Must-Have Strategies, Tools and Mindsets for Efficient Healthcare Labor Management

Jenny Korth
Jenny Korth

Guest post by Jenny Korth, CMPE, director of Project Management and Support, Avantas.

As more patients are entering the healthcare system and organizations will need to be equipped with the right processes to ensure that care is delivered by the right person at the right time to prepare for this patient influx. Effective resource management in healthcare is trickier than in a lot of 24/7/365 industries. What makes it so is that there is not one specific blueprint to managing each hospital, or even each unit within a hospital.

Fluctuating volumes in addition to geographic location, patient and staff demographics, and differences in culture, both of the area and in the organization all play factors in making resource management in healthcare far from cut and dry. This being said, there are strategies that can be universally applied to all types of healthcare organizations (single-site hospitals, academic medical centers, multi-hospital metropolitan systems, large regional systems, and systems with extensive clinics operations) to ensure they have the staff they need to care for their patients, and are able to do so in a cost effective manner.

Key to the strategies I’ll outline below is the customization needed to meet an organization’s specific needs.

Proper Staff Size

This is the basic idea of having the right number, types and layers of staff to meet patient demand. It starts with a right-sized core staff. The “right size” will vary from unit to unit, but essentially it is the number that keeps staff working to their FTE without the need for excessive overtime, floating, or cancellations.

Relative to types and layers of staff, this is where contingency staffing sources (e.g., float pools) come into play. Depending on the size of the organization it could have as many as seven different types of contingency layering to fill in when staff are not available to take an assignment or when volume spikes. These layers can include an enterprise float pool, site-based scheduled float pool, site-based PRN pool, unit-based PRN Pool, core staff in extra shifts and overtime (although this should be used sparingly), agency, and travelers. While agency and travel staff can sometimes have a negative connotation, the fact is that by maintaining relationships with the highest quality staffing organizations in your city, you will experience reduced costs, improved coordination of resources, and, with the proper contractual stipulations, prevention of agency recruitment of your core staff members.

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Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Chris Fox, Avantas

Chris Fox
Chris Fox

Chris Fox, CEO of Avantas, discusses how he and his firm help physicians improve their operational performance; healthcare staffing; the need for addressing operational efficiencies across a health system without following some traditional approaches — like layoffs; and market trends that continue to perplex, yet offer opportunity for growth and development.

Avantas started as a group within Alegent Creighton Health more than a decade ago with the goal of optimizing its workforce across the health system. Its efforts were so successful that it became a separate company and began offering its expertise to the entire industry.

In 2007 Avantas developed a healthcare scheduling software, Smart Square, as no other solution on the market offered the flexibility and customization necessary to fully automate our strategies and provide a transparent view of staffing, scheduling, and productivity at the enterprise level.

Avantas executives provide thought leadership in healthcare labor management.

What keeps your passion for this mission, and the organization, alive? Tell me more about what excites you about your work and why you love what you do?

Very simply, if we are successful as a company it is because we have helped our clients – healthcare providers – improve their operational, clinical, and financial performance. Stronger healthcare providers means more services, more community outreach, basically, better, more affordable healthcare for everyone. It’s pretty easy to be passionate about that.

What draws you to healthcare? Did you seek out the sector when you began your career?

I’ve worked in software development and innovation for more than 15 years within a number of industries. It’s a funny story, but I actually got involved in healthcare because of a chance seat assignment on an airplane almost 10 years ago. I was seated next to Lorane Kinney, Avantas’ co-founder. We got to talking about Avantas and what she was trying to build there. Hearing Lorane’s passion for the company and the need to automate a new approach to labor optimization in healthcare was very inspiring. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and I knew I could play a big role in bringing Lorane’s vision to fruition. Avantas has a compelling story and big aspirations. As Avantas’ CEO, I, like Lorane, seek out individuals who are passionate about the vision we have for the industry and want to be part of that change.

Tell me more about the evolution of Avantas, from where you started to where you’ve come today? Where are you headed and why?

Avantas started as a group within what is today Alegent Creighton Health more than a decade ago with the goal of leveraging economies of scale and standardizing its labor proactively across its then five Omaha hospitals. Our purpose was to develop and implement strategies that would leverage the system’s care staff, both proactively and in the moment to cost effectively adjust to the natural rise and fall in patient volume. Our efforts were so successful we became a separate company in 2001 and began offering our workforce management expertise to the entire industry via consulting. In 2006 Avantas conducted an RFP to find a scheduling solution we could use within our client base to automate the labor strategies we had developed. After we were unable to identify an appropriate solution we developed our own healthcare-specific enterprise scheduling solution, Smart Square. Now Smart Square is being utilized in more than 200 facilities across the country. Our strategies and technology solutions are packaged in a comprehensive methodology called HELM, which stands for healthcare enterprise labor management. HELM takes a step-by-step approach at restructuring an organization’s labor management strategy by first right-sizing its staffing sources, standardizing policies, and implementing best practices. Next we automate those policies with Smart Square. We also work with our clients to develop centralized methods of managing staffing resources as well as helping them build out the necessary layers of contingency staff, enabling them to cost effectively adjust to constantly changing patient demand. We help our clients implement these strategies across their systems: inpatient, ancillary and outpatient areas, like medical group practice sites.

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