Rapidly evolving technology is giving healthcare employers what they want: direct access to information and workers
A Three-Part Series (Part TWO)
Direct staffing platforms have seen a significant rise over the past three years, driven initially by the pandemic’s boom in agency-model apps, job boards, and scheduling and staff optimization platforms. Backed by over $1 billion in venture capital (Crunchbase), the technology has dramatically reshaped the staffing industry landscape. Recently, larger staffing companies have introduced more structured platforms, delivering holistic support. Robert Crowe, EVP, Per Diem and Local Workforce Strategies at Medical Solutions and founder of Matchwell, says, “This next frontier offers buyers a choice: they can be hands-on or take a more hands-off approach. It's not one or the other like it was even a year ago.”
In the following discussion, Crowe shares how staffing firms are heavily investing in direct staffing platforms that promise superior clinical vetting and broader access to data and the workforce.
Q: What are direct staffing platforms, and why are organizations choosing to use them?
Robert Crowe: Direct staffing platforms are online portals offering employers direct access to both full-time and contractual workers. They cater to healthcare organizations by allowing them to directly tap into the pool of professionals they once accessed through traditional agencies. This immediacy empowers employers by speeding up the hiring process, ultimately reducing costs by minimizing excessive back-and-forth communication. Their appeal is rooted in the modern rewiring of consumer behaviors where direct access is the new norm. Healthcare employers want all their information in one place to view their options and determine next steps.
Q: What are a direct staffing platform's benefits and potential drawbacks?
Crowe: Besides ticking the emotional box of how we like to consume, these platforms improve transparency compared to older models. Users get a full view of the clinician’s profile, including their credentials, and talk directly to them. However, this direct approach demands more from employers, making them more active participants in hiring.
A traditional agency does all the legwork, from vetting the candidates to delivering a refined list, which can be extremely valuable. An agency partner will also hold your team accountable for making timely decisions and step in when something goes wrong.
In contrast, using a direct staffing platform requires self-management. Quick decision-making is vital, especially when securing potential hires. Also, these platforms might offer independent contractors (1099 workers) rather than W2 employees, bringing its own challenges. Employers must be vigilant about wage characterization, potential overtime issues, employer taxes, and more. Therefore, reading the terms and conditions and having legal consultation is paramount.
Q: Are direct staffing platforms just a trend, or will they be a lasting change in the industry?
Crowe: They are here to stay, and we're just getting started. Almost all services in America are moving to more direct consumer access, with industries like real estate increasingly providing direct-level access to data through platforms like Zillow® and Realtor.com®. Direct staffing platforms have matured from scrappy start-ups to more strategic solutions supported by some of the largest legacy staffing companies that offer everything from complete transparency to white-glove service and everything in between. This next frontier gives buyers a choice: they can be hands-on or take a more hands-off approach. It's not one or the other like it was even a year ago. It's reminiscent of airlines providing flyers direct access to flight bookings while guiding them through that process.
Q: What recommendations would you have for an organization considering a direct staffing platform?
Crowe: Sifting through the noise is crucial with the market teeming with choices. Numerous vendors have sprung up with apps or platforms, making understanding their offerings and limitations vital. Identifying potential risks is critical. For instance, take the time to understand the implications and costs associated with transitioning an independent contractor to a W2 employee from your platform. Also, if you plan to partner with just one or two platforms, prioritize those that allow you to maximize their value instead of spreading thinly across multiple platforms.
Crowe envisions rapid advancements in direct staffing platforms in the near future, including increased consolidation and greater clinician engagement. “I anticipate healthcare systems will move quickly to a single log-in with every clinician in America having a platform profile. “It's an exciting time. As we edge closer to 2024-2025 and beyond, platforms offering an ecosystem of support, rather than singular functions, will seamlessly fit into many healthcare system operating models.”
Part three of our Q+A series examines why internal agencies are all the rage.