Healthcare lives in a constantly evolving world. Those who dive head first into this industry must be comfortable wading through the unknown and be adaptable to whatever is thrown their way. As 2017 creeps closer into view, there are many changes on the horizon that have demanded the attention of healthcare leaders. With the announcement of the planned effort of President-elect Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act, many provider organizations have found themselves in a state of uncertainty. In healthcare, uncertainty often promotes indecision. The wait-and-see approach could lead to organizations being behind the eight ball as we head into 2017.
While the nation is hanging onto the edge of uncertainty of what the future holds with the president elect’s leadership, top organizations in the healthcare industry are focusing on what they can control while awaiting the fate of the ACA. If the ACA were repealed without a replacement, hospitals could see a net income loss of over one-hundred billion dollars in the next ten years, according to a report commissioned by the Federation of American Hospitals and the American Hospital Association. Provider organizations can’t help but wonder what the cascading ramifications of losses of this magnitude could be and how patient care may be affected. By doing what they have always done in the face of uncertain times and focusing on what they can control, the most prudent course of action is to concentrate on quality and cost measures that align with their organization’s mission.
The mission of an organization will not change with a repeal of or amendments to the ACA. Provider organizations, regardless of the eventual outcome, will still strive to provide affordable, high-quality care. And, as workforce expenses account for upwards of half of an organization’s operating expense, workforce management is the most logical, and big rock item on which to focus.
There are several strategies that an organization can focus on to stay steady in the rough waters of ambiguity. 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). Serving as a communication hub and collaborating with clinical leaders to manage staffing resources, an RMC is an enterprise approach to managing labor. An RMC promotes transparency across the organization and keeps leadership up to date on potential real-time adjustments to deploy staff across the system as supply and demand ebbs and flows, all while ensuring standardized practices.
One key element that can be wrapped into an organization’s workforce plan is predictive analytics. Within this process, forecasting models are created and validated, allowing workforce projections of staffing needs up to 120 days prior to the shift. Hospitals that have adopted predictive analytics combined with advanced labor management strategies are routinely saving 4% to 7% of labor budgets, which is considerable since labor typically represents over half the annual costs for healthcare organizations.
Workforce analytics is another tool that healthcare organizations can utilize when navigating labor management. Not a stand-alone solution, workforce analytics can provide a blueprint to an organization on how to better align their staff to handle the majority of patient demand by performing an analysis of metrics such as workload, FMLA, “FTE leakage,” incidental worked time, and analyzing demographic and generational trends. This analysis is more than just mere calculations – a jumble of numbers to be lost in translation. Rather, analytics is more about how to communicate, giving power to the data to drive meaningful improvements to care delivery and the way organizations are run.
With these strategies and solutions in their arsenal, leaders of healthcare organizations can take comfort in knowing they have the resources to navigate the ambiguity of the future of healthcare and give them a solid foundation upon which to stand on shaky ground. By keeping their focus aligned with providing affordable, quality patient care, provider organizations can manage their labor resources to carve out their own future success.
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