Do healthcare leaders need to be workforce data experts?

Healthcare has become increasingly interested in data and the insights that can be found when analyzed.

And this preoccupation isn’t in vain. Data analytics have been proven to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. In healthcare, reducing costs and improving the delivery of patient care is vital.

Ensuring that quality clinical staff members are in the right place at the right time is one of the biggest challenges for hospitals and health systems. However, in many provider organizations managers may find themselves relying on little more than guesswork, intuition, and what they did the previous schedule period to schedule their staff.

With analytics pushing further into healthcare, many leaders are left feeling the pressure to add another hat to their collection of skills – one which they may not have any previous knowledge of or experience in. For those who don’t bask in the complex world of analytics, statistics, and advanced mathematical modeling can seem like a foreign language.

Many healthcare organizations have responded by partnering with workforce solutions companies that offer predictive analytics and advanced labor management strategies to make scheduling and staffing a scientific process instead of guesswork. With the right solutions partner, organizations won’t be bombarded with a massive amount of data and expected to immediately know what to do with it.

The best workforce analytics companies will have a dedicated education department, a carefully crafted curriculum, and seasoned workforce experts who can provide thorough training. A company that teaches not only the ‘how’ of using analytics but also the ‘why,’ will enable staff to more effectively use data.

Focusing on specific workforce metrics such as floating, cancellations, FTE leakage, overtime, and hiring targets uncovers areas of opportunity to better utilize the staff the organization currently has.

For units that feel they are constantly running short-staffed, managers often suspect they are severely understaffed. Many times the data shows is that inadequate core staff numbers is just one cause that may lead to a unit feeling short-staffed; there are often other factors at play. Having a consolidated view of core and contingency staff utilization can help leaders get to the root of their staff shortage concerns.

Being able to explore patterns, determine root causes, and glean actionable insights in a single location allows leadership from all areas (Clinical, Finance, Human Resources) to have a holistic view of current workforce operations. An online dashboard that visually represents operational data paints a clear picture of how staff is being utilized.

Having access to advanced business intelligence tools allows leaders to zero in on specific metrics to focus on and offers insight into the current state of workforce operations, allowing goals to be set and an effective plan to be created. Not intended to monitor daily operations and productivity, this type of data allows leaders to set and monitor the overall strategy for workforce planning quarter to quarter.

The ability to toggle between operational and financial drivers helps provide clarity of what is happening within the facility to allow nursing and finance leaders to work together to improve clinical and financial outcomes.

By leveraging their data and utilizing their newly-acquired knowledge of analytics and workforce strategies, healthcare leaders can uncover the opportunities most critical to right-sizing and optimizing their workforce. Analytics combined with knowledge of best practice labor management strategies can help an organization build a foundation of effective and efficient staffing practices and policies, creating the framework for predictable and sustainable results.

Jackie Larson is the president of Avantas, a company that leverages evidence-based solutions to help healthcare providers better manage their workforce. She is a staffing and workforce management guru, passionate about helping healthcare organizations automate and streamline their healthcare labor management strategy.

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