Acuity for Budget-Challenged Organizations

Patricia Dorgan

Rapid changes to the healthcare industry has made ‘doing more with less’ the default setting for a growing number of healthcare organizations. The challenge of providing excellent care while trying to keep costs aligned with tight budgets is now the new normal. Much has been said about strategic workforce planning and how technology can help improve workforce outcomes by reining in costs and improving care. However, for many budget-strapped organizations, a capital investment in technology can be challenging and requires a significant amount of due diligence.

During a webinar on the top five trends in workforce management, we discussed the benefit that deploying key workforce strategies are having across the industry. These strategies include productivity, skill mix/competencies, overtime, resource pools, and acuity. We focused on these five trends because they were featured as the most successful initiatives, per a HealthLeaders survey of healthcare executives.

Towards the end of the session, one participant asked an excellent question:

How do I move my organization towards an acuity-based staffing model when I have very limited financial resources?

Technology makes everything more streamlined and effective, but when you need to make do with what you have, there are some basic attributes that can help start you down the right path.

First take a look at the work nurses do in all of the major categories. We tend to be very good at covering tasks, but we also tend to leave out care coordination work and the work of relationships and collaboration. These factors should be counted into the key interventions that nurses perform. There also needs to be consistency of measuring that includes the ADT factor. This is critical because if you pass 40% turnover it’s a significantly different workload. Taking 45 minutes to an hour for each admission makes it easy to tell when it’s necessary to add a whole nurse.

Accurate time standards and skills mix are also important to consider. Being able to project these numbers accurately is a critical component of an acuity-based system. This is also where technology can really lend a hand. Ideally a fully integrated, robust system would do the heavy lifting, providing the actionable data to support an acuity-based system. But when there is no budget, even just a bit of technology—something that provides a complete picture of staff skill mix and competencies—can make a big impact on your ability to schedule based on evidence.

Budget-challenged organizations require forward-thinking strategies that use workforce data in new and unique ways. You can find the full session on the Healthcare Staffing and Scheduling Trends for 2015 and Beyond on GE Healthcare webinar archive.


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