Practice Managers Finding Effective Solutions to Maintain Smooth Clinical Operations Amidst Staff Shortages

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Jun 21, 2024

Practice Managers Finding Effective Solutions to Maintain Smooth Clinical Operations Amidst Staff Shortages

Patty Marenghi (1)

Written by Patty Marenghi

Category: Clinical Optimization - Physician Enterprise

The Staffing Shortage Challenge

While practice managers frequently face staffing shortages among their provider support teams, using “I can’t because we’re short-staffed” as an excuse is not a viable solution. Whether it’s due to staff turnover, seasonal fluctuations, unforeseen circumstances, or simply post-COVID changes, these challenges are here to stay and can significantly impact a practice’s ability to maintain efficient clinical operations. Skilled practice managers understand the importance of remaining solution-oriented and developing and implementing creative strategies to keep their practices running smoothly.


Assessing the Opportunity

First and foremost, practice managers should assess the extent of a given staffing shortage and its impact on day-to-day operations. They must also understand how the shortage impacts existing staff as well as the patient experience. The biggest area to assess is how being short-staffed affects provider productivity, or in other words, the volume of patients seen. For example, with regular staffing a provider sees 75 patients per day, but short one medical assistant, and they are only scheduled for 35 patients per day. Staffing metrics, such as vacancy rate, turnover rate, overtime rate, and staffing ratio can help further define problem areas. Satisfaction surveys of patients and staff are another useful tool. By conducting a thorough evaluation, a practice manager can identify areas of opportunity and prioritize tasks that require immediate attention while working on long-term solutions.



One effective solution to implement is a cross-training initiative, where all appropriate staff members are trained to perform tasks outside of their usual responsibilities. This not only helps fill gaps in staffing but also promotes versatile staff who are capable of handling various roles as needed. For example, administrative staff members can receive basic training to assist with patient intake, scheduling, rooming patients, or even simple office procedures under supervision.

Proactively, practice managers can develop float pools to leverage during periods of shortage and holidays and summer months when more staff members use PTO. In dire circumstances, hiring temporary staff or partnering with staffing agencies are alternatives that ensure the continuity of day-to-day operations and prevent overburdening existing staff members. Agencies offer pre-vetted candidates, so you’ll save time searching for experienced placements and can quickly “plug holes.” However, temporary staff comes at a premium cost, permanent staff may not be supportive, and the candidates might not be highly motivated, given their temporary status.

The use of technology can also be instrumental in mitigating the impact of staffing shortages. Implementing telemedicine programs allows healthcare providers to conduct remote consultations, reducing the need for in-person staff presence. Additionally, leveraging electronic health records (EHR) and practice management software streamlines administrative tasks, minimizing the strain on limited personnel.

Creative practice managers are finding solutions outside the standard operating model. Staggering shifts, developing hybrid roles, and adopting interim remote work options are examples of strategies to offload staff strain and maintain adequate coverage.

Whether staffing challenges are acute or chronic, they can put a strain on existing staff members. Seeking feedback from staff can help managers make informed staffing decisions as well as create a culture of teamwork and collaboration, which results in an environment of trust and understanding.


Summing Up

While staffing shortages pose significant challenges for clinical practices, proactive and solution-oriented approaches can help mitigate the impact on clinical operations. By embracing cross-training initiatives, exploring temporary staffing options, leveraging technology, fostering effective communication, promoting teamwork, and maintaining adaptability, practice managers can ensure continuity of care and uphold operational excellence even in the face of adversity.


Learn more about how Impact Advisors’ Physician Enterprise Services can help your organization.