Ensuring that quality nurses and other clinical staff are in the right place at the right time is one of the biggest challenges for hospitals and other health-care enterprises. In many health-care organizations today, nurse managers are using little more than guesswork and intuition to schedule the appropriate number of nurses to match patient volume.
Such uncertainty can lead to understaffed shifts, excessive floating, unplanned overtime, last-minute schedule changes, and other problems that stress staff, raise costs, and threaten patient care quality.
Faced with these challenges, health-care organizations are turning to health-care workforce solutions companies that offer predictive analytics and advanced labor management strategies to make nurse scheduling and staffing a scientific process instead of guesswork.
But what can the health-care provider do to best position itself for success in working with workforce solutions experts? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your partnership.
- Get recommendations. Choosing a workforce solutions provider is a big decision that can affect an array of areas across your organization. It can lead to significant savings in labor costs, as well as higher employee satisfaction and improved patient experience—all due to better resource allocation realized through improved workforce solutions. An excellent provider can reduce the chaos of the typical scheduling and staffing process to a degree you may have never thought possible, which makes selecting the right partner all the more important. For this decision, talking to other health-care organizations already using the provider’s solution can provide unbiased information to help you reach the best decision for your organization.
- Get ready for expert training. One of the key components of quality predictive analytics is advanced scheduling software, which combines demand forecasting with robust scheduling functionality, enterprise transparency, and business intelligence tools—all in one application. Health-care providers who want to get the most out of this technology will place a high priority on education and training. The best predictive analytics companies will have a dedicated education department, a carefully crafted curriculum, and seasoned workforce experts who can provide on-site training. A company that teaches not only the “how” of using the software but also the “why” will enable your staff to better retain and more effectively use the software’s powerful capabilities.
- Integrate the predictive analytics team. Health-care organizations that closely partner with predictive analytics providers reap many rewards. Predictive analytics use sophisticated mathematical modeling techniques involving a robust statistical process to enable accurate forecasting of patient demand and staffing needs up to 120 days in advance. With this knowledge, health-care providers can better allocate staff, leading to significant savings in overtime pay and other labor costs. To maximize your organization’s success with integrating predictive analytics, make information readily available to the workforce solutions provider. This means enabling access to your data streams, ideally a few years of patient census data and other workload indicators, depending on the area, unit, or service line that is involved. The more years of data provided, the more accurate the predictions will be from the start; however, forecasting can begin with as little as three months of data. With this information collected directly from your organization, you can gain a unique and actionable forecast of patient demand and staffing needs that is specific for each unit and every shift.
- Facilitate clear communication. Along with data access, ongoing communication with your workforce solutions provider will lead to greater success; predictive analytics integration will particularly benefit from open communication. For example, alerting your workforce solutions provider to unexpected occurrences—such as the partial closure of a hospital unit for renovations or other unusual and unforeseeable incidents that will affect census—will ensure that all pertinent information can be factored into the forecast modeling of future patient volume and staffing needs. Through effective communication, you can help your provider produce accurate patient demand and staffing modeling.
Jackie Larson is president of Avantas, which helps health-care organizations automate and streamline their health-care labor management strategy. In 2004, Avantas developed the Avantas Predictive Model to provide forecasts of patient volume 120 days in advance of the shift, enabling the creation of better staffing plans sooner. In 2007, it developed a health-care scheduling software, Smart Square that provides a transparent view of staffing, scheduling, and productivity at the enterprise level. For more information, visit http://avantas.com.