A new kind of “EHR”: “empowering human resources” in healthcare

Imagine trying to drive your car down a rural, winding road — all with your eyes glued to the rearview mirror rather than the windshield.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

Every day, this is the plight of healthcare organizations across the country: Limited visibility into where they’ve been and only an educated assumption of where they’re going.

Healthcare organizations annually generate terabytes upon terabytes of data that should be leveraged to inform current and future performance. But most of the time, this valuable data is underutilized, trapped in silos, and spread across disparate solutions that are unable or unwilling to play nice with each other.

While these solutions can usually be forced to get along, integrations are often costly and clunky, causing data delays or blackouts and interrupting the daily flow of work — all while informed care, critical provider-patient touchpoints, and patient outcomes hang in the balance. By the time the relevant data is compiled, analyzed, and shared, organizations are often forced to make judgments about where they’re heading based on data that’s already outdated.

This rearview decision-making may have gotten us by in the past when it was the only option. But with an increasing emphasis on managing in the moment, health organizations are hungry for interoperable solutions that bring to the surface relevant data they need to make decisions in real time.

In addition to cloud-based EHR (electronic health records) software and patient-facing applications, we shouldn’t forget about the critical role that an intelligent HR solution can have in advancing our goal of providing high-quality care at a reasonable cost.

Workforce management has undergone a remarkable shift over the last decade, moving from tactical function to strategic operation, and the value of people-centric data has taken on new importance. Leveraging a single, unified platform that handles all HR-related tasks with a keen eye on healthcare-specific needs, organizations can more effectively empower employees, support the delivery of safe care to patients, and achieve financial and clinical goals.

Minimize compliance risk

It can be difficult to create schedules that meet staffing requirements, collective bargaining agreements, and comply with labor law regulations — especially if health organizations are using pen and paper or old, outdated software technology to appropriately allocate labor resources.

St. Joseph’s Health, a non-profit regional healthcare system based in Syracuse, New York and a member of Trinity Health, experienced firsthand the frustration of coordinating disparate healthcare and homegrown workforce solutions. Before implementing a centralized workforce management system, St. Joseph’s Health struggled to consistently apply staffing policies and ensure efficient meal break compliance.

To address a lack of standardization across its organization, St. Joseph’s Health brought together an internal task force of HR, IT, finance, clinical, and employee health leaders to guide the implementation of an integrated workforce management system in the cloud — one that would streamline operational efficiencies, drive accountability, and improve staff engagement.

Today, St. Joseph’s Health employs attestation functionality to ensure employees take meal breaks in accordance with compliance rules, which means HR spends less time on timecard reconciliation and can easily deliver more accurate paychecks.

“We’re making more-informed, data driven decisions in real time by using technology that aggregates and analyzes data and trends to help us better manage things like overtime and compliance,” said Erika Duncan, regional chief human resources officer at Trinity Health. “By building rigor into our workforce management strategies, we’ve been able to more easily achieve financial and business goals across our organization.”

Improve care quality

The time-consuming, manual administrative processes that we’re all too familiar with in healthcare are directly linked to decreased morale and productivity. Administrative tasks consume more than a third of nurses’ time, while paperwork is out of control, taking up nearly half of physicians’ days. These negative side effects don’t just impact providers: Strong evidence suggests that an insufficient nurse staffing-to-workload ratio is linked with poorer patient outcomes.

Aligning the right employee with the right skills in the right location and at the right time can diminish the risks associated with heavy workloads. It’s a matter of accurately balancing patient volume and acuity with care providers that are freed up from onerous burdens of administrative paperwork.

When staffing schedules take into account patient volume and acuity as well as staff skillsets and certifications, health organizations are better suited to support patient safety and quality outcomes. The time-sink of creating functional schedules is eliminated by technology that provides real-time access to workforce data, identifies optimized staffing patterns, and generates accurate, best-fit schedules for nurses and other caregivers based on qualifications and predicted patient care requirements.

Increase employee engagement

Only with automated, mobile workforce management technology that supports the entire continuum of care can employees achieve a work-life balance that translates into higher job satisfaction and better patient outcomes.

After adopting an integrated workforce management system, St. Joseph’s Health provides its 5,000 regional employees with greater engagement and autonomy over their schedules. They can use mobile devices to check upcoming work schedules, swap shifts, and manage their timecards with a single touch. This frees up time and enables them to engage more deeply with their work and their patients. Managers, too, benefit from automated processes such as mobile one-touch timecard approval allowing them more time to focus on higher-value, strategic priorities.

The prevalent trend of burnout among healthcare employees can also be monitored using real-time analytics, which transforms data into visible, actionable trendline information, enabling leadership to make more informed staffing decisions that support excellence in care.

Down the road: The long-lasting benefits of open APIs

Enterprise solutions have long been challenging to integrate and have often not easily fit into the actual workflow of care delivery. With the next generation of workforce management solutions available today, healthcare organizations are now able to select solutions that can seamlessly integrate with other business applications and fully support the natural workflows.

The future of work requires us to use technology wisely to unburden the workforce from unnecessary and complex administrative tasks and give back time to caring. A good place for us to start is with a fully integrated workforce management solution that leverages mobile technology to support the accurate, safe, and regulatory compliant deployment of the highly skilled healthcare workforce.

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