers are feeling the pain from inflation and rising supply chain costs. These issues, coupled with the omnipresent staffing concerns, result in increased prices being passed along to the consumer, unfortunately. While consumers are still spending, the current rate of inflation is leaving a bad taste in their mouths, which could make for a negative patient experience. So how can optical practices prevent revenue loss while effectively managing their resources? The bottom line is that providers need to learn how to adapt.
Being vigilant and prepared
Strategizing and refocusing efforts on the best opportunities and trying to have as much cash on hand as possible is how a practice can stay abreast. Additionally, if providers want to retain and recruit talent for their practice to thrive, a recruitment and retention strategy should be a top priority for the remainder of 2022 and beyond.
Another, more proactive way to alleviate administrative hurdles and residual economic fallout is to get things right the first time. One key is to piece is to have the proper technology in place - like online appointment scheduling, patient notification, claims management and eligibility verifications - that can increase automation and create the most efficient workflows. Business processing services, including end-to-end billing and credentialing services can alleviate manual work and automate processes. Outsourcing is another logical path to take when there are not enough hands in-house to manage day-to-day tasks.
Organizations like Eyefinity and TriZetto Provider Solutions can help optical practitioners easily navigate the new landscape. If your practice is looking for assistance, learn more by visiting eyefinity.com/cloud and trizettoprovider.com.