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The Shortage of Physicians in Rural Areas and How Physician Scheduling Software Can Help

The Shortage of Physicians in Rural Areas and How Physician Scheduling Software Can Help

he Shortage of Physicians in Rural Areas and How Physician Scheduling Software Can Help 5 MIN. READ One of the biggest challenges facing healthcare today is the shortage of physicians in rural areas. Over 45 million Americans, almost 15% of the population, live in rural areas with low populations that have sparse availability of qualified health professionals. These areas are typically in farming communities or in outlying rural neighborhoods, where the nearest major medical center may be at leas

 an hour away. Despite the challenges rural healthcare poses for physicians, it’s nonetheless important for those patients to have adequate access to care.

 Fortunately, scheduling software can help you attract and retain the physicians you need to overcome this challenge. The impact on health The shortage of physicia

ns in rural areas is not only an inconvenience to patients, but it also translates into poor health outcomes. Lack of primary care providers means patients do not get preventative health screenings, and often chronic disease goes unrecognized and untreated until a major illness occurs. At that point, the patient has no choice but to travel to a tertiary care center for treatment. Unfortunately, once they are discharged home, they face the same challenge: nowhere to go for a follow-up or continued care. 

 

 

he impact on the cost of care Patients residing in rural areas without physicians nearby often visit the emergency room for situations that could have easily been handled in the office. Sore throats, earaches and common minor illnesses can generate a large emergency room bill and a long wait time for treatment for the patient. High ER copays or lack of insurance coverage may keep the patient from seeking care entirely. A study published by the American Journal of Managed Care showed that out of 11,546 ER visits, 57% were described as truly emergent, 30% of patients had no primary care doctor, and a mere 15% had a follow-up appointment within one week of the ER visit. Additionally, the Healthcare Financial Management Association estimates $8.3 billion is spent annually on ER care that could have been provided in a more suitable, cost-efficient site. Reasons for the physician shortage in rural areas There are 7,200 regions in the United States that are classified as Health Professional Shortage Areas. Of those areas, almost 60% are rural locations, revealing the drastic deficit and dire need for more coverage. Despite the need, physicians are reluctant to practice in rural areas. Physicians state many reasons for their hesitancy to work in rural areas. Although doctors generally get paid more to work in rural areas than in densely populated locations with major medical centers, the long commute times to work and less access to services, complex procedures and research in rural communities makes for a less than ideal situation for docs. Unfortunately, doctors who do actually practice in rural areas have a high burn-out rate. Despite many studies that cite a lower rate of burnout in physicians in rural areas, these doctors often find they are the only provider in the area, and their schedule is always full. They can’t keep up, they can’t get away for vacations and there is no work-life balance. Additionally, there is a lack of specialists to refer to, and physicians may feel uncomfortable managing complex patients that they could easily send to specialty services if they were available. The fear of a bad patient outcome and legal ramifications is a constant pressure. How can physician scheduling software help close the rural healthcare gap? Many large healthcare organizations have used physician scheduling software to help bring better access to healthcare to rural Americans. These progressive organizations realize the value of implanting providers into rural settings. Along with being the right thing to do, it can result in financial benefits for the organization. The physician can be employed by the larger organization and enjoy all the perks while still being accessible to the patients who need them the most. Additionally, splitting a provider’s time between the main campus office and the rural office may translate into increased referrals to specialty services. After all, patients are willing to travel further distances for specialty care if they have a good relationship with a primary care provider who has recommended the referral. This type of multi-location service and scheduling may seem intimidating at first – the potential for scheduling nightmares certainly exists in a situation like this. But this is where Intrigma comes in. Your organization can seamlessly create complex schedules for multiple providers across multiple locations using Intrigma’s advanced scheduling software. Efficient Scheduler for Physicians and Advanced Practitioners can optimize your time spent creating schedules and can help you build a strategy that focuses on the unique scheduling needs of your organization. Scheduling rules automatically avoid costly overstaffing and frustrating understaffing. The software also is user-friendly and allows your providers to input their availability and access their own schedules via their computer or cell phone app. They can easily view their schedule, request time off and make shift swaps right from their fingertips. The ability to share schedules across providers, offices and departments creates transparency that minimizes scheduling conflicts. Even locum tenens, or as-needed providers, can be plugged into existing schedules in the case of an unanticipated leave of absence. Intrigma’s unique modular software allows for interim or emergency changes to the schedule to occur in minutes, instead of the hours it used to take in the past. This adaptability of the software has been instrumental in clinics where patient volumes saw a large increase due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of reacting to understaffing, the software analyzes patient census on the go and adapts staffing needs proactively. In rural America, the shortage of physicians is a multi-faceted problem that has been developing for many reasons. One area where you can impact this situation is offering your providers a scheduling platform that they can live with. Allowing your staff to have more control in the creation and maintenance of their schedules is a major driver of provider satisfaction. For more information on how Intrigma can help you recruit and retain qualifi

Credential Management with Healthcare Scheduling Software

Credential Management with Healthcare Scheduling Software

he Shortage of Physicians in Rural Areas and How Physician Scheduling Software Can Help 5 MIN. READ One of the biggest challenges facing healthcare today is the shortage of physicians in rural areas. Over 45 million Americans, almost 15% of the population, live in rural areas with low populations that have sparse availability of qualified health professionals. These areas are typically in farming communities or in outlying rural neighborhoods, where the nearest major medical center may be at leas

 an hour away. Despite the challenges rural healthcare poses for physicians, it’s nonetheless important for those patients to have adequate access to care.

 Fortunately, scheduling software can help you attract and retain the physicians you need to overcome this challenge. The impact on health The shortage of physicia

ns in rural areas is not only an inconvenience to patients, but it also translates into poor health outcomes. Lack of primary care providers means patients do not get preventative health screenings, and often chronic disease goes unrecognized and untreated until a major illness occurs. At that point, the patient has no choice but to travel to a tertiary care center for treatment. Unfortunately, once they are discharged home, they face the same challenge: nowhere to go for a follow-up or continued care. 

 

 

he impact on the cost of care Patients residing in rural areas without physicians nearby often visit the emergency room for situations that could have easily been handled in the office. Sore throats, earaches and common minor illnesses can generate a large emergency room bill and a long wait time for treatment for the patient. High ER copays or lack of insurance coverage may keep the patient from seeking care entirely. A study published by the American Journal of Managed Care showed that out of 11,546 ER visits, 57% were described as truly emergent, 30% of patients had no primary care doctor, and a mere 15% had a follow-up appointment within one week of the ER visit. Additionally, the Healthcare Financial Management Association estimates $8.3 billion is spent annually on ER care that could have been provided in a more suitable, cost-efficient site. Reasons for the physician shortage in rural areas There are 7,200 regions in the United States that are classified as Health Professional Shortage Areas. Of those areas, almost 60% are rural locations, revealing the drastic deficit and dire need for more coverage. Despite the need, physicians are reluctant to practice in rural areas. Physicians state many reasons for their hesitancy to work in rural areas. Although doctors generally get paid more to work in rural areas than in densely populated locations with major medical centers, the long commute times to work and less access to services, complex procedures and research in rural communities makes for a less than ideal situation for docs. Unfortunately, doctors who do actually practice in rural areas have a high burn-out rate. Despite many studies that cite a lower rate of burnout in physicians in rural areas, these doctors often find they are the only provider in the area, and their schedule is always full. They can’t keep up, they can’t get away for vacations and there is no work-life balance. Additionally, there is a lack of specialists to refer to, and physicians may feel uncomfortable managing complex patients that they could easily send to specialty services if they were available. The fear of a bad patient outcome and legal ramifications is a constant pressure. How can physician scheduling software help close the rural healthcare gap? Many large healthcare organizations have used physician scheduling software to help bring better access to healthcare to rural Americans. These progressive organizations realize the value of implanting providers into rural settings. Along with being the right thing to do, it can result in financial benefits for the organization. The physician can be employed by the larger organization and enjoy all the perks while still being accessible to the patients who need them the most. Additionally, splitting a provider’s time between the main campus office and the rural office may translate into increased referrals to specialty services. After all, patients are willing to travel further distances for specialty care if they have a good relationship with a primary care provider who has recommended the referral. This type of multi-location service and scheduling may seem intimidating at first – the potential for scheduling nightmares certainly exists in a situation like this. But this is where Intrigma comes in. Your organization can seamlessly create complex schedules for multiple providers across multiple locations using Intrigma’s advanced scheduling software. Efficient Scheduler for Physicians and Advanced Practitioners can optimize your time spent creating schedules and can help you build a strategy that focuses on the unique scheduling needs of your organization. Scheduling rules automatically avoid costly overstaffing and frustrating understaffing. The software also is user-friendly and allows your providers to input their availability and access their own schedules via their computer or cell phone app. They can easily view their schedule, request time off and make shift swaps right from their fingertips. The ability to share schedules across providers, offices and departments creates transparency that minimizes scheduling conflicts. Even locum tenens, or as-needed providers, can be plugged into existing schedules in the case of an unanticipated leave of absence. Intrigma’s unique modular software allows for interim or emergency changes to the schedule to occur in minutes, instead of the hours it used to take in the past. This adaptability of the software has been instrumental in clinics where patient volumes saw a large increase due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead of reacting to understaffing, the software analyzes patient census on the go and adapts staffing needs proactively. In rural America, the shortage of physicians is a multi-faceted problem that has been developing for many reasons. One area where you can impact this situation is offering your providers a scheduling platform that they can live with. Allowing your staff to have more control in the creation and maintenance of their schedules is a major driver of provider satisfaction. For more information on how Intrigma can help you recruit and retain qualifi

How Nurse Scheduling Software Helps Attract and Keep Nurses

How Nurse Scheduling Software Helps Attract and Keep Nurses

If you’re a medical management professional, you undoubtedly know that attracting and retaining top-level nursing staff is essential. Like all of your staff, nurses must be comfortable with their schedules and know they can deliver great patient care without being overworked or overstressed. Nurse scheduling software can help manage nursing challenges and needs to help you retain them.

Shortages of professionals are a serious concern for healthcare leadership

You may already be dealing with a growing shortage of registered nurses. In 2018, the American Journal of Healthcare Quality forecasted that shortfalls of 154,018 RNs in 2020 will grow to a deficit of 510,394 by 2030.

You also may know that registered nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicted the three million RNs working in 2019 would grow by 7%, adding 221,900 jobs by 2029. The report also projected another 175,900 RNs will be needed yearly through 2029 to replace retirements and other workforce losses.

The BLS report also listed that key factors driving RN job growth were increased demands for preventive care, increased chronic disease rates including diabetes and obesity, and growing care needs of aging Baby Boomers who enjoy longer and more active lifestyles.

Of course, these studies were conducted prior to the emergence of COVID-19. Most of us have seen staffing levels swing widely due to changing government mandates, inconsistent patient volumes, budget fluctuations and clinicians’ personal health concerns.

If your facility is like most others, managing fluctuating staffing levels likely will continue to be a top requirement.

Six other factors that affect recruiting and retaining nurses

Experts point to several other forces impacting nurse staffing requirements.

  1. Telehealth

Telehealth should provide important benefits such as improved patient access and increased utilization of the national healthcare system. The new policy guidelines issued by the CMS in March fall in line with this goal, authorizing payments for telehealth visits, virtual check-ins and E-visits. Also, parity laws in your state are likely to require private payors to cover many telehealth procedures.

Telehealth will reduce staff shortages because more efficient care options and reduced administrative burdens will permit providers to see more patients each day. Registered nurses are expected to play an important role in telehealth because they are the entry point of most patients into the healthcare system and are the main providers of health education and long-term monitoring. Telehealth allows nurses to extend their services to patients in other locations. Additionally, its enhanced communications and information management capabilities permit nurses to collaborate efficiently with other clinicians and serve more patients per shift.

Of course, this implies your nurses are comfortable with technology and trained in telehealth applications. Also, telehealth programs add new dimensions to staff scheduling algorithms including technology variables, added locations and even multiple time zones. However, with scheduling software, like Intrigma’s Efficient Scheduler for Nurses, nurse schedulers can more easily coordinate shifts to help manage the changed environment and schedule nurses who are more comfortable working with telehealth than others.

  1. Millennials and Gen Z

One of the biggest socio-economic factors driving nurse recruiting may be generational preferences. U.S. millennials, numbering 72.1 million, who now make up about one-third of the workforce, will be joined by another 65.2 million younger members of the Gen Z cohort, thereby replacing retiring Baby Boomers and dominating the workforce for decades to come.

In February 2020, HCA Healthcare reported the important factors for attracting and retaining Millennial and Gen Z nurses. The top factors in their findings were work relationships, communications and decision making, professional growth, modern facilities, and a positive work environment.

More than 49% said that flexible work schedules were their top priority.

  1. Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)

The NLC lets licensed nurses in participating NLC states practice either in person, in their home state or remotely in 33 other NLC states. If your facility is in one of the participating states, your nurses will enjoy greater flexibility to choose where they practice and relocate more quickly in response to changing market economics and work-life preferences.

However, NLC may add new pressures on administrators who manage nurse scheduling and work-life factors. Fortunately, flexible nurse scheduling and credentialing software, like Intrigma’s Credential Management tool, can help manage schedules for those facilities that provide remote nursing or serve multiple jurisdictions.

  1. Nurse practitioners are taking expanded roles in care delivery

With the predicted shortages of primary care physicians, the 248,000 (in 2018) nurse practitioners are expected to assume much larger roles in family medicine, especially in 22 states and the District of Columbia where they have full practice authority. The number of states that grant NPs full practice authority is expected to expand due to national medical associations’ recommendations, plus pressure from the CMS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects NP jobs will see strong growth of 45% from 2019 to 2029 as well.

With the expanded authority of nurses, scheduling software that enables quick and convenient shift updates (for surges, last-minute changes, etc.) is crucial in saving nurses time and effort, as well as making it easier for them to achieve an optimal work-life balance so they don’t get burnt out.

  1. Payroll costs will continue to rise

As your facility may have experienced, the pandemic drove a 76% increase in salaries for COVID-19 nurses during the first quarter of 2020. Overtime and expenses for traveling nurses added to the costs.

Salary increases may settle down as COVID-19 becomes more controlled, but even modest increases combined with the other factors will propel significantly higher payroll costs. Your scheduling system should be efficient and avoid duplicating work or wasting staff’s time.

  1. Nurse specialization

Recent reports from schools and nurse staffing agencies state that increased specialization is one of the top trends in nursing. Adding new professional skill categories and job duties require flexible and easily customizable scheduling software, like Intrigma’s, to coordinate shifts and maintain a diverse staff capable of handling various situations.

Quality staffing management is critical for attracting and retaining nurses

A report on the causes of nurse turnover and shortages revealed that while a number of factors come into play, a lack of control over staffing ratios was a key reason nurses chose to leave their profession.

Fortunately, modern nurse scheduling software can help avoid turnover by:

  • Adding flexibility.
  • Improving nurses’ productivity and satisfaction.
  • Being quick and accurate regarding last-minute changes and shortages.
  • Being fair and sensitive to nurses’ work-life balance.
  • Saving nurse managers time when scheduling shifts.

Contact Intrigma to learn how scheduling software can help you meet the ever-changing challenges of efficient nurse scheduling and help you attract and retain top-tier staff.

Staffing and Schedules: Yes, Nurse Managers Get Burnt Out Too!

Staffing and Schedules: Yes, Nurse Managers Get Burnt Out Too!

Let’s face it, nurse managers have a tough job scheduling and staffing their hospital units with appropriate nursing staff. There’s a lot sitting on a nurse managers plate: quality patient care, safety, and pairing that with the most qualified nursing staff. Scheduling can be an arduous daily task for even the most experienced nurse manager. Especially when you have to follow a strict hospital budget. Burn out is inevitable.

The Complex Role Of A Nurse Manager

Nurse managers have a complex role that they play in the everyday life of a hospital unit. Some of the responsibilities of a nurse manager include:

  • Ensuring safe patient care with special focus on quality care
  • Management of nursing staff
  • Recruitment of nursing and other hospital staff
  • Counseling and coaching nursing staff
  • Staffing and scheduling of nurses and allied hospital staff
  • Adhering to hospital budgets

Keeping Everyone Satisfied And Safe

Nurse managers are pulled into several different directions trying to keep both nursing staff, hospital administrators as well patients, happy and satisfied. There are multiple studies that show nurse managers spend a large amount of time on staffing and keeping nurses satisfied with their schedules. Old methods of staffing using ‘phone trees’ and calling multiple nurses to work on their days off can prove to be time consuming as well as inefficient.

Nurse Fatigue Causing Serious Problems for Nurse Managers

Studies show nurse fatigue is increasing in healthcare. Nurse managers mangers need to pay special attention to scheduling nurses on their days off due to inadequate time off, which can cause increased fatigue. Nurse fatigue is a serious problem and can cause issues with unsafe patient care, increase in medical errors, and poor moral in the workplace.

Adding flexibility to schedules in the workplace will not only improve the overall working environment for nurses, but it will also promote positive emotional health. Positive peer coaching from nurse managers who exhibited high emotional intelligence also proved to retain nurses. Nurse managers need greater support and training in order to provide the adequate support and training to their nursing staff.

Nurse Managers and Job Satisfaction

Nurse managers need to feel heard and valued in order to avoid burnout by their administrative staff. In order for nurse managers to have increased satisfaction with their role, the following is necessary.

  • Administrative support
  • Positive nurse manager and staff relationships
  • Organizational and leadership support
  • Focused need on responsibilities assigned

Saving Nurse Managers From Experiencing Burnout

Burn out in a nurse manager’s universe can be alleviated with the proper staff scheduling, tools and administrative guidance. Nurse managers have an incredible influence over their staff and the quality of patient care that is delivered in their facilities. A happy nursing staff will create a happy nursing manager. Nurse managers are the captain of their ship when it comes to scheduling hospital units and healthcare facilities. New scheduling technologies and innovations will help nurse managers to schedule their units with the most qualified and well rested staff in order to ensure safe patient care.

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The Harm of Unsafe Staffing Levels

The Harm of Unsafe Staffing Levels

Patient safety and staffing shortages should be the number one concern of every physician and hospital administration. But, could blowing the whistle and complaining about being short staffed get you fired? The answer unfortunately is “Yes!”

A physician blows the whistle on unsafe staffing

An emergency room physician in Missouri complained about unsafe physician to patient staffing ratios at his community hospital. On the night shift, he was scheduled to cover both the pediatric emergency room as well as the adult emergency room. After numerous complaints to his staffing company, they gave him the axe and fired him.

As you can imagine, a physician covering 2 emergency departments on his own would have to have superhuman powers to get the job done. Fortunately, the physician sued the staffing agency that fired him and won a 29 million-dollar settlement.

Safe patient care should not function like McDonald’s

Dr. Mitchell Li, an emergency room physician in Chicago states “the business model used by contract management groups is the same as McDonald’s: use the cheapest labor possible to churn out a mediocre hamburger.” Dr. Li believes that hospital administrators view physician expertise as a line item expense and makes patient safety take a backseat to investor profit.

Safe staffing and scheduling saves lives

A crucial ingredient for safe patient care in a hospital setting is better physician staffing and scheduling. Studies show that when a physician, in house attending intensivist, is staffed 24 hours around the clock in an intensive care unit (ICU) the decision to discontinue mechanical ventilation is usually shortened by 2 days. The same was found to be true when a decision was made to change a do-not-resuscitate code status (DNR).

There’s lots of research data geared towards safe patient staffing ratios focused on nurses.  More research studies needs to be done which is  geared towards physicians and staffing. One study suggests that physician to patient staffing ratios depend on many factors which include patient, hospital and specialty physician characteristics.

Workload, quality care, time and motion studies, complex patient care, service design/skill mix and an increasing frail patient population should all be taken into consideration when staffing. If a hospital or medical facility is understaffed, patients face a higher rate of mortality, higher risk of infection, increased postoperative complications and increased number of falls.

A physicians time is valuable. Safe patient care is imperative!

Intrigma is the leader in safe physician scheduling software. Distributing and tracking workload assignments and identifying staff shortages through fair workload tracking is made easy and manageable. The most complicated schedules can be tamed by just doing the math.

Through Intrigma’s software, schedules can be shared through many different departments. Centralized scheduling manages requests and provider contact information for multiple departments and/or hospital systems. Potential risks in patient safety, like only having one emergency room physician covering 2 emergency departments can be detected with Intrigma software.

Intrigma’s main focus is reducing costs, saving time, and improving staff morale for physicians, medical groups, hospitals and nurses.