Harnessing workforce data analytics to gain a deeper understanding of patient needs and matching the right type and number of staff to meet those needs – all while managing the budget – is at the heart of a successful workforce management strategy.
Here are three questions that you need to consider in order to turn workforce data into better clinical, financial and operational outcomes.
1 – What data is needed?
It’s critical for health systems to have a clear picture of the data they need for better staffing decisions so they can focus on the ‘right’ data.
So, what is the ‘right’ data? In order to turn workforce data into better outcomes, you need to be able to see how the needs of your patients, the skills and availability of your staff, and the unique dynamics of each unit all have an impact on staffing optimization. Integrating key data about each of these areas plays a critical role in making better staffing decisions.
2 – Who needs that data?
Having the right data is just the first step. It’s also crucial to understand who needs the data and how that data can be delivered so it’s easy to access and use. When the right people have the right data, everyone is working in tandem to achieve staffing optimization.
As a CNO at one of our client sites explained during a webinar, their first responsibility was to develop a schedule that met the needs of their patients. But, they also need to create schedules that are reasonable for their staff. By using a collaborative staffing approach, everyone from staff nurses to unit managers to the executive team has access to the information they need to do staffing that’s better for the patients, the staff and the bottom line. For example, when employees have visibility into available shifts that they are qualified to work, they can voluntarily pick up hard-to-fill shifts. Employees have more control over their work/life balance, and patient care needs are met without the need for expensive contingent labor.
3 – When do they need the data?
Getting the right data to the right people is a great start, but the data also needs to be available at the right time so that better staffing decisions can be made proactively. That means focusing on having the right data available to the right people before, during and after each shift.
Healthcare is a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Data that’s readily available and points to informed decisions can help executives, managers and staff navigate that change. As one health system CNO explains in a Becker’s Healthcare ebook, “We use data, data, data. Information from our EMR is fed into our acuity system every two hours and staffing is adjusted every four hours based upon this data. Managers monitor nurse-patient assignments routinely as well as staffing, multiple times a day, and make adjustments.”
Better Workforce Outcomes in Action
More and more organizations are taking a closer look at how they can use the data they have to achieve the outcomes they want. Premier Health in Ohio is focused on using the data from their workforce technology to create better outcomes. Check out this Becker’s Hospital Review article written by their CNO to learn more about their approach.
To say that life under the ACA has required an adjustment in the way we do business is an understatement. The ACA has had a tremendous impact on the business of healthcare. Every role within the healthcare enterprise from the top down is affected, as are patients and their families. There is increased pressure to lower costs, increase revenue and improve quality and outcomes, however most organizations are being given limited resources and budgets to make it happen.
Health systems that have the right data about their workforce, and leverage this information across the enterprise are in a good position to achieve these desired outcomes. Workforce data that provides real-time information on staff availability, staffing needs based on patient acuity, overtime risk, agency assets, etc. is the critical starting point for this entire value chain. When deployed through a comprehensive workforce management strategy that includes staffing and scheduling, these elements can help translate to better clinical quality, better patient satisfaction and potential cost reductions.
However, change management is not easy. Every healthcare enterprise is different, so what workforce management strategies are deployed and how they are deployed will vary. However in the end, the goal is always the same: reduce costs and improve quality. For hospitals and health systems that are managing change over an entire enterprise with several moving parts, an agile approach to change management is worthy of serious consideration.
What’s an ‘agile approach’? First and foremost, it means flexibility. Unique challenges will appear on a consistent basis. Effective leaders analyze each challenge and create an appropriate response. Depending on the circumstances, the response may differ. An effective agile strategy should include steps that identify the required outcome, identify which departments or processes will be impacted, and identify the steps needed to reach the goal.
This is a very simplistic breakdown of the process, however it’s important to understand and accept that it is perfectly reasonable not to have all the answers up front, and that additional guidance may be necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek guidance from outside sources and experts.
An agile approach encourages flexibility and thrives on communication. This more often than not yields the greatest results both in the short and long term.