May 5, 2022 | Net Health

5 min read

How to Combat Staff Shortages in Acute Care Rehab Therapy

It may come as little surprise to those working in the world of acute care, but hospital CEOs recently ranked staffing shortages as their No. 1 issue of concern heading into 2022.1

They collectively expressed this view through the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) annual survey of the top issues confronting hospitals.

Since 2004, “Financial Issues” consistently held the No. 1 spot in this survey. That was bumped to second this year, however, as staffing has become such a prominent pandemic and post-pandemic challenge for hospitals.

And, of the CEOs who expressed having staffing concerns, 67% of them said these concerns include staffing within their rehab therapy teams.2

Rehab Therapy Staff Shortages

Most experts agree that solving staff shortages throughout healthcare, including those within hospital outpatient and acute rehab therapy departments, will require both long- and short-term approaches.

A wider pipeline for the hiring of new staff, along with a strategy for retaining the team you have, make general sense for the long term. Other solutions that can lead to more immediate results include supporting and developing staff and considering alternative models of care.

Yet, few of these solutions stand a chance of producing optimal results if your rehab therapy department does not also address issues of inefficiency and the resulting lack of productivity.

Why is Productivity Important?

Productivity in the rehab therapy world is simply a way to quantify the return on investment of the time your staff puts into treating patients. It’s about getting the most value from your therapists and the time they spend with those in need of care.

When a hospital’s acute rehab therapy team makes productivity a high priority – when it commits to improving the various drivers of efficiency and productivity – it often results in happy physical, occupational and speech therapists who get to spend more time treating patients and less time on admin work.

Needless to say, then, efficiency and better productivity are closely tied with staff satisfaction, which can lead to more professional opportunities and better patient outcomes. Efficient and productive rehab therapists can simply get more done on a typical day, helping overcome potential staff shortages.

Improve Acute Care Rehab Therapy Productivity

In hospital acute care therapy, resource management and communication are keys to maintaining an efficient and productive department.

Within an environment where needs, conditions, and even patient locations are continually changing, the ability to centralize scheduling, treatment needs and patient updates within a single, accessible system – a digital patient management board, for example – can collectively save your team hours each day.

It’s not always enough, however, to lean on such tools to solve productivity issues. Such improvements often require changes in team buy-in, culture, the way it communicates, and how it measures and tracks productivity.

The popular ebook, “The Ultimate Guide to Therapists Productivity,” offers these four tips for rehab therapy teams looking to improve productivity within their department:

1. Embrace Productivity for Business Excellence

It’s not enough to simply declare one day that productivity is now a top priority. Improved productivity starts with a vision. What does the ideal version of your department look like? How is it managed, how do people communicate, what challenges does it face and how are they overcome? How would these changes improve patient care and help drive them toward discharge? Establish a goal – better yet, a series of incremental goals – that helps bring this vision to life.

2. Share Productivity Goals with Staff and Employees

You have your goals, and from there you established a plan. Now, it’s time to get the staff on board. Make certain they understand the benefits of improved productivity and what it means for the rehab therapy department, its patients, and them as providers. Share your goals and how, with their help, you plan to achieve them, not excluding any possible speed bumps in the road. In doing so, don’t just encourage their participation, but also their feedback and ideas.

3. Measure Productivity for Continued Improvement

How do you know if your productivity is improving and you’re making progress toward the goals you set? That takes tracking metrics that are meaningful for your department – metrics such as average made and missed visits per day per therapist, average time from receipt of order to documented evaluation, etc. It’s important that you not only track these metrics, but you also share them with your team and, when necessary, use them to drive actionable solutions to efficiency issues that may arise.

4. Reward Productivity by Acknowledging Success

While to some, “reward” may imply some sort of payoff for improved productivity, we use it here to simply mean acknowledging, sharing and celebrating success. Share stories of how individual rehab therapists overcame challenges, boosted their metrics, or contributed toward your goals by offering new ideas or solutions. Be sure to show how these successes boosted the team as a whole.

Boost Productivity with Net Health® ReDoc – Acute

Keep up with the demands of new and changing physician orders while improving patient outcomes within your acute therapy department with an EHR specifically designed with your productivity in mind.

Net Health® ReDoc – Acute enables rehab directors to maximize the productivity of each physical, occupational and speech therapist while also fully addressing patient needs within a busy and continually changing acute care environment.

To learn more about Net Health® ReDoc – Acute – how it can help you embrace and optimize productivity, communicate with staff, gain insights into your efficiencies, and improve employee satisfaction and staff retention – contact us today to schedule a demo.

The Ultimate Guide to Therapist Productivity

Get 30+ pages of detailed information to help your team manage this crucial element of your rehab therapy operation.

1 2 American College of Healthcare Executives, “Top Issues Confronting Hospitals in 2021,” February 4, 2022

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