In healthcare, change is the name of the game. Medications change. Diagnostics improve. And treatment philosophies and approaches to care evolve over time. One thing, however, that hasn’t changed much is how healthcare organizations project, manage, and operationalize their workforce planning efforts.
Vacancies in the healthcare industry — from staff turnover, organizational expansion, or internal transfers — are pervasive and have long been a seemingly unsolvable challenge for all but the most strategic (or just the luckiest) healthcare organizations.
Typical workforce planning processes frequently result in open positions and duplication of roles that lead to several challenges for executives and managers when trying to accurately staff individual teams, departments, and disparate locations. It also makes managing budgets across an organization a nightmare.
The risk of falling behind on knowing exactly where the headcount is can lead to errors in staffing, and accounting, and potentially even have an adverse impact on patient care. That’s why more healthcare organizations are turning to human capital management (HCM) systems to help improve workforce planning with better predictions of fluctuations across their organizations, shorten hiring cycles, and maintain compliance with internal and regulatory staffing levels.
Manual processes risk time, money, and patient safety
Despite breakthrough advancements in diagnostic tools, medical technologies, and best practices, some aspects of healthcare have remained unchanged for generations. Many healthcare organizations still rely on simple, static spreadsheets to manage the critical task of workforce planning and recruitment strategy.
These time- and resource-intensive manual processes are prone to simple errors that can have huge implications on the organization and its patients — especially when it comes to keeping tabs on the rapidly changing moving pieces that health organizations spanning multiple locations, cities, and even states have to contend with.
For example, when an employee leaves an organization the responsibilities of their role do not. Things like salary, FTE status, reporting structure, benefits are usually tied to the position specifically, and when they leave the organization all that valuable data projections and information linked to that role are gone with them. When the position is filled all this valuable data about the position must be manually re-entered and linked to the new hire taking up unnecessary time from managers and HR groups.
This manual entry can lead to weeks or months of delay in identifying gaps in staffing needs and inefficiencies which cause further delays from recruiting to HR, and credentialing, onboarding, and beyond. In fact, the current average time to fill a position in healthcare is 49 days, and each additional day or week left empty can cost an organization more than $4,000 per day.
Still, money isn’t the only risk of not having an integrated workforce planning solution in place. Lacking consistency across the organization also increases the risk of falling out of compliance with myriad rules and regulations, too. Both internal policies and state and federal laws mandate minimum safe staffing ratios in healthcare organizations and violations can cost upwards of $30,000 per occurrence. Just a few weeks’ delay in filling these gaps can add up to several thousands in fines.
This estimate doesn’t even account for the potential fines for putting patients at risk due to insufficient staffing. Patient safety is paramount, which is why the average payout for a single medical malpractice lawsuit is as much as $195,000. Patient harm because an organization lacks awareness and agility to respond to changing staffing needs, and because staff is stretched too thin can not only be detrimental to patient care, but also to an organization’s reputation which can be irreparable — not to mention that harm done to patients due to unplanned staffing shortages is not a great defense when it comes to providing quality care.
HCM lets people get to the work that matters
Modern, cloud-based HCMs can help alleviate the operational inefficiencies and risks posed by old-school approaches to modern medical practice. These solutions may feature a position-based architecture, in which job and role information are linked to a particular position in the organization rather than to the person who holds or held the job, so that the information remains even if the employee doesn’t.
Now, any time an employee leaves the organization or transfers to a different department, the existing information about the position — required credentials, department, location, and direct reports — remain visible and actionable in the organization chart. It not only eliminates time-consuming and error-prone manual data recreation and entry, but also gives HR, executives, and departmental leaders an accurate, complete snapshot of the health of the organization that simplifies workforce projections, recruiting planning, and frees employees at all levels to do the work that really matters.
At the same time, these platforms often feature rich automation capabilities that aggregate data from various parts of the organization and consolidate them into a central database, virtually eliminating challenges with version control or matching records. Now, any time a change is made in one system, automated workflows update the corresponding record in the central database creating an accurate and reliable single source of truth.
Using an HCM provides real-time visibility into granular details across the organization. Executives can run EMR reports identifying high census months, and be better prepared for staffing needs through their HCM. Pairing that with the ability to predict periods of increased staff turnover — year end, summer break, and the start and end of residencies — means HR and other leaders can accurately quantify system-wide demands and proactively address them before they become last-minute staffing emergencies.
When spanning multiple locations and diverse responsibilities the daily operations of a healthcare company are only as efficient as the people or systems managing them. With a digitized and automated system teams are better able to manage and project budgets and eliminate waste, and executives have greater visibility into inefficiencies across the system.
High-performing healthcare organizations using an automated system can eliminate variability between locations and groups, and minimize duplication of work by providing simpler collaboration and data updates and ultimately avoiding patient safety violations and costly staffing vacancies.
Lean on an HCM.
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