COVID-19 continues to impact healthcare across the country, especially in public sector organizations. According to NRI, in the wake of the pandemic, 68% of all state mental health agencies experienced workforce shortages, and telephone encounters increased by 365% among community providers. COVID-19 has completely altered the way state systems conduct business. Therefore, many agencies are now working to both solve new operational challenges and create successful and sustainable business strategies moving forward.
In this recent Netsmart CareThreads podcast, Carol Reynolds, executive vice president, client experience and public sector at Netsmart, talked with Netsmart virtual CIO, Danielle Ross, and vice president of revenue cycle management, Erica Gregory, regarding ways public sector agencies can better maximize budgets, especially in light of recent monetary constraints and changing care delivery methods.
According to Gregory, the biggest operational challenge public health agencies face is shortage of resources. Coupled with the pandemic's demand for remote work, this shortage meant many organizations weren't prepared for the new world they faced. With resources stretched thin, working remotely created a lot of challenges for healthcare providers. Agencies are looking for creative solutions that solve a shortage of talent due to budget constraints. While this shift inflated challenges, it has also created opportunities.
“The resource challenge has been there, and it has magnified with COVID,” Ross said. “How do we leverage the resources that we have, really well? How do we look at resource gaps that we need to fill? And should we do that through an internal strategy or a technology solution?”
Ross went on to clarify that resource challenges aren’t necessarily going away, but resource solutions are starting to become part of the conversation. It’s not a let’s go hire more staff approach, rather thinking how to leverage internal staff to help the organization become more stable, fully cover resource gaps and ultimately round out business operations.
“When you look at the resource shortages, we are all finding ways to work smarter, not harder,” Gregory said.
Key strategies public sector agencies can leverage to maximize budgets revolve around doing more with less. Many organizations are talking about the vast opportunities for automation, allowing staff to focus on high-importance tasks while the technology takes care of other operational assignments. The billing process, for example, has historically taken too long and requires too many manual touches. Automation opportunities including new technology solutions and analytics can save hundreds of hours for billing staff.
This push toward technology automation goes beyond billing workflows and into service delivery. What can we automate so our staff members can turn their attention toward client care? Across public sector communities, leaders are looking at technology tools as a portion of their overall strategy to plan for how they are going to continue to run their business operations. There’s a way to automate certain tasks and then use staff for things they are absolutely needed for, without having to hire more staff.
“If there's a technology solution that allows us to automate or streamline a process to free up service delivery staff or people in the billing and operations side, then that’s the option that should be available,” Ross said.
Overall, it’s a great time for organizations to look at current challenges, even at those that were causing issues before the pandemic. Most importantly understand what it means to do more with less by leveraging technology, virtual care options, flexible resourcing and data analytics to help your staff focus on what’s most important: those they serve.
This discussion with Carol Reynolds, Erica Gregory, and Danielle Ross was taken from our show Netsmart Care Threads. If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts.
If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can find every episode here.
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