The Myth of the Technology Fix in Patient Access

2 min read

Healthcare has been experiencing a staffing crisis at all levels, exacerbated by the pandemic. The American Hospital Association predicted a shortage of over 100,000 doctors by 2033, and estimates we’d need to hire 200,000 new nurses annually to keep pace with demand. This has many organizations looking for creative solutions that ease the burden on existing staff and lead to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

Enter technology.

There are a variety of technology solutions for the industry that boast FTE savings, most of which function by automating aspects of the administrative workload. Popular solutions tackle revenue cycle management, insurance enrollment, prior authorization, or follow-up, and various aspects of patient access like scheduling and appointment reminders. While automation does have benefits over manual work in certain cases, for example it is less error prone and faster at the transfer or entry of patient data, it can fall seriously short in others…

Like patient access.

We often see providers attempt to offload scheduling and related tasks— it’s understandable, answering phones and the related administrative duties are time consuming and many practices still rely upon front desk staff to shoulder these duties alongside of patient check-in. This is a logical choice from the provider’s perspective but fails to recognize a key aspect of the patient experience. Mainly, patients seeking care want human interaction. In fact, when given the option only 2.4% of appointments are self-scheduled online. Studies have repeatedly illustrated the impact of a human touch throughout the patient journey, from its ability to build trust and loyalty to improving health outcomes, which begins and ends with access staff.

Try as it might, technology will never be capable of the empathy and compassion necessary for a successful healthcare experience.

Beyond the trappings of care culture, another often overlooked aspect of technology solutions is the necessity of people to run and maintain them. It’s easy in the desperate situation many organizations find themselves in now to become blind-sided by the promise of FTE savings and the ability of these solutions to relieve staff of repetitive or tedious tasks… then fail to recognize that these solutions create an entire new workload themselves. Automated solutions require proactive maintenance and monitoring to ensure they are properly executing their tasks, in fact—

Any technology solution will require knowledgeable operators.

In this case, “FTE savings” may be more appropriately labeled “FTE displacement” as you are lightening tasks at hand in one area only to require more in another— like your IT department. This is the great myth of a technology “fix” in healthcare. While machine learning and AI have illustrated some truly remarkable abilities, they alone are not capable of tackling the nuanced nature of many of the tasks that a practice needs them for, and…

Moving the burden from one area to another doesn’t solve anything.

Envera improves patient access by offering the right combination of people and tech. Learn more.