How predictive analytics works behind the scenes of patient care to fill open shifts

The advance of technology has driven improvements to the delivery of patient care.

Walking into a hospital, the use of technology can be seen in nearly every facet – from surgical instruments in an OR to monitors beeping by a patient's bedside. Patients expect the best care when they choose a facility, and excellent care is often supported by cutting-edge technology.

Sophisticated technology isn't limited to what is visible to the patient. Data-driven, technology-enabled solutions for staffing and scheduling are gaining traction in healthcare to ensure the right provider is placed at a patient's bedside at the right time. Predictive analytics automates the scheduling process by forecasting needs up to 120 days before the shift. This forecast is updated in real-time, and is 97 percent accurate by 30 days prior to the start of the shift. Accurate forecasting ensures the delivery of care long before a patient enters the facility.

Nurse managers can spend a lot of time scheduling their staff. If using manual scheduling tools such as paper-based methods or spreadsheets, there may be a lot of guesswork involved when scheduling staff 4, 6 or 8 weeks before the start of the shift. Automated scheduling fueled by predictive analytics can greatly diminish the level of uncertainty when aligning the right number and types of staff with predicted volume. Data-driven solutions reduce the stress of scheduling for a manager, and delivers valuable time back in their day to focus on patient care and supporting their staff.

The use of predictive analytics to forecast staffing needs also sets the stage for an effective open shift program that rewards staff for picking up shifts several weeks in advance. When it comes to filling open shifts, many nurse managers have a history of bargaining and making frantic recruitment calls in the "11th hour" to fill their critical needs. Using an open shift program through an automated scheduling system takes this frustrating process off of the manager's plate. Once all staff is scheduled to their commitments, open shifts are automatically posted to individuals competent to pick up the shifts based on their certifications and skills profile.

If an organization chooses to incentivize staff for picking up open shifts, an automated program provides a regulated and fair process for all staff by standardizing practices across the system. Instead of gift cards and cash tucked away in a manager's drawer ready to offer to staff for picking up a shift at the last minute, incentives can be offered through the open shift program and aligned with budgeted bonus targets that correspond to the severity of the need. In this scenario, incentives would peak at 30 days before the shift, then decline in terms of dollars as shifts are picked up and the date of the shift approaches. This proactive approach to filling open needs rewards staff for picking up shifts well in advance, thereby solidifying staffing plans sooner. This practice significantly reduces the stress levels of everyone involved, both managers who are responsible for staffing and staff members themselves.

On the other hand, many organizations are used to an open shift practice in which staff hold out on picking up shifts believing incentive dollars will increase; waiting for "bonus" or "double bonus" situations to arise. This reactive approach to filling open shifts leaves managers scrambling to fill needs at the last moment, causing unnecessary stress for the manager and staff members already scheduled. In contrast, using a proactive incentive strategy allows shifts to be filled in advance by encouraging staff who are more money motivated to pick up shifts several weeks before the start of the shift. Staff members more inclined to pick up shifts when it fits into their schedule will pick up the remaining shifts. This provides a winning solution for all – staff, managers, and patients.

A patient puts their well-being in a provider's hands and is not concerned about the logistics of what got that individual to their bedside. Although it is not a shiny piece of high-tech equipment for a patient to marvel at, technology-enabled scheduling is a tool that works behind the scenes to ensure high-quality care is delivered to patients.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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