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    Ryan Reaves
    Ryan Reaves





    This episode of the MGMA Business Solutions podcast features Ahmed Danawala, senior director of sales at Edge, where he leads the company’s sales strategy and business development.

    Edge is a global HR solution that simplifies hiring by connecting businesses in North America with remote talent from all over the world. Spread across four continents, Edge provides businesses with access to a wider talent pool while improving costs and revenue through strategic hiring practices. 

    MGMA Sr. Editor Daniel Williams, MBA, MSEM met with Danawala to discuss how healthcare organizations can modernize hiring and retention strategies while managing the challenges of partnerships with a remote global workforce.

    Editor’s note: The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

    Q. What is Edge and how do you interact with medical practice leaders?

    A. In partnering with healthcare groups, regardless of size, we've identified the number one pain point that is affecting groups – and that is unfortunately hiring and staffing today. We found that it has become increasingly difficult to find good local talent, but then furthermore, retain talent over six months or even a year today. Then once you do bring in these individuals, we found that it is also very difficult to effectively manage all individuals in one platform in one area from an HR perspective.

    What we're doing is connecting with healthcare groups across the United States – we connect them to really good remote talent across the world and effectively allow them to not only manage these individuals but also scale their organizations as they're continuing to grow. We do this with one mission in mind: ultimately to make hiring globally easier than hiring locally.

    Q. What is your main role and focus at Edge?

    A. When I think about my role, I would break it down to connecting with healthcare groups and understanding what their hiring criteria and scalability looks like. We understand it's not a one-size-fits-all model. It is very bespoke understanding that there's a big problem to solve and presenting a solution that works towards that.

    Q. MGMA has an upcoming webinar on Feb. 15, where you will be co-presenting. The webinar is titled “Recreating the Wheel: Modernizing Hiring and Retention Strategies with Remote Employees.” Can you give us an idea of what that webinar is going to be like?

    A. Going back to what Edge solves, we are in the landscape today where hiring has become a massive headache for healthcare organizations. So the purpose of the webinar is to not only present solutions, but ultimately discuss modernized strategies that can lead to effective hiring this year and beyond. How do we do that? We identify negative trends, potential impacts and ultimately a solution that leads to effective hiring.

    Q. What are some of those main trends taking place right now in recruiting and retention?

    A. There are 1.5 million fewer Americans in the labor workforce today, and this is not specifically illustrated towards healthcare, but in total. What that has done from a negative trend standpoint is that it's made it very difficult to hire today. It takes roughly three-plus months to effectively fill a front or back-office position. Your retention has dwindled down –- the average rate of retention today is roughly six to nine months. So when you're training someone, you're onboarding them for several months only to be guaranteed three to four more months with them. It's a huge problem for any business. And lastly, salaries are continuing to increase and a desire to work remotely is continuing to increase –- where you're not necessarily finding talent locally that abides by that.

    Q. When Edge was formed, they were focused on not just looking locally, but finding good talent from everywhere. What precipitated that? Can you walk us through that kind of decision-making process and how you've been able to adopt it?

    A. We look at global hiring and some of the negative stereotypes that have come associated [with it]. From a medical practice or healthcare organizational perspective, [there are challenges associated with working with] someone who is located across the world. When you can’t effectively manage them, you're not necessarily sure if they're HIPAA compliant or if your patients’ PHI (protected health information) is under secure premises. So, we spoke with a lot of healthcare groups, and we understood that the main reason why they haven't necessarily looked globally is because there haven’t been partners that can guarantee these things. Now for us, we felt that having security, having HIPAA compliance and having a true foundation of remote individuals who go through training – who understand the landscape of U.S.-based healthcare – will change some of the thought processes towards these negative stereotypes.

    Some of the benefits that we found along the way is that now, all of a sudden, you are attracting a significantly larger talent pool. In doing so, you're able to reduce overhead costs that not only come from recruiting and from retention, but ultimately from salary as well for those employees that are in person. You have them focusing on in-person patient care, whereas some of the administrative work can be taken away, reducing turnover and the stress of current staff who are short staffed. Ultimately, you're guaranteeing higher retention rates across the board.

    Q. If there's some things that need to be handled in real time, how do you structure it? If someone is working from many time zones over, how do you work that and balance that out?

    A. We'll use Southeast Asia as an example. Here in the U.S., regardless if I'm in San Francisco or if someone is in Boston, it's about a 9-12 hour difference. So right off the bat, we would think, “are these individuals working through our nights and how is that really a benefit?” One thing we found is there is a major desire for individuals in that region to have access to U.S. healthcare opportunities. The culture there is that if you're working for a United States organization, or representing a United States organization, you will be working overnight to match their hours. So with Edge specifically, they will actually work during your working hours. Let's say if that's an 8-5 [workday], they will be available for any front-end or back-end duties.

    Q. If they’re an employee in a different country, how does that work as far as U.S. healthcare is set up?

    A. Look at it two different ways. In building a foundation of Edge with partners here, we've also needed to do the same on the other side to give really talented individuals access to opportunities while paying fair wages and allowing them the ability to grow. When we do this, what we've done is we've built a criteria of individuals who would make the right type of fit for our partners here in the U.S – individuals who have a medical background, who have at least worked for a potential practice, have gone to medical school, etc. In doing so, they typically have the overall background of what it takes to be successful. We've built a training program with our partners here that we're now putting them through. It's a five-week training academy which goes over the high level of healthcare system work and the day-to-day tasks that they would be asked to do as well.

    Q. What are some of the strategies you see that are working in hiring and what are some that are not that you want to avoid?

    A. The reason global talent is so prominent today is the cost of not going remote. Number one: you're not necessarily dealing with a large talent pool – it is very limited. Number two: in doing so, it makes hiring go on for an extended time period. What does this do to your current staff? It leads to burnout and it leads to turnover. Ultimately, all of this is attributed to an increase in cost and some of the negative trends with potentially not partnering with a talent partner from a global perspective.

    Q. How can this model help improve the financial situation in medical practices?

    A. If you were to break down an individual physician practice owner, you speak on the patient experience and how much that affects the bottom line in terms of revenue. Imagine you have a short-staffed front office and you're getting new patients who are calling in trying to schedule an appointment. Every missed call attributes to X amount of revenue. Typically, we all understand that if you miss a call and try to call a patient back, it involves a game of phone tag. So from that level, trying to hire someone and effectively not being matched to really good candidates is leading to burnout. Then you’re missing out and you're ruining the patient experience. From a consumer perspective, if I call a practice and they don't answer, if I'm a new patient the general idea is that I will then go down the street and go to the next one. So even one missed call can be such a contributing factor.

    Q. When managing people in other time zones and other countries, how do you build a culture that has people who want to stay?

    A. All of this dramatically shifted in a post-COVID world: the issue of culture and ensuring that regardless of where the individual is located, that they truly feel a part of that. One of the negative stereotypes of potential global talent is that it's always been seen as outsourced. As an outsourced member, they have nothing to do with the current staff in place. They don't face patients or answer calls. They’re simply doing all admin work on the back end. That notion itself has dramatically shifted across the board. Now, regardless of where you're located, you're able to do the same job as an in-person [employee], maybe outside of seeing patients. Ultimately, for us, it's setting that right expectation.

    The reason we have an Edge Academy in place, the reason we train on culture specific to the practice or organization, is that we want these individuals not just joining as a 1-2 month rental per se, but moreover, a true long-term member of that staff who's able to come in, spread their wings, and ultimately grow in their own career path. For us, ensuring that we're setting that expectation with our partners has been dramatically effective. This is leading to organizations being able to scale a lot faster and provide that support staff. I think when you take away some of these issues, that culture naturally rises.

    Q. Any final thoughts then on modernizing hiring and retention strategies that you'd like to share with us?

    A. When we think about global employment, we've typically turned a little bit of a blind eye while hoping that the local talent network ends up working itself out. But what we're finding is organizations who are taking this route, who are partnering with a global remote talent partner, are not only seen as modernized, but are able to scale their organization in such an efficient manner. Regardless of ultimately who you partner with, make sure it is a global company. Make sure it's someone that is HIPAA compliant, someone that provides really talented individuals and someone that you can truly scale with. I think bringing on 1-3 individuals isn't necessarily that difficult, but when you think about 25-50 people, that's where some of those problems begin to arise.

    Resources:

    Upcoming Webinar: Recreating the Wheel: Modernizing Hiring and Retention Strategies with Remote Employees 

    Edge: onedge.co/

    Additional MGMA Resources:

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    MGMA Membership

    MGMA Advocacy

    MGMA Consulting

    Sponsor: Physician Business Training

    This online course is for early-career physicians or physicians who need a comprehensive understanding of the business of medical practices. The course is 7 hours long and broken into 9 modules. It was developed by Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and leaders from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. This course awards 7 hours of CME credit.

    WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

    Let us know if there's a topic you want us to cover or an expert you would like us to interview. Email us at dwilliams@mgma.com. If you have a question for our Sr Advisor Cristy Good, email advisor@mgma.com.

    Ryan Reaves

    Written By

    Ryan Reaves

    Ryan Reaves is content coordinator at MGMA. He is a seasoned content professional with a background in both community journalism and sports apparel eCommerce. Ryan is skilled in proofreading, image editing, and writing online content in a fast-paced environment. At MGMA, Ryan develops and edits content for books, podcasts and consulting.


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