Across the country, hospice organizations are competing for clinical staff from the same limited pool of eligible applicants. Even before COVID, demand for clinicians, nurses, and social workers outpaced supply. The pandemic has exacerbated the shortage, resulting in early retirements or resignations from the field to focus on non-patient care areas or different careers altogether.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the U.S. will need 11 million additional nurses over the next decade to avoid further shortage. With inadequate faculty to teach new nurses and a limited number of preceptorships available to train them, meeting the demand for registered nurses may be close to impossible. The shortage of social workers, especially in rural areas, is estimated in the tens of thousands and also creating challenges. The field is not attracting enough new workers to replace retiring Baby Boomers. At the same time, multiple sectors are competing for social workers with the advanced degrees required for the job.
Since we can’t magically increase the number of licensed clinicians available for hire, it’s time to reimagine the way hospices use staff to manage the care of patients and meet both their medical and social needs.
Non-Clinical Care Navigators — An Opportunity to Optimize Your Staff and Consider New Candidates
Reassignment of certain tasks might be the most innovative step you can take to update your hospice. Consider all the tasks your highly licensed professionals currently handle and how many responsibilities they take on that do not require clinical skills. These may include both internal and external activities:
- Screening referrals
- Performing intakes
- Scheduling visits and screenings
- Coordinating the care team
- Finding and connecting patients with appropriate community resources
- Communicating with family and caregivers
- Arranging for Medicaid coverage
- Providing end-of-life education
- Securing transportation as needed
By switching roles and assigning these tasks to non-clinical care navigators, you open opportunities to use unlicensed staff in new ways and hire new workers from a much larger pool of candidates. At the same time, you free your clinical staff to work at the top of their licensure.
Workflows Required to Support a Successful Non-Clinical Care Manager Program
Non-clinical care navigators (aka care managers, patient navigators, health coaches, health advocates) have been employed by oncologists and other specialists for over a decade. While they can’t provide medical advice or treatment, care navigators play an important role in improving patient communication, engagement, and the quality of care. In fact, one study, published by JAMA Oncology in 2017, indicated a ten-fold return on investment by improving care quality and decreasing cost of care.
The results are promising. However, if you want to introduce non-clinical care managers to your hospice without creating more work for your existing staff, you’ll need to invest in a system that simplifies and automates your care navigators’ workflows. While you can create manuals and paper templates your staff can work from, an automated system designed for this purpose ensures accountability and efficiency for these positions.
To maximize your success and minimize the amount of supervision your clinical staff requires, seek a system that includes:
- Scripted screening forms that ensure your care navigators ask the same questions of all patients.
- User-friendly screens where care navigators can record patients’ responses, with pop-upsthat provide common answers and resources.
- A care management workflow that delivers the names of every patient the care navigator needs to call that day and a review of what they’re calling about.
- Demographics at-a-glance that provides background that helps the care navigator sound knowledgeable and professional and offer the right level of support.
- A reporting function that alerts the supervising clinicians when their support is required and provides assurance the work has been done correctly, with results they can base their clinical decisions on.
If you’re ready to consider options in developing a system that is configured for your specific hospice organization, Acclivity Health specializes in this market, with cost effective solutions designed to ensure that patients with advanced illness get the care they need, at the right time and in the right setting.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you meet your staffing challenges with a system that turns new workers into effective care navigators for your patients and their loved ones. Schedule a meeting or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Gabrielle B. Rocque, MD; Maria Pisu, PhD; Bradford E. Jackson, PhD; et al, “Resource Use and Medicare Costs During Lay Navigation for Geriatric Patients With Cancer,” June 2017, Jama Oncology: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2598743