Improved Quality of Care Through Data-Driven Staffing Initiatives

Patricia Dorgan

In healthcare, the workforce is the link between an organization’s clinical and financial goals. Optimizing the workforce is key to providing quality care while also keeping costs in line with expectations. In partnership with HealthLeaders, GE Healthcare asked more than 100 healthcare leaders what workforce strategies they felt had the greatest impact on their organization’s ability to control costs and improve quality. Acuity-based staffing and adjusting the mix of professionals based on skill level and competencies were among the top initiatives deemed to have the greatest impact.

It’s not a surprise that these two initiatives were top of mind. In an environment where quality metrics are weighted heavily, health systems are taking a broader approach to workforce management. By taking cost, revenue and clinical outcomes into account, the ability to leverage more data is increasingly important.

Staffing based on patient volumes and level of acuity is an effective way to improve quality while containing costs, and workforce data that provides real-time information on staff availability and patient acuity is the critical starting point to reaching better workforce outcomes. However without the right data, a typical approach would be missing the analytics necessary to support data-driven staffing decisions.

More than just controlling nurse-to-patient ratios, data-driven staffing should consider the skill sets and competencies of the caregiver mix, ensuring the right combination is in place to match each patient’s unique needs. Nurse workload and ine­fficient patient matching can directly impact patient care. Hospitals that utilize data and analytics when staffing are in a much better position to cost-effectively keep care quality high.

New care delivery models are changing how and where care is delivered, and not all nurses and patients are created equal. Ratios are a great start, but objective, reliable data and sophisticated analytics are must-haves when it comes to making staffing decisions based on evidence and outcomes.

The use of workforce analytics can help healthcare organizations make better short-term staffing decisions. A focus on optimizing the skill mix can help get the right staff in the right place at the right time. This balances care needs with budget constraints and ensures patient satisfaction. It can also help over the long-term by using data to determine how and who to recruit, as well as to develop and retain a workforce with the right skills and competencies to support current and future needs.

Acuity-based staffing and ensuring the right mix of caregiver skills and competencies not only helps improve quality, it also helps generate high performers and create engaged and empowered employees—the core to better workforce outcomes that include labor cost reduction and quality of care improvements.

For more information about top workforce management initiatives, take a look at the white paper, “Top Workforce Management Initiatives for Quality of Care Improvements and Labor Cost Reduction.”

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