Predictive Analytics: Precision Planning for Healthcare’s Most Important Resource – Its People

Guest post by Jackie Larson, president, Avantas.

Jackie Larson
Jackie Larson

Predictive analytics and advanced labor management are the most important – and underutilized – methods to assure that provider organizations have the right caregivers in the right places at the right times.

A recent survey of nurse managers by AMN Healthcare and Avantas, Predictive Analytics in Healthcare 2016: Optimizing Nurse Staffing in an Era of Workforce Shortages, (available on the AMN website) brought the need for more awareness to light in just a few stats related to staffing and scheduling:

The survey also revealed a lack of sophisticated scheduling tools being utilized:

Further, the survey found that while nearly 90 percent of nurse managers said that a technology that can accurately forecast patient demand and staffing needs would be helpful, 80 percent were unaware that such a solution exists.

Strategies to Fulfill the Potential Predictive Analytics

This process to predict future patient demand and strategically plan clinician scheduling and staffing is scalable, cost effective and accurate. First, staffing data are processed with advanced algorithms, then forecasting models are created and validated, customized for each unit or service area within the organization, allowing workforce projections up to 120 days prior to the shift. The forecast is updated weekly, and by 30 days in advance of the shift, the forecast of staffing need is 97 percent accurate.

Compared to how scheduling and staffing is conducted at most healthcare organizations today, predictive analytics may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie. The truth is, this sophisticated forecasting of labor needs has been leveraged in other industries with great success. And, in healthcare, it can lay the foundation for significant advancement in utilization of staff, leading to improvements in morale, quality, and financial results. The advanced labor management strategies and tools layered on an accurate projection of staffing needs – months and weeks in advance of the shift – will turn an accurate forecast into an effective resource management strategy.

Adopting Workforce Analytics
Every organization’s staffing mix should be unique to the fluctuations in its patient volume. Once an organization understands its demand, it can then determine its supply – scheduling and staffing to meet patient demand in the most productive manner possible. The organization can analyze and solve the problems that reduce its available supply of core staff, such as leaves of absence, continuing education, training and other issues. This precision understanding of workforce availability is then layered with patient volume predictions, and the result is accurate insight into the core and contingency staffing levels needed to meet patient demand.

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Healthcare’s Symphony Orchestra

Barry Chaiken
Barry Chaiken

Guest post By Barry P. Chaiken, MD, FHIMSS, chief medical information officer at Infor.

In many ways healthcare is like a symphony orchestra. Although information technology can enhance care planning, assist in medication administration and reduce duplicative testing, it cannot replace the people required to deliver care services to patients. Nurses are needed to administer medications, therapists are needed to provide treatments, and physicians are needed to diagnose illnesses and provide treatment plans. On average, hospitals devote close to 70 percent of their budget to labor costs. Until robots replace humans in the delivery of patient care, selection of the proper skill mix and number of professionals remains a significant factor that determines cost in provider organizations.

Although information technology cannot replace the staff delivering care to patients, it can assist organizations in choosing the best talent available, help develop that talent and determine the best way to utilize the skills of these professionals.

To identify the best talent, information technology tools allow the extraction of an employee’s “behavioral DNA” – the measurement of behavioral, cognitive and cultural traits. Organizations then compare this prospective employee’s “DNA” to the “DNA” of existing high performing employees within the organization in an effort to identify individuals who possess a high probability of excelling within the organization.

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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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AMN Healthcare Survey: Hospital Executives See Shortage of Physicians, Nurses and Advanced Practitioners

According to a new report from AMN Healthcare, a healthcare staffing firm, 78 percent of hospital executives believe there is a shortage of physicians nationwide, 66 percent believe there is a shortage of nurses, and 50 percent believe there is a shortage of advanced practitioners. The survey also indicates that the vacancy rate for physicians at hospitals approaches 18 percent, while the vacancy rate for nurses is 17 percent, considerably higher than when AMN Healthcare conducted a similar survey in 2009.

“Change in healthcare is a continuous evolution, but the one constant is people,” said AMN president Susan Salka. “No matter what models of care are in place, it takes physicians, nurses and other clinicians to provide quality patient care, and the fact is we simply do not have enough of them.”

AMN Healthcare’s 2013 Clinical Workforce Survey asked hospital executives nationwide to comment on clinical staffing trends affecting their facilities. More than 70 percent rated the staffing of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants as a high priority in 2013, compared to only 24 percent of hospital executives who rated staffing these professionals as a high priority in AMN Healthcare’s 2009 workforce survey.

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