Overcoming Staffing Challenges in Healthcare Information Leadership 

Overcoming Staffing Challenges in Healthcare Information Leadership 

By Connie Renda, MA, RHIA, CHDA

In my role as the CHIA President-elect, I had the privilege of addressing our California members on a pressing topic that resonates with healthcare information leaders across the industry. Every day, managers grapple with a multitude of human resource challenges, and this struggle is particularly pronounced in the healthcare information sector. In this article, we’ll delve into these pain points, offer a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced, and present innovative solutions to help healthcare information leaders reach their goals. 

 

Challenges in HI Staffing

 

Understaffing

Understaffing is a perennial issue that plagues healthcare information management. The demand for skilled professionals often surpasses the available talent pool. A report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that finding suitable candidates and retaining employees will be paramount for organizations in 2023. However, this search for top talent often collides with budget constraints, creating significant challenges, especially in an era marked by concerns over inflation. Many organizations find themselves handcuffed by hiring freezes or grappling with staff shortages due to employees on FMLA leave, compounding the problem further. The critical HIM duties cannot be deferred and require a dependable workforce, which isn’t always readily accessible when needed.

Skill Gaps

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, skill gaps are another major headache for healthcare information leaders. As Forbes aptly points out, the industry is grappling with substantial talent shortages as skill sets struggle to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology. This disconnect between the demands of modern healthcare and the available skill sets places additional pressure on organizations striving to maintain efficiency and compliance in their operations.

Fluctuating Workloads

Fluctuating workloads compound the woes of healthcare information leaders. The volume of work can oscillate dramatically, leading to unexpected spikes in demand that strain an already stretched workforce. Coping with these variations efficiently while maintaining a high standard of service becomes an ongoing challenge.

What Can We Do?

 

Develop a Flexible Workforce Strategy

Maintaining staff agility is one way to ensure operational continuity and peace of mind. My colleagues had many great ideas to achieve this from cross training to assigning multiple job roles. More experienced staff (or outsourced partners) are motivated by new learning experiences and can help address staff shortages, workload surges, and unique projects. In fact, this is such an effective strategy that Verisma launched a team dedicated for this purpose called Verisma bench.  

Consider Efficiency Gains Through Outsourcing

In addition to ROI, many other administrative HIM tasks can frustrate staff who could be spending more time working at the top of their license. Outside partners can alleviate these burdens and improve efficiency, while eliminating the headaches of hiring and training. Verisma, for instance, can manage tasks like prior authorizations, purge projects, inbound document management, and referral management. so staff can focus on what matters most – patient care. 

Leverage Technology-Enabled Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships are more than supplemental staff. They’re relationships built on experience, consistency, time, and effort. Better yet, technology-enabled service companies do more than complete tasks – they build for the future. Working with a trusted company like Verisma to help with staffing challenges makes sense and allows you to share the burden of finding a qualified, reliable team to address talent shortages. 

AHIMA22 Overview and Takeaways

AHIMA22 Overview and Takeaways

AHIMA22 brought us to Columbus this year, the capital and heart of Ohio. It’s been three years since we’ve all been together and there was so much catching up to do! The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the leading voice and authority in health information where the associated experts work at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and business. Today more than ever, in an era where technology drives change and efficiencies on one hand and on the other hand increases the risk of interfering with privacy and security, managing the complexity of patient’s information is critical. Healthcare professionals must ensure that sensitive health stories remain accurate, accessible, protected, and complete at all times.

We all know the tremendous effects COVID had on our healthcare and the gaps it highlighted in our systems. It changed the workforce landscape with an increased need for healthcare professionals and the reality that jobs require more technical skills than ever before. AHIMA22 highlighted the emerging changes and responsibilities that healthcare information management professionals face today.

The conference kicked off with sessions on “Design Thinking for Innovation in Healthcare” and “What Does it Take to Become a Revenue Cycle Executive” and a marching band performance! There were over 40 in-person sessions led by health data experts and visionaries, new product tech demos in the exhibit hall, networking opportunities, and social events with over 3,00 attendees. Thinking back on all that I heard and witnessed at this convention, there are a few key takeaways I’d like to share:

Design Thinking for Innovation in Healthcare

This workshop kicked off the conference and set the tone for the rest of the week. Design thinking process is a theory that many startups and innovative companies use to solve real end user problems and it’s one of my favorite methods to use to develop user centric products. Design thinking is taught at top universities like Harvard and is adopted by brand name companies such as Apple, Google, and Samsung. It’s a 5-part problem solving approach you can apply in both your organization and your daily life. It centers around end user challenges and how to put aside limiting beliefs and our own perspectives to solve a problem based on observation and thinking outside the box.

“Healthcare requires continuous innovation to meet the needs of patients and providers,” says Mary Ann Sullivan, MA, CCMP, senior director, professional development and education operations and innovation at AHIMA. But important stakeholders are not always considered when new interventions or processes are designed. This can lead to products and services that do little more than gather dust, while the underlying issues remain unaddressed. “Design thinking,” Sullivan says, “can be used to improve clinician-patient workflows, healthcare spaces, customer service, and community programs.” In a healthcare landscape where there are so many silos, this methodology can be useful to bridge the gap and deliver real solutions that bring back the patient to the center of care.

Privacy and Security

AHIMA22 had top experts on information blocking, electronic health record vendor efforts to protect privacy and achieve interoperability, cyberthreats, and risks associated with the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). There is an ongoing responsibility to understand and comply with laws that govern the privacy and security of health information. It’s important to learn unique security gaps and how to mitigate the IoMT risk as healthcare increases its use of devices that interact directly with patients. Furthermore, understanding the current drive to achieve an interoperable landscape requires heightened privacy and security.

Consumerism

The last several years was a turning point in healthcare with consumers finally empowered to make more informed decisions about their health. AHIMA22 included a focus on consumerism with sessions that offered incredible insight for health leaders to learn about new and emerging technologies and roles in health information that place the patient at the center of it all. Returning consumers to the center of patient care will impact healthcare for generations to come. Healthcare professionals can be both patient advocates and liaisons to help patients better understand the ever-changing environment. The pandemic has accelerated patients’ usage of health-related digital devices, which can provide more productivity, but also isolates the patient from human care. Healthcare professionals need to understand technology and find ways to humanize the experience.

Data

There were many lectures and vendor demos of products related to data. Because we use the science of collected information to have predictable results in a complex system, more data can lead to more informative decision making. This is vital because health data, including population health information, must be accurate and trusted as many strategic and patient care decisions rely on it. Also, health data and data models have a significant impact on business intelligence and initiatives. It can shed light on gaps in the systems or reasons for failure in the workflows and showcase and inefficiencies. Data governance is the yellow brick road to health data integrity and must be followed to ensure the reliability of the data. Organizations seek to improve patient care and outcomes through the collection of Social Determinants of Health data. Health data lies at the center of interoperability and interoperability is the key to getting the right information at the right time to the right person. Here at Verisma, we have a leading data and analytics tool, that is easy to use and all the reports related to Release of Information can be customized in a easy to understand format to drive real engagement with the process of providing real and accurate health records.

It was interesting to flow between so many fascinating topics while acknowledging how much the role of Health Information Managers is changing. That’s why Verisma is changing ROI for a changing world. I look forward to showing you the new products and services we’re developing to support you!

If you or your colleagues plan to attend AHIMA’s virtual conference in November, don’t miss Verisma’s session on the top disclosure management trends.

 

AHIMA 22 Verisma Team
Using Technology to Achieve Centralized ROI

Using Technology to Achieve Centralized ROI

By Barbara Carr, RHIA

I have spoken often about how urgent it is to centralize your release of information (ROI) processes. COVID, hybrid workforces, Information Blocking requirements, as well as the upcoming anticipated HIPAA changes with a reduced turnaround time to 15 days, have put more pressure on healthcare organizations to move to a streamlined unified process to manage requests for healthcare information that are flowing into their organizations and landing in various locations.

Having disparate processes and various policies sets your organization up for compliance risks in addition to redundant and costly processing. Are all incoming requests making it to your ROI team in a timely way or are they sitting on fax machines, or desks waiting days to be entered into the system? We need to ask ourselves; can we truly account for all disclosures of protected health information taking place across our entire organizations?

Without a centralized intake process, the answer is probably no.

Once you make the commitment to centralize your ROI process, you will need the right technology to make it work. Some questions you may have include:

  • How will various requests get into a centralized system?
  • How will you be able to ascertain and prioritize the types of requests that are coming in across your system?
  • How will you know where the requests are coming from and what, if any, backlogs may be creeping in?
  • How will you be able to manage the input of requests?
  • How can you report on the success of centralized process?

All these questions can be answered by utilizing the right technology and partnering with the right ROI vendor. Of course, you will need sound policies and procedures, but without the technology, it just doesn’t work.

The Verisma Release Manager® (VRM®) platform with its powerful Verisma Inbox™ technology can help your organization centralize and streamline the request intake process and aid in reducing redundancy, improving productivity and turnaround time, and providing metrics and visibility into your ROI operations. Here’s how:

  • Utilizes smart barcode technology that automates the entire request intake by healthcare facility, giving you 100% visibility.
  • Centralizes and automatically categorizes all requests based on rules you specify. This helps effectively prioritize the time sensitive requests so they can be worked on first.
  • Requests can be received from multiple sources with duplicate requests flagged to reduce multiple releases of the same record to the same requestor.
  • Everything visible on one page enables faster processing of each request. The actual request/authorization images, its current status, who in production the request is assigned to, and any important instructions/notes regarding the request is all visible on one page.
  • Built in retrieval protocols available to the ROI workflow specialist so they know where to go across your disparate record sources for each record type being requested supported by built-in policies and procedures specific to your organization. No need to search elsewhere for this information.
  • Comprehensive analytics that produce metrics on volume, productivity, turn-around-times, workflow compliance, and financials by multiple data levels including by facility, employee, request types, delivery methods, etc., make managing a centralized process a more efficient and manageable process than ever before.

Examples of how the right technology can be an invaluable asset in the management, compliance, and overall efficiency of an enterprise-wide disclosure management process include a large, complex, multi-hospital health system who discovered, and quickly resolved, a significant request back-log challenge that was due to their previous decentralized ROI approach. Within weeks of implementing the Verisma Inbox tool, this organization is now realizing the benefits of one centralized solution to processing ROI requests. They now have immediate visibility into their volume and turnaround time metrics across all sites, greatly reducing the risk of future backlogs.

Utilizing advanced technology along with well thought out policies, procedures, and staff training, can make managing a centralized approach to ROI across your enterprise a highly achievable objective.

Verisma to Show Latest Advancements at AHIMA22

Verisma to Show Latest Advancements at AHIMA22

What’s New?

Pending HIPAA updates, rising labor costs, hybrid workforces, cyber security threats – the landscape of health informration management is changing and so are we! Visit us at booth #411 at AHIMA 2022 October 9-12 in Columbus, Ohio to see our latest advancements in automation: including:

  • Enhanced robotic processing
  • Self-service requests
  • Commercial audit management
  • Request intake
  • Radiology image request
  • Request monitoring and data intelligence

What Really Excites Us

Education, tradeshow booths, and dinners in the city are all part of the fun, but the real draw to events like this is simple – the people.

Do we hope you’ll remember our latest technology and awesome giveaways? Yes!

But most importantly, we hope you remember us. We can’t wait to meet you!

3 Reasons You Miss Turnaround Times (and what to do about it)

3 Reasons You Miss Turnaround Times (and what to do about it)

It’s 4:45 pm and your shift is about to end. You take one final glance at the queue of new patient record requests and unbelievably, it’s at zero. “Great!” you think, “My team has visibility on everything that needs to be processed and is well on their way to responding within 30 days. Even if we only had 15 days, we could handle this!”

Now let’s be honest – this is a fantastical scenario. Most, if not all, healthcare organizations have a backlog of requests they’re aware of but haven’t processed. Thankfully, if you track the date those requests entered your system, reaching the HIPAA-required turnaround time should be doable, right?

Not always. Here’s three reasons why:

1. Your backlog is bigger than you think

If you manage turnaround times based on your intake queue, you need 100% certainty that record requests make it to the queue on day one. Are there requests sitting on the fax machine? Are there several sitting in someone’s email inbox? Are they on vacation?

There’s risk in what you can’t see. If your organization has multiple locations with a decentralized ROI process, this problem compounds.

To confidently say your organization meets required turnaround times, you need 100% visibility across the intake process.

2. Your backlog is smaller than you think

We all know it’s unavoidable – duplicate requests. Whether by accident or due to impatience, this redundancy is an inefficient use of time and resources.

3. You’re not prioritizing effectively

First in first out isn’t always the best process. If all record requests in your system look the same, how do you know which are from patients vs attorneys? How many are for continuity of care?

COVID, hybrid workforces, Information Backlog requirements, and the upcoming anticipated HIPAA changes with a reduced turnaround time to 15 days have put more pressure on healthcare organizations to move to a streamlined unified process.

Verisma’s disclosure management experts are here to guide you through the process. Well-orchestrated policies and procedures paired with leading technology designed for ROI workflows are the key to achieving improved productivity, enhanced patient/requestor experience, and actionable metrics on your ROI operations success.

Specifically, the Verisma® advanced Release Management (VRM®) platform with its powerful Verisma Inbox™ technology:

  • Utilizes smart barcode technology that automates the entire request intake by healthcare facility, giving you 100% visibility
  • Flags duplicate requests to reduce multiple releases of the same record to the same requestor
  • Centralizes and automatically categorizes all requests based on rules you specify so you can prioritize effectively

Verisma Inbox™ technology is the first of its kind and continues to offer more automation capabilities at no extra cost to our clients. Come see our latest innovations at AHIMA 22 booth #411.

Not going to AHIMA? Request a demo any time here.