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At a time when patient volumes are sky high for urgent care centers, most clinics are struggling to meet patient demand, and employees are burning out because they are understaffed.

Health-related issues driven by COVID-19 have certainly contributed to the staff shortage. But the pandemic has also motivated a lot of people to either not return to work or change careers. Work/life balance is top of mind. And while urgent care provides a better balance than an emergency department or hospital, it can’t compete with other industries for people looking for weekends and holidays off.

These drivers are clearly out of our control. But with this issue affecting so many clinics, we need to look at what we do have control over. The Experity webinar “How to Operate Your Urgent Care in an Understaffed Environment” addresses just that. Here are some of the top tips from the webinar to help you improve your hiring strategy and help your existing staff be as efficient (and happy) as possible.

Optimize Your Hiring Strategy

No matter how efficient you make your existing team(s), your hiring efforts are likely to remain ongoing. This can be frustrating and time-consuming. By optimizing the way you go about hiring, you can shave some time off the process and also sift through fewer applicants who are not a fit.

Here are some strategies that our webinar panel has employed that may be new to you.

Hire cost-effective staff to increase productivity​

Adding lower-cost positions to take on some of the work that bottlenecks the patient journey can make your overall clinic more efficient. For example, an extra front desk representative can help you expedite the registration process — which reduces wait time and improves the patient experience. Hiring a scribe can reduce providers’ workloads to help them see twice as many patients​. Consider what positions you can fill that will help others do their jobs.

Hire students who are about to graduate​

Externships can be a win-win situation when you find a student who is a great fit for your clinic. They’re typically unpaid, and if they’re good, you can hire them when they graduate. They’ll require less training than other new hires. And while they can’t perform certain tasks unsupervised, simply having an extra person relieves stress for the rest of the staff. Have them contribute in whatever way is most helpful, including registration or other patient engagement responsibilities.

Choose job boards wisely

Posting open positions to sites like Indeed helps you cast a wider net​, but also help you weed out candidates you do not want. You’re able to set certain filters for better candidates. On Indeed, that includes “dealbreakers” — so if someone does not have a necessary license or certification, for example, that applicant won’t make it to your inbox.

Respond to applicants quickly​

Your applicants are in high demand. A good candidate probably has a number of choices; get with them immediately so they don’t move on before you get a chance to speak with them. Having a person dedicated to reaching out or simply an allotted time to correspond with applicants can help you respond faster.

For the full list of tips on hiring strategies, watch the webinar >>

Improve Retention

Keeping the staff you have so you don’t have to do more hiring is a no-brainer, but clinic owners and managers may not realize how expensive it is to lose a good employee. In the webinar, Tammy Mallow, Senior Director of Consulting at Experity, shows that the true cost of turnover looks like this:

Entry-level employee: 30% – 40% of salary​
Mid-level: 150%​
Highly skilled: up to 400%

Here are some of the tips our panel shared about improving retention.

Flexible scheduling

While this may not work for everyone, it is a good time to consider it. Mallow points out that for certain positions (like admin,) you can attract very dependable prospects when you work within certain time constraints. Parents, for example, usually want to work while children are in school, while students are only available nights and weekends. Having some flexibility in your schedule requirements can help you hold onto hard-working, dedicated people.

Give employees a voice

By routinely asking employees for feedback or input about their jobs, you’re not only engaging them, but also showing that you care. Realistically, you may not be able to fix or change all the issues they bring up but addressing the ones you can could make a huge impact. Remember that their pain points may be things you wouldn’t think of as a manager.

Foster employee relationships and team culture

Morale is very important in such a stressful time. If you have additional revenue from a spike in volume, give back to employees who are making it possible to handle that volume. Some of the things our webinar panel has done include: more pay increases, bonuses, weeknight/weekend rate differential, and providing a healthy selection of free, high-protein snacks.

Let go of the bad fits

Yes, we just showed you how much turnover costs, but holding onto an employee who is a poor fit can be even costlier. They can have a negative impact on the patients and other employees — who, as we mentioned earlier, are in high demand. If they have other offers or opportunities, don’t let one bad apple push them over the edge and provoke them to quit.

Optimize Your Operations

If you want to work well within a structure you cannot control (like the ebb and flow of patient volume,) take advantage of things like technology and down time to maximize your current staff. Mallow offers a couple of handy checklists on how to optimize your staffing and clinic operations. Here is what she shared:

How to optimize your staffing operations

  • Automate inquiries about COVID-19​
    Use phone automation to provide testing and vaccine details and have your lab email COVID-19 test results directly to the patient​.
  • Make staffing decisions based on data​
    Consolidate locations or reduce or change hours to make sure you are staffed most effectively​.
  • Take advantage of resources from your lab​
    Many labs will provide a tech to swab, freeing up time for your employees​.
  • Cross-train staff​
    Expand skillsets of staff to cover clinical needs​.
  • Use low volume periods to your advantage​
    Use extra time to train employees, let team members take vacations, schedule OccMed visits, and review compliance issues or A/R going to collection​.

How to optimize your clinic operations

  • Integrate eRegistration with your EMR
    Register patients more efficiently with less front desk staff​
  • Chart with fewer clicks
    Optimize your EMR workflows to chart faster on common visits ​
  • Use texting
    Reduce phone calls, no-shows, or manual reminder workflows​
  • Outsource your billing
    Keep up with collections for high patient volumes ​
  • Load balance with telehealth
    Not a one size fits all solution​
  • Get an operational assessment
    Understand where you are wasting time​

Hear more details about these checklist items in the on-demand webinar >>

More Best Practices

To hear all the tips our panel of experts discussed, as well as the ones that came out of the audience Q&A, access the recording of How to Operate Your Urgent Care in an Understaffed Environment. It’s available on-demand now.


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