An Agile Approach to Improving Workforce Outcomes

Tara Heiser

To say that life under the ACA has required an adjustment in the way we do business is an understatement. The ACA has had a tremendous impact on the business of healthcare. Every role within the healthcare enterprise from the top down is affected, as are patients and their families. There is increased pressure to lower costs, increase revenue and improve quality and outcomes, however most organizations are being given limited resources and budgets to make it happen.

Health systems that have the right data about their workforce, and leverage this information across the enterprise are in a good position to achieve these desired outcomes. Workforce data that provides real-time information on staff availability, staffing needs based on patient acuity, overtime risk, agency assets, etc. is the critical starting point for this entire value chain. When deployed through a comprehensive workforce management strategy that includes staffing and scheduling, these elements can help translate to better clinical quality, better patient satisfaction and potential cost reductions.

However, change management is not easy. Every healthcare enterprise is different, so what workforce management strategies are deployed and how they are deployed will vary. However in the end, the goal is always the same: reduce costs and improve quality. For hospitals and health systems that are managing change over an entire enterprise with several moving parts, an agile approach to change management is worthy of serious consideration.

What’s an ‘agile approach’? First and foremost, it means flexibility. Unique challenges will appear on a consistent basis. Effective leaders analyze each challenge and create an appropriate response. Depending on the circumstances, the response may differ. An effective agile strategy should include steps that identify the required outcome, identify which departments or processes will be impacted, and identify the steps needed to reach the goal.

This is a very simplistic breakdown of the process, however it’s important to understand and accept that it is perfectly reasonable not to have all the answers up front, and that additional guidance may be necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to seek guidance from outside sources and experts.

An agile approach encourages flexibility and thrives on communication. This more often than not yields the greatest results both in the short and long term.

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