It is estimated that between 33% to 38% of the nation’s nursing homes are at risk of closing in the future, according to a report published by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). The pandemic has imposed numerous challenges for all healthcare providers, leaving many with catastrophically shrinking profit margins. Nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and home health care agencies are all losing money at an alarming rate, and there is only so much more they can take before bankruptcy and closure becomes imminent.
To keep your long-term post-acute care facility from becoming one of the statistics, leaders need to do what they can to control spending and expenses, and offset their anticipated losses.
Comply with Stimulus Reporting & Repayment Requirements
Many long-term healthcare providers were able to stay afloat through the pandemic solely because of relief funding. Those who received payments were expected to accept certain terms and conditions, which included submitting reports to explain how the money was spent.
In December 2022, The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) began notifying some recipients of repayment requests. Providers must be prepared to provide documentation demonstrating appropriate allocation of the funds. If you are a leader that is new to their role or are simply unsure whether you are in compliance, take action now before any potential payback deadline approaches. The last thing you want to do is factor in late fees and interest to your growing list of expenses.
Less Reliance on Temporary Staff
Rising labor expenses continue to take a major toll on providers, digging them deeper and deeper into debt. The competition for healthcare workers is intense, and many providers have had no choice but to rely on contract labor to keep up with operating demands. Without adequate staffing levels, facilities could be required to cut back on admissions, and those who have struggled to fill beds in the first place are in no position to be turning away business.
Although contract labor has been a necessity for many providers’ survival, it is not ideal for long-term sustainability – at least at the rate it is going. The disparity between the wages of contract employees and the permanent staff working alongside them is alarming, with some contract employees earning double (or more) than regular employees. Employee retention is becoming more difficult, as everyone is jumping ship from one employer to the next to take advantage of sign-on bonuses and higher pay.
This costly trend is likely to continue unless employers begin taking steps now to fill and retain full-time permanent positions. Easier said than done, though, as less reliance on contact labor means leadership must reassess their retention strategy and make some serious adjustments. Compensation will always be a major selling point, but it is not the only deciding factor when evaluating employment – and it may not even be the biggest factor. Like any other business sector, healthcare employees want to feel valued and appreciated for the work they put in, and that might carry more weight than you think.
So, if your organization isn’t willing (or able) to play hard ball by dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars on new recruits, there are plenty of other incentives you can offer to attract and keep quality permanent employees.
● Educate, train and promote from within ● Offer a four-day work week for salaried employees ● Allow routine staff to have weekends off ● Increase the number of paid vacation days ● Offer flexible scheduling and remote options when possible ● Boost your tuition reimbursement program, by paying tuition upfront ● Feed staff a free meal each shift ● Offer a gym membership ● Reward perfect attendance ● Provide uniforms ● Create a safe environment
Improve Your Star Rating
If your organization’s recruitment efforts have fallen flat and occupancy is still a major struggle, it could be a result of your star rating. Consumers rely on this tool to help them compare performance before selecting a care center for themselves or for a loved one. It is also used by prospective employees, investors, and other providers who need to transfer a patient. Facilities with lower ratings are less attractive to employees, who want to ensure their safety and work-life balance is a priority. If quality measures appear to be an issue, referring providers may be less likely to trust their patients in your care, especially knowing they could be penalized if continuum of care standards is not met. The bottom line is that if an organization wants to reduce their financial risk and become the provider and employer of choice, work towards a more appealing rating and the rest will begin to fall into place.
Work Smarter Not Harder
Doing more with less is the name of the game, and those who succeed may have the best chance of survival. With a little creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, you can learn to flex your resources and allocate help where it is needed most. Turn to your Electronic Health Records (EHR) software system first, and assess whether tedious tasks such as paperwork could be automated. And speaking of paperwork, is your staff obtaining the right documents during the admission process? Missing information at this critical stage will tie up additional resources that should be reserved for other tasks.
To free up your clinical staff, rely on aides or other staff to pitch in on clerical or housekeeping duties that do not require certain skills. If you are low in staffing within a particular department, increase staffing in other departments, and cross-train whenever possible.
Enhance Outcomes with Richter
The long-term effects of the pandemic on post-acute care remain unknown. Organization leadership must focus on the elements within their control, and ask for help when they need it. As the industry’s leading LTPAC performance advisor, Richter can deliver customized solutions at every point along the continuum of care to put you a step ahead of the curve. Whatever your clinical, financial, accounting, implementation or revenue cycle challenges may be, we can help you achieve your goals. To learn more about our comprehensive solutions, contact us here or call us at 866.806.0799.