There is no doubt about it; the medical industry has been facing unprecedented struggles over the last few years. From a pandemic nearly crashing the system to pandemic-induced supply chain and labor shortages, things were already difficult, but now, with rising inflation, small practices, like outpatient care centers, are fighting to stay ahead.
To understand how an outpatient care center can cut costs and stay ahead of inflation, you must first understand exactly what is happening in the industry.
The good news is that with forward-thinking business models and preparation, outpatient care centers can stay on top of inflation and efficiently navigate economic swings.
The Impact of Inflation on Outpatient Care Centers
The recent period of inflation has impacted nearly every nation and every industry, but it has created unique pressures and challenges for the healthcare sector.
Increased costs of medical supplies and shortages in labor have further strained outpatient care centers already struggling to keep up following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, patients are facing increased medical costs at a time when nearly every single thing in life has become more expensive. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that health insurance prices in September 2022 were up 28 percent from the year before. And because these prices and the reimbursement rates are set years in advance, inflation will continue to negatively impact insurance premiums and out of pocket costs for some time.
On the clinical side of things, labor costs have increased 25 percent between 2019 and 2022. During that same time period, pharmaceutical costs rose 21 percent, supplies by 18 percent, and services by 16 percent. And while these increases have leveled off to start the year, they are still well above the norm.
As you can see, inflation has impacted healthcare, patients, and outpatient care centers, from all angles.
Tips to Help Outpatient Care Centers Stay on Top of Inflation
While the impacts of inflation will be felt for some time, there are a few things that outpatient care centers can do to better manage increased costs and financial pressures in all areas.
Adopting technology is high on the list of recommended actions to limit the burden.
McKinsey found that 66 percent of surveyed executives at both payer and provider organizations are considering the adoption of technology to reduce the labor burden and address gaps that the labor shortage may cause.
Here are just a few things that can be accomplished, with technology, to help outpatient care centers stay on top of inflation:
Create a More Efficient Work Flow
One thing that can be done in outpatient care centers is to improve efficiency and workflow.
A simple way to create efficiencies and improve the overall workflow is through automation with electronic health records (EHR) software.
In 2020, the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare reported that of the $372 billion spent on administration in healthcare, $16.3 billion could be saved through administrative automation.
Many tasks, like billing and patient scheduling, can be automated with a comprehensive EHR platform. This allows clinic staff to focus on more immediate and pressing concerns, improving patient outcomes and patient experience while trimming some overhead costs.
EHR software can also help improve communication between clinic staff and between clinic staff and other care providers. Platforms like Amazing Charts have an easily accessible chat feature that can be used by any user with the proper permissions.
And with charting, healthcare professionals can access lab results, referral summaries, and past encounter summaries with a single button click, eliminating the need for redocumentation or searching to find the information you need.
EHR software with prebuilt templates for note-taking, record-keeping, and customer support, streamlines administrative operations and greatly improves operational workflow.
Introduce Virtual Care Where Possible
Telemedicine and virtual care were extremely popular during the pandemic and could be one of the primary factors in helping healthcare providers fight inflation.
Telemedicine allows for practices to operate more efficiently, reducing the time spent moving between examination rooms and time spent corralling patients to the right location.
While this technology may not be appropriate for clinics frequently dealing with emergency scenarios, it can support operations in others.
Telemedicine reduces patient no-shows and allows physicians and clinicians to diagnose patients from any place they can access the platform. No longer are patient visits limited to the walls of the clinic.
Launch a Patient Portal
A patient portal can provide many cost-reducing benefits to an outpatient care center.
Patient portals provide patients with secure online access to their personal health information. This information can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, 24 hours a day.
Patients can access appointments, discharge summaries, medications, immunizations, lab results, communicate with the healthcare provider, request prescription refills, schedule non-emergency appointments, download and submit forms, update contact information, and check insurance benefits.
This portal improves patient engagement and clinic operations. A patient portal provides an avenue for clear communication between patients and practitioners, reducing the need for calls to the office for clarification and eliminating the troubles caused by messy handwriting.
Moreover, patients can use the portal to complete a handful of administrative tasks that would previously require a staff member to address, increasing efficiency.
Staying Ahead of Inflation
It is clear that the impacts of inflation will be felt both inside the medical community and out for the foreseeable future. But, there are things that can be done to reduce the impacts in medical practices and outpatient care centers.
The adoption of technology, like Amazing Charts EHR software, can improve workplace efficiencies and reduce costs while improving patient experience and potentially reducing their expenses as well.
While there is an initial financial and labor cost associated with rolling out new EHR software, the benefits cannot be understated. Not only will the software support the day-to-day operations of the practice, but the software can also help it to stay on top of inflation, reducing in-house costs and potentially avoiding an increase in medical costs for patients accessing care. It’s a win-win.
To learn more about how Amazing Charts can help your outpatient care center manage inflation, reach out to schedule a consultation.