August 9, 2018

Can improved staffing metrics reduce the need for hospital layoffs?

2 min read

Written by: Jennifer Michelle  |  Share:

A closer reading of this Becker's Hospital Review list of hospital layoffs shows that not all the listings are actually of layoffs. In fact, many refer to cutting back of hours and leaving positions vacant.

These are all unsurprising findings, given the continuing healthcare reality of rising costs and reduced reimbursements.

However, in the light of the current push for improved healthcare efficiency, it is important for health systems to be confident that these kinds of choices are necessary, based on accurate data.

Unfortunately, precise staffing analytics are not nearly as available to medical practices as one might hope.

In fact, roughly one third of medical practices build their staff schedules using paper and Excel, neither of which have the capacity to provide detailed metrics. The remaining practices generally have separate software systems which are not able to share or coordinate information. For instance, scheduling data is separate from time or payroll data, despite the fact that overtime forecasting requires them to be presented as a whole. 

It stands to reason that, if better data were available, medical practices would be able to make better staffing choices.

Reducing overtime

Overtime is the most obvious area of impact.

To maintain budgets, medical practices need to be able to control overtime costs. However, this requires that they be able to forecast the impact of different staffing choices on their payroll.

Obvious as that may seem, these data are usually wholly unavailable, as scheduling information is kept entirely separate from payroll. Often, staff time and attendance are extracted from the schedules and inputted separately into the payroll software. While this provides information on staffing choices and overtime, it provides it too late to be of benefit to the budget.

Improve staff utilization

Hand in hand with excessive overtime goes under-utilization of staff. When schedule, time, and payroll data are all separate, it is extremely difficult to see who on your team is working less than their full-time hours. As many staff contracts provide for full salary regardless of minimum hours worked, this becomes a wasted resource.

Again, the full integration of staffing data - scheduling, time, and payroll - would allow healthcare systems to avoid this situation. By providing a cohesive view showing how staff choices impact time and payroll, it is easy to see who on the team can be utilized more fully. Even better is when that staff person's time can be used to remove the need for another to work overtime.

Forecast patient demand

Efficient staff utilization must also be coordinated with patient demand.

Staff availability and certification criteria must be matched with patient volume and the clinical requirements for each case. This requires full integration of available data but, in this case, the integration must be between the staff schedule and the case/exam scheduling solution(s). In most practices, these data are housed separately, coming from different systems that do not communicate with one another.

By integrating those systems, however, the best staffing choices to meet patient demand can be ascertained and scheduled. This allows assignments to be scheduled based on the exact situation at hand, rather than on assumptions or estimates.

The impact of improved hospital staffing metrics

Higher levels of efficiency are essential for medical practices looking to navigate current healthcare realities. By integrating data from all areas - scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and patient demand - practices can make stronger, more informed staffing decisions.