4 Ways Healthcare Organizations Can Use the Gig Economy

April 18, 2017

 

There is an emerging trend spreading across various industries that is a natural fit to the healthcare industry: the gig economy. In general, the gig economy features workers providing services to organizations as freelancers or independent consultants on a short-term basis. Instead of hiring full-time employees, organizations will hire someone for a “gig” and then move on after the project is complete.

 

Hospitals have been doing this for years in times of talent shortage, especially in nursing. But nursing is not a great fit for gig workers, and this is generally only done as a last resort. Here are the types of positions that are a better fit for gig economy employees:

 

 1. IT Support

  

Electronic Health Record systems represent the largest single expenditure for most organizations, which is primarily due to the staff necessary to implement and maintain the system. Unfortunately for organizations, the demand for skilled workers experienced in healthcare IT substantially outstrips the supply. As a consequence, organizations are forced to hire under-qualified staff or send inexperienced employees to get training, leading to countless hours and dollars of lost productivity. Hiring independent experts, especially remotely, will reduce the amount of time and money organizations have to dedicate to their IT systems.  Gig economy workers also enable organizations to adjust staffing according to their current needs, hiring more during upgrade or optimization projects, and reducing during regular maintenance.  

 

2. Pharmacy

 

The Pharmacy department is a small but expensive cog in the hospital machine. Aside from the astronomic costs of medication, pharmacist salaries represent a sizable portion of the budget.

 

This is where gig economy workers can ease the pain. Much of pharmacists’ time is spent verifying physician orders and checking medication preparation. While these are two very important functions, they are relatively basic for the average pharmacist. Pharmacists could add more value to the hospital with more clinically oriented tasks, such as medication reconciliation, patient consultations, and antimicrobial stewardship, but verifying and checking consume a vast majority of pharmacists’ time. Technology allows pharmacists to verify orders remotely, and emerging technology using cameras and barcodes can allow a pharmacist to check medication preparation remotely. Because of this, a pharmacist could verify and check from their own home for one or several sites.  

 

Not only will gig workers free up staff pharmacist time, but they can also allow hospitals to save on pharmacist salary expenses as well as maximize the value of the pharmacists they already have on staff.

 

3. Medical Coding

 

One of the few things that are standardized in the healthcare industry are medical codes. Every healthcare organization in the country needs to have accurate medical coding in order to be properly reimbursed for the services provided. Fast and accurate medical coding is crucial for reducing days in accounts receivable as well as minimizing the risk of losing reimbursement due to audit. Of all the opportunities for gig economy workers, medical coding may be the most ripe.

 

In order to be a medical coder, one must be certified in one of several disciplines. The certification requires passing a rigorous exam. Many healthcare organizations struggle to hire and train enough competent people who simply pass the exam, let alone the people who can actually excel at medical coding. Outsourcing this process to gig economy workers would allow an organization to reap the benefits of the most talented medical coders in the country, reducing workforce expenses and days in AR.

 

4. Training

 

Casually glance over any job board and surely there will be an abundance of open positions in healthcare. Hospitals are constantly on the lookout for new talent. As a result, hospitals spend a considerable amount of time and money on training and orientation. This is in addition to the ongoing necessary training for current employees to meet many governmental and accreditation standards.

 

Many of the policies, procedures, and regulations are fairly similar across health systems. With minor tweaks to materials, a talented trainer could produce materials for a number of organizations on demand. With the emergence of e-learnings as a superior method  of adult learning compared to a traditional classroom setting, a gig trainer could produce high quality, custom developed materials for an organization that could be used well after the trainer’s contract expires. When new regulations or policies are developed, the organization can engage another gig trainer and save thousands of dollars over an FTE while still meeting the regulatory requirements.

 

With the cost of healthcare constantly rising, and the rate of reimbursement stagnant or even falling, healthcare organizations need to find new and innovative ways to maintain or increase the quality of care they deliver while concurrently reducing costs. The good news for the industry is that there are abundant opportunities for cost reduction. The gig economy represents a tremendous opportunity for healthcare organizations to hire high-quality workers for a fraction of the cost.

 

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