2022 was a devastating financial year for hospitals and health systems in the United States, with half ending the year in the red. 

Labor issues are a big reason why. 

Dealing with the double whammy of labor shortages and increased patient volume, hospitals have been forced to rely on expensive contract labor to meet staffing demands in a highly competitive labor market—and it’s taking a serious toll on their bottom lines. In their annual survey, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) asked nearly 300 hospital CEOs to rank their biggest concerns in 2022. Coming in at number one? Workforce challenges. 

Unfortunately, the healthcare labor problem doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. A 2023 outlook predicts that labor expenses have been reset at a permanently high level. 

To combat the high cost of labor and bend the curve toward profitability, hospitals and health systems must prioritize efficiency. This means taking a long, hard look at which tasks add value, and which amount to wasted time. Matching the right technology with the right team is key to helping hospitals maximize productivity so healthcare workers can focus on what really matters—their patients. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of financial assistance, where a combination of tech solutions and expert support can reduce waste, lower burnout, and empower staff to do more with less. 

Financial Barriers Hurt Patients and Hospitals

Perhaps now more than ever, patients need help paying for healthcare. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), over 16 million people in the U.S. owe more than $1,000 in medical debt, and 3 million owe more than $10,000.

In large part because of unpaid accounts, hospitals have historically failed to collect 65 cents for every dollar they bill—and provided almost $745 billion in uncompensated patient care since 2000. 

Americans are also finding it increasingly difficult to afford their prescriptions. About 25% of adults say they or a family member have not filled a prescription, cut pills in half, or skipped doses in the last year because of cost.

When patients can’t afford their medications, hospitals pay the price. Medication nonadherence costs the healthcare system an estimated $672.7 billion every year, and pharmacies lose around half a billion dollars annually due to abandoned prescriptions. 

Staffing Crisis Shows Need for Change

In 2022, the American Hospital Association called the hospital workforce shortage a “national emergency.” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the healthcare worker burnout crisis. Among other recommendations, the advisory suggests “reducing administrative burdens to help health workers have productive time with patients, communities, and colleagues.” 

In other words, hospital staff need to spend less time doing busywork so they can have more time with their patients. 

A Two-Pronged Approach to Patient Affordability 

Connecting patients with financial assistance helps patients and hospitals save money, but the process is often time-consuming and labor-intensive. This is especially problematic when staff members who are already drowning in work have to wade through papers and spreadsheets because they’re relying on manual processes. 

Overburdened, financially-challenged, and short-staffed hospitals need both technology and staffing solutions when it comes to addressing patient affordability. 

By incorporating the 1-2 punch of a tech platform and a team of skilled experts, hospital staff can effectively address affordability, helping patients while reducing staff workload and improving their organization’s financial performance. This pairing can:

1. Maximize Efficiency 

Financial navigation platforms streamline workflows while ensuring patients receive the maximum amount of assistance. This saves patients money while improving health systems’ financial performance to offset rising labor costs.

Hospitals can further maximize efficiency by leaning on experts who provide patients with compassionate financial guidance during a difficult time. 

Whether easing the strain on existing financial counselors or stepping in for unspecialized staff who may be out of their depth, skilled financial navigators help hospitals do more with less. Their expertise can be particularly helpful for organizations that don’t have dedicated financial navigators, meaning this work falls to staff who aren’t familiar with all the resources available, how to enroll patients, and other complexities. 

2. Minimize Waste

Too often, healthcare providers don’t know about a patient’s financial challenges until the patient receives a bill they can’t afford to pay.

With the right technology and the right team, hospital staff can proactively identify patients in need at the point of care, then project their out-of-pocket costs for their entire medical journey. Technology solutions also provide access to thousands of financial assistance resources, including drug manufacturer copay assistance and charitable funds, all in one centralized and easy-to-navigate space. 

Utilizing financial navigation software and trained navigators, provider organizations can optimize affordability while reducing wasted time and uncompensated care—a win for the patient and the hospital.

3. Lower Burnout

According to one report, more than 90% of healthcare providers feel too much time is spent on administrative tasks—and that these tasks are a major cause of burnout. 

A two-pronged approach makes repetitive tasks related to financial assistance a non-issue, since this work can be automated and addressed by an expert team. As a result, hospital and health system staff can focus on what really matters—their patients. They can also enjoy the lift in morale that comes from knowing that caring, highly qualified professionals are tackling their patients’ financial challenges.

Financial Navigation as a Service

As they look to save costs, many hospitals have recognized the value of allocating resources away from areas in which they lack expertise—and enlisting outside partners. Our TailorMed Complete solution empowers providers to do just that in the area of financial navigation. TailorMed Complete pairs our technology platform with our team of financial navigators, who bring more than 40 years of combined experience in the field. The team works remotely, offering patients the financial support they need from the comfort of their own homes. The service enables providers to create better patient financial experiences, while letting their own internal staff focus on what they do best.

Taking Action to Solve the Labor Crisis

Times are tough for hospitals, and labor problems aren’t going away anytime soon. By combining the right technology with the right team, hospital staff will be empowered to work smarter, helping patients and their organization’s bottom line.