Finding the perfect balance between patient volume and adequate provider staffing is often a universal dilemma that doesn’t come with one perfect answer or solution. Certain benchmarks have been established, but in reality, no two hospitals or practices are the same. Each group’s optimal ratio is determined by many different factors, each of which depends entirely on a group’s specific requirements and standards.
Daily Patient Volume
This (most obvious) indicator is a great place to start when considering if your staffing level is where it needs to be. While an increase in staff in response to an increase in volume should suffice, the decision to do this is not absolute and varies entirely by practice. Patient volume can fluctuate by seasonality, and your ability to handle that fluctuation depends on the number of patient encounters that your providers face every day. Additionally, the frequency and duration of these encounters can vary depending on the severity of a patient’s illness.
These factors also need to be compared against any nonclinical expectations that your providers face. These can include further education, publishing, paperwork, and committee work, to name a few.
Provider Experience Level
The experience of your providers (or lack thereof) is typically a good indicator of your group’s efficiency and ability to handle a higher patient volume. With experience comes the ability to multitask and take on more daily patient encounters. Capacity for younger providers to learn and gain said experience is an important factor to consider when defining your group's ideal patient-provider ratio.
Access to Non-Physician Staff
Whether it’s a case manager, nurse practitioner or additional administrative staff, access to additional support is a great way to delegate a provider’s patient encounter obligations, allowing them to perform their work more efficiently, giving you a better indication of whether or not more staff is necessary.
Cost of Staff
As the demand for highly skilled healthcare professionals continues to rise, so does the cost of hiring and retaining them. If there appears to be a disparity between your staff costs and your organization’s gross revenue, it could be due to a revenue issue, high employee turnover or, of course, the overall efficiency of your group and its ability to handle a high patient volume.
By considering all of these factors as they pertain to your group and comparing them against the established benchmarks, you can then make a more informed decision regarding whether or not to increase providers. However, increasing providers in a time when a shortage of them is at a high is a task that can be easier said than done.
In our Physician Recruiting Guide, we take a closer look at the best practices for attracting and maintaining the best possible recruits. Click below for your free download!