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● Staffing/Scheduling Beyond software

Foundations for advanced labor management. By Chris Fox

Technology is not a panacea.” We have all heard this expression, and it’s probably safe to say that most of us can see the logic in it. At the same time, in my experi- ence, it’s also safe to say that while we have all heard it ad

nauseam, it is hard to know how to put it into practice. A variation of this idiom is “technology is a tool, not a solu-

tion.” Again, it sounds good – we can all buy into it – but what does it really mean? If technology is not a solution, then what is it? What is the solution? T e answer is not always the easiest thing to swallow. T e truth is that the solution is education, change management, a cultural shift, process redesign, discipline and a lot of hard work – then technology. T is is hard to accept when you know you have a problem that

needs fi xing, you’ve spent the money on new technology to fi x it and all you want to do is move on to the next issue. And it is more diffi cult when you realize that this (generally) means wait- ing to implement the technology until the foundation has been established. But the truth of the matter is that laying the founda- tion is the bulk of the solution, as well as the bulk of the work. T e answer to this depends on what you are solving for but,

ultimately, it comes together in the shape of a “plan.” With labor management, the plan consists of an effi cient, sustainable process that gets the right person to the right place at the right time, and at the right cost. With this understanding, when you know what you are trying

to fi x, you can work backwards from there to develop your plan. First, who is the right person? In patient care, the right person a majority of the time is a core staff member. Core staff has an FTE (commitment to work a number of hours) and are paid benefi ts based on that commitment. A core staff member working at their FTE is in the best position to take care of a patient on their unit. Knowing this, you can dive into data to determine how many care staff you need on a unit-by-unit basis. T is process goes on to look at layering in other sources of staff - ing, but the point being illustrated is a simple one. T e foundation of a solution lies in an organization’s plan – the people, the data, and the policies and processes it operates under.

20 October 2013

Chris Fox is CEO of Avantas.

For more on Avantas: www.rsleads. com/310ht-207

Polices and processes, in order to create an effi cient framework,

must be: • Tailored to the specifi c goals and culture of the organization; • Standardized across the system; and • Understood, accepted and followed – always and by everyone. Very often when we engage with a new client, they express their belief that, within their organization, there is very little variance between how their policies are interpreted and how they are put into practice. What they often discover through our analysis is that the opposite is true: T e variances here and there add up to a staggering number (and cost) when aggregated at the system level. If a vendor implements a solution before the work of policy

and process alignment is complete, what the software solution ends up doing is automating and exacerbating ineffi ciencies that exist within the current state. T is will result in a tool that is not capable of producing the benefi ts that were promised. When this happens, the tool struggles with user adoption, the spirit of the project is lost and individuals slip back into doing things the way they have always done them. T is leaves you with an expensive, unused tool – and employees who will be more resistant the next time they are asked to adopt a new solution. It is diffi cult to have to wait to implement a technology that you think will solve the problem by itself. But it is even more diffi cult to get the resources, rebuild the excitement and go to the work of redesigning and reimplementing a technology because it failed. While the work and analysis needed to right size staffi ng

sources and align policies and procedures may not sound exciting, developing a roadmap to achieve your organization’s goals is about as thrilling and important as it gets. Seeing the path to achieving your desired future state as a series of steps is much more achiev- able and practical than thinking a technology implementation is going to get you there in one big leap. Nothing in healthcare is simple. T ere are always a thousand

moving parts. Part of the due diligence in a technology imple- mentation is building the base on which you layer the technology. When the foundation involves changing the habits of people – getting them to understand and adopt new ways of doing things – having a solid plan is crucial.


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