Achieving financial sustainability for the long term is a challenging task for any healthcare organization, especially in a performance-based market where the focus is on improving health, not just delivering care. More organizations are finding themselves in the position of having to compete for business as insurance reform has given consumers a greater choice of where to seek treatment. As the industry adapts to these changes, healthcare leaders are finding new ways to meet their financial and care quality goals.
Mergers and acquisitions are becoming more common as healthcare leaders realize that these types of transactions can help achieve the economies of scale necessary to thrive in an evolving and challenging market environment. However, according to Mukesh Gangwal and George Whetsell, managing partners with Chicago-based Prism Healthcare, health systems may not realize the economies they seek if they form regional systems, and then are unable to do relevant benchmarking to assess staffing needs.1
Anyone who has been through a merger or acquisition transaction knows that the workforce is often the first to experience the impact. In healthcare the workforce is the most costly and valuable resource, with labor accounting for 54.2% of operating costs.2 As such, it makes sense that any post-merger transition programs are designed to improve productivity and reduce labor expenses. By putting people issues first and ensuring that the workforce clearly understands what is expected of them and how their work provides value, it is likely that the workforce will respond more positively to the transaction. If the processes that touch them are carefully thought out and expertly managed, and include a focus on retention of key talent, any merger or acquisition will stand a better chance of success.
A single workforce management system and technology vendor can eliminate the need for redundancy, improve the availability of accurate data, and create more consistent processes across all the newly merged groups. Technology also allows for a more proactive approach to staffing based on patient need, which is a significant staff satisfier.
Every employee is impacted by workforce management strategies, and it is especially noticeable following a merger or acquisition. Post-merger or acquisition plans must consider all affected parties, particularly when it comes to pay and scheduling policies. Shared governance means creating cross-functional teams to represent each affected group and giving them ownership of the changes and direction for new policies.
Bringing together multiple facilities inevitably means that decisions will need to be made about whether or not to standardize pay, benefit, HR and staffing policies. Whenever possible, it makes sense to standardize payroll and personnel-related policies across the entire enterprise. While standardization can seem daunting in the short term, it’s a time and resource saver in the long run. And, when a system of shared governance is used to make decisions about how to standardize the policies, it can create a collaborative environment that drives positive change.
View the workforce as a whole
When two or more organizations come together through a merger or acquisition, viewing the workforce as a single entity can achieve many financial benefits. For example, it can help determine whether FTEs can be shared between facilities, and if so, what is the best way to make it happen. Any culture of shared resources must be supported by software that can track and manage the combined workforce. A single, integrated staffing and scheduling solution can support enterprise-wide float pools more effectively than multiple disparate systems or manual scheduling processes.
Following a merger or acquisition, retention of employees and key talent should be a top priority. The quicker employees can be integrated into a cohesive, optimized resource for the entire organization, the sooner the economies of scale will be realized.
For more information about workforce management strategies before, during and after a merger or acquisition, check out our white paper.
In Wisconsin, weather can change quickly and dramatically. Wisconsinites have learned how to plan for that variability. In fact, one local news station used to have a segment of their weather report dedicated to providing insights into how to dress your children for school the next day.
I0f you’re planning a trip to Wisconsin to enjoy the start of Fall, you need access to some specific data. For example, the fact that the average annual temperature in Milwaukee is 48 degrees is not very helpful if you’re deciding whether you need to bring shorts and light jacket or jeans and a warm coat for your visit this month. Even knowing that the average high temperature in September is 73 degrees and the average low is 55 degrees doesn’t provide enough information to dress comfortably for this weekend’s weather. And, while it’s interesting to note that it’s been as hot as 99 degrees and as cold as 32 degrees in September, it’s not all that helpful for planning for your vacation.
When you’re packing for an upcoming trip, historical data and averages aren’t enough. In order to plan for the days ahead, you want a reliable weather forecast that predicts weather for the next few days.
The need for predictive data is equally important for the staffing coordinators and managers doing staffing within a health system. Imagine that instead of temperatures, the numbers in the chart reflected historical census numbers. While those averages might provide a starting point for creating a staffing plan, more data is needed to staff effectively for the next three shifts.
As staffing technology evolves to leverage more analytics, more tools are becoming available for health systems to do predictive, intelligent staffing. With algorithms that incorporate current patient care needs and historical patient trends, staffing needs can be projected more and more accurately.
In upcoming posts, I’ll share more information about intelligent staffing, including a closer look at what intelligent staffing is, what it takes to make it effective, the tangible results it delivers and the cost of being unable to use an intelligent staffing methodology.