Get the Right Healthcare Staffing Mix through Analytics
“Right person, right place, right time” is one of the oldest mantras in workforce management. Every healthcare provider and staffing vendor talks about it. But what does it really mean, and how do you accomplish it?
Breaking down each element, there’s complexity hiding in this very simple adage.
Who is the Right Person?
The right person to provide care is typically the one who is most familiar with the department, who is working at the top of their license and training, and within their FTE, i.e., not in overtime. The right person can also mean a clinician from internal contingency programs or a traveler or other agency personnel -- if they are part of your strategic resource plan and you utilize them as intended.
What is the Right Place?
The right place for the right person to provide care is the department where they are hired to work and its sister units, assuming they have received orientation to them. In the case of contingency staff -- internal float pool, agency, travelers -- it is the areas to which they have received orientation and are competent to work. The right place also means the area of greatest demand, keeping all areas from being under- and over-staffed.
When is the Right Time?
The right time involves utilizing tools that allow clinical leaders to predict staffing needs and see supply and demand in real-time, as well as executing strategies that effectively align staffing to demand in the hours leading up to the shift. The right time may be weeks out or hours away. With advanced predictive tools, accurate staffing and scheduling can be achieved weeks out when schedules are created, ensuring staff are aligned with demand and scheduled to their FTE. On the day of the shift, using best-practice strategies, staff can be seamlessly allocated according to last-minute fluctuations and changes in acuity.
Getting the right person to the right place at the right time is rooted in analytics, determined by accurate forecasting, and fulfilled through strategic resource management.
Looking at key workforce optimization statistics like workload, staff not working to their FTE commitment (FTE leakage), incidental worked time, as well as demographic and generational trends, hospitals and other healthcare providers can determine how many core staff will be needed in each department to staff for the patient census. This analysis also pinpoints the amount and type of contingent staff needed to adjust to the ebb and flow of patient demand and staff behaviors.
Some organizations have less variability in census and staff behaviors (such as paid time off, absences, etc.) so they might be able to have more core staff with less need for contingent staff. On the flip side, organizations that experience greater swings in census and have higher frequency of staff absences and paid time off will need more contingent staff to adjust to fluctuating demand and, consequently, require a smaller number of core staff.
Today, it is possible to predict staffing needs months in advance of a shift, with a small margin of error, and do so for a variety of departments, from nursing units to clinics.
To forecast staffing needs, multiple inputs including CDC and Google flu indexes, historical census data, and temperature are gathered and run through algorithms to produce various time series, vector, and structural models. The inputs used vary by client, but essentially anything that can be quantified and results in statistically significant impact can be included.
Strategic Resource Management
Analytics can help achieve the right-sized staff, predictive modeling can help schedule staff relative to demand, and strategic resource management brings it all together, resulting in sustainable and effective workforce planning.
One of the most effective ways of controlling costs, coordinating care, and ensuring consistent practices across a health system is through the implementation of a centralized Resource Management Center (RMC).
An RMC can provide valuable support to clinical leaders making effective deployment decisions to normalize staffing levels across the system. It can help place contingency staff in the areas of greatest need, while following protocols that keep costs in line. The RMC also works to fill upcoming gaps in the schedule proactively, instead of scrambling last minute with ineffective and burnout-causing recruitment calling and the offering of unsustainable incentives.
By developing a workforce plan utilizing workforce analytics, accurate forecasting, and strategic resource management, a healthcare organization can meet demand in a sustainable manner. “Right person, right place, right time” can be more than a platitude. It can truly be your workforce plan.