Improve Healthcare Operations With Clinical Workforce Analytics

“Although caregivers are burdened with reporting reams of information, they rarely consistently track the health outcomes that matter most to patients and thus to themselves as clinicians.”1

With rising labor costs,2 growing expenses, falling EBITDA, and decreasing operating margins,3 healthcare organizations need new strategies for controlling costs and improving clinical communication workflows. While analytics are often used to inform strategic decision making such as supply chain management, healthcare organizations may miss the opportunity to use analytics to maximize their most important resource: their clinical workforce.

Let’s explore how an advanced provider scheduling solution can deliver analytics which play an essential role in improving healthcare operations.

Four Ways Workforce Analytics Improve Operations

  1. Reduce waste by adjusting staff levels to meet trends in patient demand and value-based care.
  2. Ensure patient access and minimize leakage by maximizing clinical communications capacity across locations.
  3. Improve provider retention and reduce physician and nurse burn-out by increasing work-life balance and schedule autonomy.
  4. Optimize clinical staffing models to enhance productivity.

1. Reduce Wasted Resources

Advanced scheduling analytics allow your organization to identify trends in patient demand. Assess service utilization across departments and clinic locations to adjust staffing levels over time. You can analyze demand for specific services, determine the number of clinicians needed to deliver those services for a given timeframe, and reduce staff and labor costs when patient demand is lower. For example:

The Chief of Surgery wants to better understand seasonal trends in patient demand for elective surgeries. He runs a report and finds that case numbers are much lower during January and February. With granular insights into provider supply and patient demand, he is able to project exactly how many surgeons are needed during each shift. He asks the department scheduler to reduce staffing levels for January and February.

2. Ensure Patient Access

After using analytics to identify trends in patient demand, you can respond to rising demand by proactively increasing staff levels to improve patient access and increase revenue. For example:

The Emergency Department’s Medical Director runs a report and finds that during the summer months, the need for pediatric emergency care greatly increases. Currently, the team only staffs a single pediatric emergency physician. The Medical Director contacts the department scheduler and requests for a pediatric advanced practice provider to be added to the schedule for June through August.

In the example above, the ED (Emergency Department) has both increased patient access to pediatric emergency care and increased clinical capacity—helping the department generate more revenue based on a particularly common type of service for the specific timeframe. With trends in value-based care, this pediatric practice can improve patient satisfaction.

3. Improve Provider Retention

A key approach to cost reduction is to improve provider retention. Replacing a single physician can cost anywhere from $500,000 up to $1 million, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).4 This means focusing on provider satisfaction and retention could save your organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the 2020 Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report, spending too many hours at work is a key contributor to provider burnout.5 But what is the definition of “too many hours” and how can you help prevent provider schedules from reaching the threshold?

Scheduling analytics help ensure certain shifts, like weekends and call, are evenly distributed across a team of providers. You can share reports with your team that show even shift distribution. This eliminates any possible suspicion of unfairness, which may not completely eliminate the issue of spending too many hours at work, but it helps address a source of provider dissatisfaction.

4. Optimize Staffing Models

Not all providers and care team members are alike. Some prefer to work more than others, some practice part-time, and they each vary in their preferences and productivity levels, making it challenging to optimize staffing models by specialization and availability alone. Advanced medical analytics reporting provides the details needed to enhance your organization’s staffing models for productivity.

Over time, you can note which providers are more productive during specific shift times to create rules that schedule individual providers for their most productive shifts. You can then review the larger impact of certain staffing models on productivity and adjust your scheduling rules on a macro level. Without scheduling analytics, this type of insight and optimization is nearly impossible. With the evolving demands and expectations in healthcare, it is also essential.

 

Watch How PerfectServe Helps Medical Staff Reduce Poor Workflows and Improve Patient Response Times

 

Interested in improving operations, reducing labor costs, and increasing patient and provider satisfaction with better clinical scheduling?

Learn more about the clinical workforce analytics available in our Optimized Provider Scheduling solution and how they can enhance your organization’s operations.

Resources:

  1. Tiesberg T, Wallace S, O’Hara S. Defining and Implementing Value-Based Health Care: A Strategic Framework. Academic Med. 2020 May; 95(5):682-685. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000003122
  2. Labor Management Trends, Healthcare Financial Management Association, Navigant, Aug. 2018: guidehouse.com/-/media/www/site/insights/healthcare/2018/navigant-hfma-2018-labor-pulse-survey.pdf
  3. Hospital profitability withers in November as volumes, revenues lag, Becker’s Healthcare, Morgan Haefner, Becker’s Healthcare Review, Jan. 2, 2020: beckershospitalreview.com/finance/hospital-profitability-withers-in-november-as-volume-revenues-lag.html
  4. At Stanford, physician burnout costs at least $7.75 million a year, American Medical Association, Sara Berg, American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2017: ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/stanfordphysician-burnout-costs-least-775-million-year
  5. Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020: The Generational Divide, Medscape, January 15, 2020: medscape.com/slideshow/2020-lifestyle-burnout-6012460 – 5

Managing the surprisingly troublesome impact of real-time healthcare on clinical decision-making

We live in an age of instant gratification. From the texts we send friends and family to the orders we place on Amazon.com, we’ve come to expect immediate results: instant responses, next-day shipping, etc.

The idea of immediacy in healthcare communications is not new. In fact, in 2015, healthcare analyst Gartner outlined a vision for what it dubbed the “real-time health system”—a landscape where healthcare professionals will be constantly aware of what’s happening within their systems and with their patients.

As a person living in the digital age, you’ve probably experienced real-time awareness in other parts of your life: the repetitive dings of received text messages, the intermittent beeps of calendar alerts, the near-constant hum as your smartphone vibrates over and over to let you know your mother, children and cousins have uploaded photos to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. In fact, as I’m typing this piece, I’ve heard alerts for two personal text messages that I’ve yet to look at (the temptation is maddening), four work-related emails (that I did have to stop and look at), a notification that someone commented on a thread I replied to on Facebook and more.

While there’s definitely a benefit to each of us knowing what’s happening in our expanded universe in real time—and we can easily draw a direct line to the benefits that doctors, nurses and patients would experience if they could communicate instantaneously while coordinating care—the influx of information is simply overwhelming.

And when alarm fatigue sets in, important messages get missed, the communication cycle breaks down and what was once a valuable resource becomes a liability. Overwhelmed and inundated clinicians cannot optimally use their invaluable expertise to make effective clinical decisions that deliver great health outcomes.

Aggregating, analyzing and managing the distribution of clinical information

Managing the flow of data and alert fatigue is a real challenge that clinicians and the IT teams that support them need to understand. Clinicians need “just the facts, ma’am,” so to speak, and they need to know which set of facts pertain directly to them and the patients for whom they are caring. Receiving more than enough information is not always a good thing, especially when the situation calls for fast thinking and quick decisions.

Investments made in technologies implemented over the past several years have enabled healthcare as an industry to generate very large amounts of digitized clinical information. The challenge is to aggregate this patient data in real time to generate new knowledge about a patient and distribute it in a way that does not inundate the clinician recipients with unnecessary information. Physicians and nurses should receive information they need in order to act in that moment. Everything else is noise.


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Implementing communication-driven workflows

Once new knowledge is made available and deemed relevant to a given clinical situation, it’s important to enable workflows that drive this information to the right care team members, who can take action in that moment. Hospital-based communication workflows must encompass all modalities, adhere to strict security mandates and facilitate reliable exchanges among clinicians across boundaries (e.g., acute, pre-acute and post-acute care settings). This kind of clinical integration is the future of healthcare communications.

If clinicians are inundated with unnecessary information, messages and alerts, combined with a communication workflow that creates barriers to a) finding the right care team member to contact, b) finding the contact method that the clinician prefers and c) knowing whether the intended recipient received the message, the workflow is flawed and is inhibiting the decision-making that leads to higher standards of patient care.

Leveraging clinical expertise

The personal judgment of experienced healthcare professionals is irreplaceable in effective, real-time decision-making. Technological advances are no doubt improving healthcare, but human intuition can never be replaced by a new device or software. However, that intuition can be inhibited by technologies if they are not strategically implemented and managed. In this sense, real-time healthcare could, ironically, be eroding quality.

To truly leverage the hundreds of collective years of clinical expertise housed in the minds of your hospital’s medical staff—the expertise that yields great outcomes—you must remove the barriers to effective communication. Collecting patient data in real time is an important part of that. But analyzing and aggregating that data into digestible, valuable pieces of information that can be easily shared and collaborated on is the follow-through that is often overlooked.

The gravitation toward instant gratification isn’t going away. And it’s important to understand that the concept doesn’t apply simply to generating patient data as healthcare events are occurring, but also to the ability to extract the significant portions and begin collaborating with the broader care team to interpret the data and derive a plan to deliver high-value care.

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