The endlessly challenging demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic set the evolution of the modern healthcare environment in motion. Patient surges, staffing shortages, and the need for rapidly-changing procedures all came together to inspire change at every level. Beyond that, government regulations and big tech innovations complicated matters further.
So, while treating your patients remains paramount, the modern healthcare environment now demands so much more from your medical practice. Physicians have to step beyond the basic caregiver role to truly exceed their patients’ expectations. They’re now tasked with being tech experts, cybersecurity heroes, financial gurus, patient experience marvels, and so much more – they really cannot do it alone.
Your policies, certifications, and procedures must evolve with time and with changes in government compliance. Otherwise, current healthcare issues could impact the patient experience, efficiency of your operations, and your bottom line. In order to enact all the right changes, you must first explore all the biggest challenges physicians face today. To help you out, here’s a look at nine major challenges in healthcare to overcome — and all the leading solutions.
Your patients trust you to securely hold onto all their most personal data, including personally identifiable info, medical records, and payment methods. Unfortunately, the rising risk of cybersecurity attacks endangers all that data – and the reputation of your healthcare center.
In 2021, the rate of cyberattacks against healthcare centers tripled. Nearly 50 million people had their protected healthcare data breached as a result, resulting in costly shutdowns and the erosion of patients’ trust.
Yet, to this day, almost half of all devices used in healthcare settings remain vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can help protect your patients’ data by taking these measures:
- Upgrade your systems, services, and processes to stay ahead of threats
- Use an electronic health record platform designed with security in mind
- Train your staff to maintain a culture of cybersecurity
- Focus On Business Associate Agreements
- Pay attention to Access Rights
- Have reasonable safeguards, policies, and procedures in place
As evidenced by its rapid growth in 2020, telehealth was key in providing patient care while managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In response, virtual visits peaked in April 2020 at 78 times higher than their prior rate.
Since that initial jump, telehealth visits have stabilized at 38 times higher than pre-pandemic levels, showing their popularity with patients. And that’s a great thing. The improved accessibility to healthcare makes it easier for physicians to help patients manage their conditions. Plus, the virtual visits allow you to handcraft the ideal patient experience every time.
More than 75% of patients show interest in telehealth, yet utilization rates remain in the 50% range.
To close the gap, you just need to:
- Raise patient awareness about the ability to get virtual care
- Set up intuitive EHR systems with telehealth functionality
- Provide support to patients in learning how to use your system
“As we continue this shift to telemedicine, new issues and risks unravel that need to be addressed, particularly in regard to information security and privacy, and ongoing work is needed to ensure that our technology infrastructure provides an environment for safe and effective care delivery.”Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Invoicing and Payments
With all its medical jargon, complex coverage rules, and ever-changing approaches, the healthcare billing world doesn’t make much sense to patients. In fact, over 70% of patients find both the insurance explanation of benefits and their own portion of the bills wholly confusing.
On top of that, medical bill management portals rarely align with your patients’ payment preferences. Late or altogether missing payments then occur as patients fail to find a way to manage their bills. Your own revenue cycle management abilities decline in response, leaving you trying to find a way to keep your clinic afloat.
To overcome this issue, you could:
- Align your approach with patient expectations, starting with easy to understand medical bills
- Set up a user-friendly online patient portal offering many different payment options
- Make it easy to create payment plans without having to make time-consuming phone calls
Price Transparency Mandate
In response to patient complaints about surprise billing issues, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services created the Hospital Price Transparency mandate. Although enacted in early 2021, only 5% of hospitals have achieved full compliance. Worse yet, more than 50% still don’t publish the rates negotiated with insurance companies.
Patients remain completely in the dark about their healthcare costs – and many are not standing for it. While the mandate only affects hospitals, healthcare centers of all sizes, including solo practices, are feeling the hurt as a result. In the coming years, you can expect to see patients looking into the price of your healthcare services before deciding where to get care.
To better service your patients, consider:
- Publish your typical rates for many services for cost comparison purposes
- Offer to provide estimates for large procedures and other potentially costly services
- Give your patients multiple payment options to consider, including the ability to pay over time
IT Healthcare Investments
Alongside the push for healthcare pricing transparency, patients want healthcare centers to eliminate wasteful spending. With up to 25% of health spending deemed wasteful, there’s definitely the potential for big savings over the years. Although the waste factors are numerous, administrative complexity, poor care coordination, and low-value care add up to a stunning $444 billion in excess spending every year.
IT healthcare investments, like EHR software, can help minimize excess spending at every level of the healthcare world, including small private practices. As you employ key tech software for your clinic, operational costs decrease, especially at the administrative level. In response to patient actions, the software can automatically handle many of your key day-to-day management tasks, including scheduling, care coordination, and billing.
To minimize excess spending at your clinic:
- Adopt EHR solutions with a patient portal, automatic billing, and telehealth services
- Train your staff on how to best use the electronic health records in their day-to-day lives
- Help patients use all the different services found in the portal instead of calling your clinic
A positive patient experience is a must if you want to boost care outcomes, retention rates, and profitability. When given favorable care experiences, your patients are more likely to adhere to medical advice. Better healthcare outcomes follow, boosting patient retention rates and lowering malpractice risk.
But what does an excellent patient experience look like? Oftentimes, it all starts with self-service systems, like EHR software with online patient portals. Through these systems, your patients can conveniently make appointments, speak with healthcare professionals, and manage their bills. The software helps streamline your physicians’ workflows as well, so they can provide timely services while expertly coordinating care.
To handcraft the perfect patient experience:
- Put all the right tech systems in place, and then train your staff and patients on their use
- Examine all the workflows for each physician and staff member to remove redundancies
- Collect and go over patient reviews to find new ways to improve their experience at your clinic
Effective Payment Models
In the past, healthcare centers solely relied on the fee-for-service payment model for reimbursement. If you’re using that model, your profitability largely depends on getting more patients through the doors and completing key procedures. Within that model, your physicians are not incentivized to promote preventative care and work within a coordinated care team.
In recent years, the value-based payment model has started to take hold instead. This model largely aligns reimbursement rates with patient outcomes. Although only 15% of physicians have made the switch, the results speak for themselves. Patients seeing physicians using the value-based model get a higher quality of care, including better management of all their chronic conditions.
To overcome this challenge:
- Reflect on whether your current payment model best supports your patients’ needs
- Consider switching to a value-based payment model to incentivize higher quality care
- Test the results by collecting key metrics on your patients’ care quality and outcomes
Healthcare Regulatory Changes
The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth many seemingly temporary regulatory changes in the healthcare world. Regulations on telehealth services were lifted, for example, which improved healthcare accessibility but left questions about future regulation.
Through that process, regulators set their sights on further emphasizing innovation across the healthcare sector. Existing standards will undoubtedly change as a result, especially when it comes to improving healthcare accessibility, affordability, and quality. So, you’re going to need to stay on your toes to keep up with the ongoing regulatory changes in the coming years.
To keep your healthcare center-aligned with HIPAA rules, Medicare reporting, and so much more:
- Check for government updates and training
- If possible, keep a compliance officer to guide you through the changes
- Review the approach quarterly and revise as needed to stay compliant
- Subscribe to industry blogs and newsletters, for regulatory updates
- Attend conferences, seminars, and events
Healthcare Staffing Shortages
Healthcare staffing shortages started in earnest during the pandemic and they’re not likely to end any time soon. A recent study by the Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts a shortage of up to 104,900 physicians by 2030.
As your physicians retire at rapid rates, your patient population will continue to age and grow. Their healthcare demands will steadily outpace the number of primary care and specialty providers as that occur. Keeping up with the increasing demand will likely become one of the biggest challenges physicians face while serving their patient populations.
You can help them best handle the demands by:
- Adopt customizable technology, including online patient portals with telehealth functionality
- Help your physicians understand how to use the systems to better manage their patients’ needs
- Build retention strategies
- Encourage patients to use telehealth services for key conditions easily managed remotely
What Can Be Done to Help You Overcome Challenges in Healthcare?
Although change can prove difficult, it’s vital that you address all the challenges one by one. For the best results, consider taking a holistic approach to overcome current healthcare issues by setting up a fully-integrated EHR solution.
With EHR software in place, you instantly upgrade your cybersecurity, care approach, payment models, and so much more. Customizable workflows promise to keep physician burnout at bay while improving the patient experience across the board.
To get started, you’ll need to set up a demo to see if cloud-based EHR software will work for you. Through that process, you can explore all the ways the EHR system can help your healthcare facility keep up with industry changes.