With permanent Medicare coverage, telehealth is here to stay

Is your healthcare organization ready for the virtual revolution? Last year, the healthcare market widely embraced telehealth services to help patients who were quarantining and practicing social distancing. Many practices, however, viewed virtual appointments as a stop-gap to help provide continuous care through the pandemic. As a result, a lot of healthcare organizations have been using legacy conferencing technology and other outdated solutions.

Let’s explore three indicators that telehealth is here to stay: Medicare reimbursements, patient demand and telehealth technology that does more for patients and providers.

Medicare makes telehealth reimbursements permanent

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has confirmed that Medicare will continue to reimburse for 45% of currently covered telehealth services permanently. According to CMS, these services include, “standard evaluation and management visits, group psychotherapy, neurobehavioral status exams, and short home visits.”1

This isn’t the first time CMS has acknowledged the longevity of telehealth services across healthcare markets. Former CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, “I think the genie’s out of the bottle … it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”2 Continued, permanent Medicare coverage for most telehealth appointments and services is a strong indicator that telehealth will continue to grow.

Patients want expanded telehealth appointments

Beyond reimbursements, there’s a significant demand from patients for continued virtual services. In a recent study, 71% of patients reported that they’d consider telehealth appointments with their existing provider – and more than 50% said they’d see a new provider who offered telehealth services.3

Patients are primed for virtual appointments and online scheduling – making now the perfect time to evaluate your telehealth platform. Does it provide HIPAA-compliant telehealth services, or have you been relying on a stop-gap solution that isn’t designed specifically for patients’ privacy needs? Can you easily add attendees on the fly, conduct group visits and share screens?

Discover telehealth that does more

From permanent Medicare reimbursements to patient demand, telehealth is here to stay. The right telehealth technology can help you serve more patients without overburdening providers and staff. By using the ABILITY Virtual Care application, for example, you can ensure security and privacy for patients while streamlining scheduling tasks. This innovative software allows group visits and screen sharing to enhance the patient experience. Plus, capabilities to add attendees on the fly can save time and reduce missed appointments.

Discover telehealth that does more – for you and your patients. Schedule a demo of ABILITY Virtual Care today.


1. “CMS Finalizes Meaningful Expansions of Medicare Telehealth Service Coverage Through 2021,” Kristin Allen, CMS, December 14, 2020, https://www.healthmanagement.com/blog/cms-finalizes-meaningful-expansions-of-medicare-telehealth-service-coverage-through-2021/

2. “’The genie’s out of the bottle on this one’: Seema Verma hints at the future of telehealth for CMS beneficiaries,’ Laura Dyrda, Beckers Hospital Review, June 3, 2020, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/telehealth/the-genie-s-out-of-the-bottle-on-this-one-seema-verma-hints-at-the-future-of-telehealth-for-cms-beneficiaries.html

3. “Four new statistics that prove that telemedicine isn’t just a pandemic fad,” Andrei Zimiles, Medical Economics, July 8, 2020. Accessed March 3, 2021 at https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/four-new-statistics-that-prove-that-telemedicine-isn-t-just-a-pandemic-fad

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Celebrating healthcare heroes during Nurses Month

Happy Nurses Week and Nurses Month! After the courageous and tireless efforts of nurses over the last months, it’s so appropriate to have Nurses Week expanded to Nurses Month. We’re excited to spend the month of May celebrating, recognizing and thanking nurses – our real-life superheroes.

We’re honored to be able to support nurses by providing smart scheduling and credentialing systems that enable you to protect, value and empower your nurses. These tools support strategic staff scheduling initiatives that can help you overcome pressing challenges, such as staffing shortages and turnover.

A better work/life balance

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler makes it easy for front-line staff to be involved in the scheduling process. With more control over their own schedule, nurses can balance their time and energy to ensure they can fulfill both personal commitments and work demands with less stress or threat of burnout.

These positive effects on nurses’ well-being are especially valuable now because the pandemic has taken a toll on healthcare staff. According to the American Nurses Foundation’s COVID-19 Impact Survey, the top four feelings nurses have experienced in the last 14 days are exhausted (51%), overwhelmed (43%), irritable (37%) and anxious/unable to relax (36%).1

A better work environment

Another important way scheduling systems benefit healthcare staff is by supporting a safer, more collaborative work environment. Here are a few ways that ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler helps create a more positive workplace for nurses:

  • Predictive analytics ensure that nurses and patients are aligned appropriately so nurses have balanced, equitable workloads.
  • Streamlined open shift management workflows and mobile tools foster schedule collaboration between unit managers and front-line staff.
  • Mobile “shout-out” functionality makes it easy for leaders to recognize staff members for teamwork, extra efforts and key events, such as their birthday or work anniversary.
  • Credentialing software makes it easy to pair the right nurse with the right patient while enabling nurses to work to the top of their license.

Creating workforce stability

While nurses are healthcare superheroes, they are not invincible. Nurses and direct care workers are facing burnout, which is exacerbating staffing shortages and turnover issues. So, while we celebrate nurses, it’s also critical to consider how we will stabilize and safeguard the healthcare workforce.

If your organization isn’t taking action to address these challenges, you’re losing ground. For ideas about practical steps you can take to have a meaningful impact on staff morale, check out our eBook, “Seven Staffing Strategies that Value, Protect and Optimize Nurses.”


1. “Pulse on the Nation’s Nurses COVID-19 Survey Series: Year One COVID-19 Impact Assessment Survey,” American Nurses Foundation, February 2021, https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/work-environment/health-safety/disaster-preparedness/coronavirus/what-you-need-to-know/year-one-covid-19-impact-assessment-survey/

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

How new legislation and policies impact SNF infection prevention and control

The American Rescue Plan of 2021, which includes resources for skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), was signed into law in March. And in April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment System Proposed Rule (CMS 1746-P), which includes two new Quality Reporting Program (QRP) measures.

After a tumultuous year, skilled nursing facilities are undoubtedly concerned about legislation and policies that affect their Infection Prevention and Control programs.

Here’s what you need to know about these recent changes.

How the new stimulus bill supports SNFs

The American Rescue Plan of 2021 was signed into law to support the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion relief package includes the following provisions to enhance infection control support at SNFs:

  • $200 million for quality improvement organizations to provide infection control and vaccination uptake support
  • $250 million to states to deploy “strike teams” (i.e., groups of public health, infection control and emergency response personnel) to assist with clinical care, infection control or staffing for up to one year after the COVID-19 emergency period ends
  • $8.5 billion added to the Provider Relief Fund for rural health care providers, including nursing homes, enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid that provide COVID-19 diagnosis, testing or medical care

Understanding the two new QRP measures

On April 8, 2021, CMS issued a proposed rule that included updates to the Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program (SNF QRP). The rule includes two new quality measure proposals slated to begin FY 2023:

  1. Skilled Nursing Facility Healthcare-Associated Infections Requiring Hospitalization

The goal of this outcome measure is to identify SNFs with notably higher rates of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) resulting in hospitalization, in comparison to peers. This proposed measure uses claims data to estimate the risk-adjusted rate of HAIs acquired during SNF care which result in hospitalizations.

The measure targets all infections that are serious enough to require admission to an acute care hospital. It is risk-adjusted to “level the playing field” and to allow comparison of performance based on residents with similar characteristics between SNFs.

  1. SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination Coverage Among Healthcare Personnel

This process measure tracks COVID-19 vaccination coverage among healthcare personnel (HCP) in many provider facilities, including SNFs. The measure will be used to assess whether SNFs are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their staff, residents and local communities.

The measure quantifies the cumulative number of HCP eligible to work in the facility for at least one day during the reporting period and who received a complete vaccination course against SARS-CoV-2 since the date vaccine was first available. HCP with contraindications to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination are excluded.

SNFs will report vaccination data through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Healthcare Safety Network beginning FY 2023. Facility-level COVID-19 HCP vaccination rates will be published on Care Compare.

Streamline infection prevention and control

ABILTY can help you make the most of relief funding and stay on top of regulatory changes. With ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH, your SNF team can closely monitor infectious disease outbreaks, track infection prevention and control strategies and simplify regulatory compliance. Discover how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can streamline infection surveillance and management at your facility today!


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Empower nurses – and boost retention – with 7 practical strategies

Even before the pandemic pushed the healthcare industry to the brink, the U.S. was already facing a massive shortage of nurses, with a deficit of over 900,000 nurses projected by 2030.1

At the same time, never has it been clearer that nurses are at the cornerstone of patient care, and it goes well beyond just fulfilling the duties of the job. This past year, during a time full of upheaval and uncertainty, nurses largely proved that they are reliable, resilient and committed to their work, even sacrificing their own mental and physical health to put patients first. That’s why for the 19th year straight, nurses topped the list of most trusted professionals, according to a Gallup poll.2

As the vaccine distribution continues and society returns to “normal,” the focus must shift from mere survival to how to slow a looming exodus from the profession.

Praise and applause aren’t enough to reverse the shortage

Acknowledgement and celebration of nurses’ efforts are critical components for addressing job dissatisfaction, but it can’t stop there. Every day, nurses are still overworked, fatigued and teetering on the verge of burnout.

To address those issues, organizations must implement staffing processes that create a better work/life balance for their nurses – even if time and resources are limited right now.

7 practices that require minimal effort but offer maximum reward

Offer your nurses more balance and control to increase job satisfaction and morale with these simple, but practical, tips:

  1. Make staffing and scheduling collaborative. When employees are engaged in the process, they are generally more accepting of – and happier with – their schedules.
  2. Provide high-level visibility and real-time access that only technology can deliver. You need a quick and easy way to assess staffing conditions at any given moment. Plus, insights from data and analytics enable you to make proactive and in-the-moment decisions, reducing much of the frustration around staffing issues.
  3. Invest in a solution that is intuitive and delivers quick results. Now is not the time to bog down your organization by deploying a solution that is hard to learn, use or deploy.
  4. Provide staff with more stability. Adopt technology that enables you to forecast and adapt to staffing ups and downs, so nurses don’t feel like they are in a constant state of chaos.
  5. Focus on matching nurses with patient needs. Nurses appreciate equitable, balanced workloads.
  6. Streamline the open shift management process. Eliminate the stress around last-minute call offs and under-staffing by making it easy for your team to fill open shifts.
  7. Make the process more efficient for nurse managers. With less time spent on scheduling, nurse managers can focus on their staff and patients.

For more in-depth advice on how to align your staffing processes with nurse retention initiatives, download our eBook, Seven Staffing Strategies that Value, Protect and Optimize Nurses.

The right healthcare scheduling application at just the right time

With ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, you can easily update your staffing processes to help improve work/life balance, job satisfaction and morale, which can go a long way toward boosting retention.

  • Manage staff-to-patient ratios easily
  • Avoid costly inefficiencies and overtime
  • Forecast staffing needs to maximize accuracy
  • Empower staff with a collaborative approach

Learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.


1“United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast,” Stephen P Juraschek, Xiaoming Zhang, Vinoth Ranganathan, and Vernon W Lin, The American Journal of Medical Quality. September/October 2019: 473-481, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31479295/

2 “U.S. Ethics Ratings Rise for Medical Workers and Teachers,” Gallup, December 22, 2020, https://news.gallup.com/poll/328136/ethics-ratings-rise-medical-workers-teachers.aspx

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Three ways to simplify denial management and achieve cleaner claims

It’s no secret that it’s getting harder for healthcare organizations to get paid for their work. As a trusted provider, you are under increasing pressure to collect more money and cut operational expenses while continuing to provide top-notch care, especially during a public health emergency.

On top of that, you are also still faced with keeping your workforce safe and keeping the public protected while in your facility.

The following are three ways to strengthen your overall denial prevention and management process.

1. Analyze denial management and shift your thought process

While you may consider denials a reality of being in healthcare, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Of course, the recent downturn in the economy is causing patients as well as insurance companies to tighten their belts. And that directly impacts your A/R days and cash flow.

This increase in financial pressure is elevated throughout healthcare organizations, which are now forced to be creative and find alternative solutions. The good news is that you have more power than you think to prevent denials. It all begins with understanding reimbursement and compliance rules. This also extends to creating rules within your organization to foster excellent care through optimizing internal denial prevention and management programs.

2. Identify types of denials

Identification and analysis allow you to understand a denial’s root causes. You can then put a process or improvement in place so that the same problem doesn’t reoccur. In other words, it comes down to having a proactive approach to denial prevention.

When you can visualize denials by categories, it helps you create rules for your organization that work towards correcting denial reasons and categories. Once hard or soft denials occur, it can be challenging to get them overturned by the payer. Software from ABILITY helps you identify and understand the rule so that you can consistently follow it and prevent future denials.

3. Optimize your clean claims

Accurate, up-to-date information is a critical part of avoiding denials and achieving clean claims. That means that you need to have solid pre-registration, check-in, and intake processes in place. Preferably, the pre-registration process is happening prior to the patient’s visit.

Denial prevention starts with a clean claim. Be sure to validate all the required information prior to data entry so as many errors as possible are avoided from the start. Keep in mind the types of accurate information needed for an insurance company to process your claim correctly the first time. Doing so will help you improve clean claims and get paid more quickly.

Want to learn more about improving your denial management process?

Check out ABILITY’s free, on-demand webinar, Denial Management Made Easy, where RCM expert Kem Tolliver digs deeper into these important topics. By watching, you’ll get an in-depth look at several key terms and definitions, and common code sets that are integral to the denial prevention process. You’ll also gain access to additional resources to help you avoid claims denials.

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

New HETS updates to include latest COVID-19 vaccine data, code changes and more

Important updates are coming to HETS, the eligibility verification system used by healthcare providers to interact with Medicare. The changes will feature updates on COVID-19 vaccine administration, beneficiary entitlement reason codes, acupuncture benefits reimbursement and pneumococcal vaccine (PPV) service histories.

The updates, which are expected to go into effect April 3, are fully detailed in the CMS HETS Companion Guide.

COVID-19 vaccinations

One of the most significant HETS updates deals with COVID-19 vaccinations. Medicare will deliver the most recent information for vaccinations and vaccine administration. Vaccine administration can be rendered under Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B. The updated eligibility responses might include:

  • Applicable Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) or Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code(s) for each COVID-19 immunization
  • Immunization dates for each CPT or HCPCS code
  • Rendering provider NPI for each CPT or HCPCS code

Consistent nomenclature for Medicare Advantage (MA)

To create more consistent terminology across the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, this update will include changes to HETS language that will be carried forward. Currently, HETS documents use both MA and Managed Care Organization (MCO) terminology. Beginning with this release, HETS documentation will change all MCO references to the MA terminology.

Entitlement reason codes

The HETS updates will bring changes to entitlement reason codes for Medicare Part A and Part B coverage when the data is available. The entitlement reason codes are:

  • 0: Beneficiary insured due to age Old-Age and Survivors Insurance
  • 1: Beneficiary insured due to disability
  • 2: Beneficiary insured due to end stage renal disease (ESRD)
  • 3: Beneficiary insured due to disability and current ESRD

Acupuncture benefits reimbursement

Medicare will return acupuncture benefits when the appropriate acupuncture Service Type Code “64” is submitted in the request. Acupuncture benefits will include:

  • The number of technical sessions remaining and next technical date
  • Number of professional sessions remaining and next professional date

Pneumococcal vaccine (PPV) returns

Following the update, Medicare will return prior PPV service history for preventive service codes 90670 and 90732 if the Beneficiary has active Medicare Part B coverage. Previously, Medicare only returned PPV service history if the beneficiary had either Part A or Part B coverage.

Accessing the new codes and information will be easy for healthcare providers using ABILITY applications with integrated eligibility components. Our software – from ABILITY CHOICE All-Payer and ABILITY EASE All-Payer to ABILITY COMPLETE and ABILITY EASE MEDICARE – includes the latest changes to keep your facility operating efficiently and profitably. Learn more from ABILITY experts.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY®, ABILITY CHOICE ®, ABILITY EASE ® and ABILITY COMPLETE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Bring efficiency and visibility to COVID vaccine distribution

After months of battling COVID-19, healthcare workers were hopeful that vaccinations would offer some much-needed light in a long pandemic tunnel. Unfortunately, the process has often been rocky.

“When I went to receive my first COVID vaccination, I was brought back to reality fast,” shared one ER nurse in a rural hospital in West Virginia. “Nurses and doctors were piled into this room and waiting in a line that went out into the parking lot. Despite showing up on time and all that waiting, many went home unvaccinated because the hospital ran out of doses. We found out employees who work outside of the fray had received their shots before the nurses and doctors facing it every day. It was discouraging and infuriating. I know hospital leadership was trying to do their best, but it was so poorly planned and disorganized.”

Stories like that aren’t uncommon. The COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been a challenge, to say the least. An initial dosage shortage in December1 meant ruthless prioritization, with healthcare workers at the top of the list.

Still, as the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 even some of the nation’s top hospitals were struggling to rollout the vaccine in a sensible way.2

Cautious optimism as more doses become available

Promising news came in mid-February when President Biden announced his administration had secured 200 million more doses3 of COVID-19 vaccines – a 50% increase.

However, along with that encouraging news came a realistic look at the logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans, which could take well into the summer. Especially tricky is that the vaccination requires two doses on a specific schedule.

Improving vaccine distribution with two ABILITY applications

To ensure that more healthcare professionals are vaccinated in a timely manner, leaders must develop a distribution process, but without broad visibility and tracking mechanisms, planning is a challenge. Two applications from ABILITY can help.

While ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, a workforce management application, generally simplifies the process of scheduling staff and open shift management, it is especially valuable for vaccine distribution. Use it to:

  • Schedule both vaccinations for every employee in your facility. Plus, gain the visibility to see in an instant where appointments stand across the organization and by department.
  • Notify staff of scheduled vaccines. Send notifications to staff of their vaccination appointment.
  • Enable employees to swap appointments as needed. If something urgent comes up, a staff member can find a replacement, so schedule appointment slots aren’t wasted.
  • Track compliance. Receive alerts when staff vaccinations are upcoming or overdue.

Overall, this application can help provide better management and planning for those receiving and giving the vaccines.

Further streamline your vaccine distribution process with ABILITY SMARTFORCE Credentialer, which enables you to easily track credentials and organize licenses, certifications and in-services all in one place. You can see at a glance who hasn’t taken their first or second dose, plus both you and employees receive alerts when a vaccination is upcoming or overdue. That can be instrumental in scheduling staff to work with high-risk patients.

Both of these affordable applications are accessible from mobile phones, tablets or computers and both are easy to learn and deploy.

To learn more and see both applications in action, schedule a demo.



1 “Trump administration passed up chance to lock in more Pfizer vaccine doses,” NBC News, December 8, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/trump-administration-passed-chance-lock-more-pfizer-vaccine-doses-n1250357.

2 “As Hospitals Roll Out COVID-19 Vaccines, Health Care Workers Describe Chaos And Anger,” NPR, December 28, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/28/950427961/as-hospitals-rollout-covid-19-vaccines-healthcare-workers-describe-chaos-and-ang

3 “With More Vaccines Secured, Biden Warns of Hurdles to Come,” New York Times, February 11, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/11/us/politics/biden-coronavirus-vaccines.html.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Choosing a mobile scheduling app that empowers your staff

In many areas of our lives, mobile apps have become integrated into our daily routines. We order groceries, coordinate curbside pick-up of lunch, track our fitness, schedule dinner with friends, navigate to our destination – all powered by a smartphone and apps.

Mobile staffing and scheduling apps that deliver the same level of convenience are becoming a must-have for healthcare workers. Nurses often have irregular schedules that can change rapidly based on evolving patient dynamics. Well-designed mobile technology can help staff manage their work schedule and provide a foundation for a better work/life balance.

Any strategy that can help boost morale and eliminate frustrations for nurses requires serious consideration. The mobile scheduling app that your organization chooses should be evaluated carefully to ensure it truly delivers the benefits your nurses will appreciate. For maximum effectiveness, a mobile scheduling app should streamline key processes for your staff. Flexibility is also key; look for an app that allows users to determine how they see and interact with the information.

Here’s how the ABILITY SMARTFORCE® Scheduler mobile app delivers the benefits your staff find the most beneficial:

Calendar management

When staff want to know what shifts they’re working or if there are open shifts on a day they’re available to work, the mobile app puts the data at their fingertips.

The app also makes it easy to see if staff have met their staffing commitments. A quick check in the mobile app lets them know if they’ve fulfilled their weekend requirement for the month or which holidays they need to work this year.

Going a step further, the mobile app provides the ability for staff to sync their work schedule with their personal calendar. Whether they use Google, Microsoft or Apple for their calendar, information can be synchronized so it’s easy to manage work obligations and personal commitments.

Eliminate intrusive calls

One of the greatest staffing frustrations for nurses are those frequent calls from the staffing office or their unit manager asking them to pick up open shifts. Nurses are caregivers at heart, and they want to help. But, ongoing calls during their time off adds unnecessary anxiety and disrupts their work/life balance. Those calls intrude on their personal time, and when they happen too often, nurses stop answering their phone.

Hearing the phone ring and knowing it’s the staffing office or your unit manager calling to beg you to pick up an open shift can be aggravating and stressful, but staff need to stay in-the-know about staffing and scheduling updates. With the mobile app, staff determine how they will receive the information. They can choose push notifications on their phone, within the app, by text or via email – or a combination of methods. It’s a better process for everyone involved, as annoying phone calls are eliminated, staff are kept informed and open shifts can be filled more efficiently.

Quick and easy staff shout-outs

In the fast-paced, high-stress healthcare environment, managers need to take every opportunity to engage with their staff. The mobile app makes it easy for managers to share a kind word or a compliment with their team. Whether the manager would like to recognize an entire group for a job well done, say happy birthday to someone in their unit, or provide encouragement after a tough shift, the flexible technology enables quick, effective communication that boosts morale.

Touchless badging

When timeclocks aren’t available or a touchless option is preferred, the app provides an easy alternative for badging in and out. The option to use either geo-fencing or iBeacons ensures accurate, fast badging for staff without concerns about lines at the timeclock.

Easy communication with float staff

Changes in patient demand and staffing requirements happen quickly and frequently, making it essential to have streamlined workflows in place when staff need to be reassigned. The mobile app makes it easy to alert staff about where they will be working for their entire shift or even just a portion of their shift. The flexible, easy-to-use technology ensures staff receive timely communication in the way that works best for them and can effectively be deployed to the right place.

Scheduling issues can be a source of frustration for your staff, especially when it’s hard to access information and communication with staff is chaotic and intrusive. A mobile scheduling app can be an impactful part of your organization’s staff engagement initiatives.

For more information about staffing practices that empower your staff, check out this eBook, “Seven Staffing Strategies that Value, Protect and Optimize Nurses.

To learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler and the mobile app, contact us for a demo. Our product specialists are nurses who understand your challenges and can show you how the right staffing solution can benefit your organization.


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Five leading practices to streamline your open shift management process

What does the time leading up to each shift look like within your hospital?

• Is there a frantic scramble to find staff who might be available to pick up critical open shifts?

• Are patients backed up in the ER or PACU, waiting for staffing issues to be resolved so they can be admitted on a floor?

• Does your staffing office look like a phone bank, with the staffing coordinators calling nurse after nurse to ask them to come in?

• Does each unit fend for themselves when finding staff to fill open shifts?

If this chaos is the reality at your health system, your organization could benefit greatly from an overhaul of the workflows used to find staff when there are gaps in the schedule.

Here are five best practices for open shift management to consider.

1. Ensure managers and staff nurses work collaboratively.

When staffing and scheduling is a top-down process that does not engage front-line nurses, it can be a source of job dissatisfaction for staff. Instead, provide more opportunities for nurses to participate in the process and choose the open shifts they want to work.

That cooperative approach benefits the entire organization. When nurses are more accountable for choosing their shifts, managers spend less time doing administrative staffing tasks, nurses appreciate having input into their schedule, and open shifts are filled more effectively.

2. Eliminate the heavy reliance on phone calls.

Often, inefficient manual processes and a lack of accurate data lead to the staffing office team and unit managers making desperate phone calls to find staff to fill critical open shifts at the last minute. Without predictive analytics to foresee when understaffing will be an issue and without the tools to do a mass outreach to staff who are qualified to work the shift, the process becomes reliant on haphazardly prepared calling lists and large numbers of phone calls. The staffing office and unit managers spend valuable time on the calling efforts, and nurses become frustrated with the frequent calls that disrupt their personal time and add unneeded job-related stress.

Taking advantage of push notification capabilities can eliminate this problem. Managers and staffing coordinators identify the staff who are qualified to fill the open shifts and send notifications to those who are eligible. Staff can elect to receive the information via text, email or within the mobile app.

3. Promote communication and cooperation with enterprise-wide visibility.

Without a comprehensive view of staffing needs across the organization, each unit becomes its own silo. A better approach is to make sure the staffing office and all unit managers can see the complete picture so they are empowered to work together to fill open shifts. With that enterprise-wide approach, staff are optimized and patient care needs are met across the entire organization.

4. Move from reactive to proactive.

By using technology to help them see forecasted staffing needs, the team can adapt their plans in advance of the shift. With the ability to make better staffing decisions earlier in the process, the reactive decisions become proactive choices. Unit managers and the team in the staffing office can be more strategic and focused on future planning because they’re no longer spending their time mitigating the issues of staffing shortages or overages. Staff benefit from more schedule stability because there’s less need to flex up and down just before or during the shift.

5. Use the right technology to support the process.

When technology enables the entire team to participate in the scheduling process, open shift management is streamlined for everyone. ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler enables the collaboration and data-driven decision-making required for a more effective open shift management process.

Here are four key workflow areas where technology transforms the process from chaotic to collaborative:
• Proactively spotting open shifts – With predictive analytics highlighting staffing needs days before the start of the shift, unit managers and staffing coordinators have more time to make the necessary changes.
• Communicating with staff – Instead of one-to-one phone outreach, the staffing office and unit managers can send out push notifications to any staff who are qualified to fill the open shift.
• Requesting open shifts – Based on their chosen method of communication, staff are notified about open shifts. Because they have more advance notice, staff can pick the shifts that fit their schedule, giving them a better work/life balance.
• Filling the shift – Based on criteria such as date and time of request, seniority and overtime status, the unit manager or staffing office can award the shift to one of the nurses who requested it. Staff who requested receive a notification to let them know whether or not they have been assigned the shift.

To learn more about ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, contact us for a demo. Our product specialists are nurses who understand the challenges of open shift management and can show you how the right staffing solution can benefit your organization.

Improving the open shift management process is one way to engage your staff. For information about additional staffing practices that empower your staff, check out this eBook, “Seven Staffing Strategies that Value, Protect and Optimize Nurses.”


ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

COVID-19 vaccinations: ABILITY helps providers get paid

Now that COVID-19 vaccinations are available, providers across the care continuum are dealing with the same question: How will I be reimbursed for administering the vaccine?

As you likely know, the COVID-19 vaccinations are being provided at no cost to patients or providers. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to lose money for administering vaccinations. You can bill for that service. But how can you ensure that you enter these claims correctly so you can get paid without spending a lot of time on claims corrections?

Two ways to bill for COVID-19 vaccinations

Providers administering COVID-19 vaccinations are currently eligible for $16.94 reimbursement for a patient’s first shot and $28.39 for their second dose.1 According to CMS’s guidelines, you can bill for vaccine administration in one of two ways:

  1. Single claims
  2. Roster billing

Unlike previous instances in which Medicare covered the cost of patients’ medications, when submitting claims for COVID-19 vaccine administration, you should not include the vaccine codes on the claim (when vaccines are free). Also, Medicare Advantage Plan participants can submit COVID-19 vaccine administration claims to Original Medicare for all of your Medicare Advantage patients in 2020 and 2021.2

While many providers prefer single claims, others may opt to save some time with roster billing. This option allows you to submit multiple claims at once up to a certain number. Roster billing has traditionally been used for flu and pneumococcal vaccines, and CMS has announced it will be available for COVID-19 vaccines, though you will not be able to combine shot codes for different vaccines on a single roster bill.

With traditional roster billing, you can only include 10 patients per roster bill. With providers administering thousands of vaccinations per day, even roster billing can be extremely cumbersome and time-consuming.

Simplify COVID-19 vaccine billing with ABILITY

With ABILITY EASE Medicare, you can centralize and automate the billing process – whether you’re submitting single claims or roster bills. And, with ABILITY EASE All-Payer, you can automate the process for all of your payers, including Medicare and private payers.

Get more information from CMS on billing for COVID-19 vaccine administration here. Then discover how ABILITY can help you streamline the billing process for COVID-19 vaccinations and all your Medicare claims by scheduling a demo today.



1. “Key Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccine Billing and Coding,” Jacqueline LaPointe, RevCycle Intelligence, December 16, 2020. Accessed January 7, 2021, https://revcycleintelligence.com/news/key-considerations-for-covid-19-vaccine-billing-and-coding

2. “Medicare Billing for COVID-19 Vaccine Shot Administration,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website, accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.cms.gov/medicare/covid-19/medicare-billing-covid-19-vaccine-shot-administration


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