Healthcare, like every industry, is dependent on income and smooth functioning. A big part of that depends upon the competent management of hospitals’ many resources and workflows. Hospitals have to manage the activities of doctors, nurses, and other administrative staff. The larger a hospital gets, the greater the complexity of managing it. Moreover, doing so using pen and paper is not only slow and inefficient but also prone to mistakes and liability. That is why it is important to use healthcare workforce management software.
Such a type of software facilitates more efficient workforce management across all the departments of a hospital and results in better overall organizational productivity. In simple words, a healthcare workforce management system helps administrators streamline all the operations related to human resources, such as staff scheduling, leaves, attendance, communications, payroll, and so forth. When all of these activities can be accomplished through one consolidated digital platform with a user-friendly interface, there is bound to be improved across the organization.
Efficiency in managing a workforce lies at the heart of an efficiently-run organization, and a hospital is no exception. In light of this, having software to streamline employee workflows is central to healthcare management. We will talk about how implementing hospital scheduling software is a good investment and a prudent decision from the perspective of all stakeholders involved.
2. What is Workforce Management Software?
Software almost entirely governs the world we live in. Every industry is permeated by software solutions that help manage vital aspects of day-to-day operations. The same applies to healthcare, and the last decade has seen rapid technology adoption for almost all types of administrative and even some clinical operations. In this section, we will discuss software to manage the workforce at hospitals.
Managing a group of employees is essential for the smooth functioning of an organization. Doing so is not only necessary for the growth of any company, but it also has a direct impact on the quality of its products or services. In the case of the healthcare industry, the services happen to be patient care. Errors in medication and treatment, which are among the leading causes of deterioration of patient health, are said to be caused by overworked medical billing staff at hospitals. Such incidents are estimated to cost the industry billions in terms of liability and loss of reimbursements.
Unlike most other industries, the clinical staff at a hospital might not have the luxury of leaving the office after a 9 to 5 stint. Medical emergencies like accidents, gunshot victims, women going into labor, incidents of heart attacks and cardiac arrests, and so on often force doctors and nurses to stay back to attend to the patients. Additionally, a surgeon who has performed extensive surgery on a patient might not be in a position to make it back at 9 am the next day. In addition to the clinical staff comprising doctors and nurses, staff employed in other roles like verifying insurance, radiology, claims, and pathology might also need to stay back and work longer hours to address emergencies.
So, accommodating these circumstances at a large hospital with multiple departments will become difficult using the conventional pen and paper management method. This is why it is highly important to have a digital solution for healthcare workforce management. This platform provides an aggregated interface with functionalities to monitor the shifts of every employee, the attendance, cases worked on, clinical outcomes of those cases, patient reviews, performance, and so on.
A Healthcare employee scheduling software provides a means of maintaining a detailed overview of human resources. This enables the senior management to keep track of employee activities and govern better. Activities like hospital staff scheduling , periodic appraisals, monitoring staff activities and workflows, payroll, and others can now be done with a few clicks on a screen. Thanks to healthcare interoperability, it is possible to make staff scheduling software for healthcare work seamlessly with other medical platforms to have broader integrated healthcare solutions. Integration with other platforms like appointment scheduling, medical coding, medical billing, medical claims, radiology information system, etc., gives administrators a comprehensive view of the activities of the entire staff – both healthcare providers and non-clinical staff.
One person or a small group can use a medical staff scheduling software and manage HR operations through a single interface. This eliminates the need for physical documentation, manual record-keeping, or other cumbersome processes. Fetching papers and documentation takes a few seconds. Reviewing the in-time and out-time, as well as other employee performance metrics, becomes simplified. To sum it up, healthcare workforce management software goes a long way in streamlining the workflows of medical personnel at hospitals.
3. Benefits of Healthcare Workforce Management Systems
We have seen how important it is to manage human resources at a hospital and the necessity of healthcare workforce optimization. Managing the workforce at medical organizations is best done using relevant software. This section will discuss the benefits of such software solutions and why clinics should invest in them.
As mentioned earlier, hospitals must implement a good software solution to manage their workforce. Treatment effectiveness, especially in emergencies, requires multiple departments, specialists, and nurses working in cohesion to save lives. In light of this, using healthcare workforce optimization software goes a long way in enabling administrators to streamline HR operations. Let’s explore some of the benefits of using this type of software at hospitals –
1. Track Employee Time
This is one of the biggest advantages of using a dedicated medical workforce management software. It is no surprise that hospitals must routinely deal with emergencies or scheduled surgeries that are extensive. So, employees involved in those are likely to deviate from the established routine of 9 to 5 times. A surgeon who must attend to a gunshot wound will likely spend hours in the operating room until the victim is out of danger. In such situations, the available staff might get pulled into the procedure well past their checkout time. This would include the available surgeons and nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists, insurance officials, and probably a pathologist for the blood work.
In light of this, it becomes necessary to note the time of entry and exit for the day and the next day. This is just one example of a situation that interferes with a hospital’s workforces usually scheduled working hours. A medical staff scheduling software enables managers to track this across departments with a few keystrokes and make informed decisions accordingly. Moreover, they can also pull out the records for employees’ in-time and out-time for the whole month or even the entire year. This makes the job of managing significantly more convenient.
Another benefit of such software is the ease of tracking the time taken off by employees. Unsurprisingly, healthcare employees would be prone to burn-out and exhaustion. Multiple shifts, loss of patients during surgeries, working long hours during emergencies, and others are likely to wear down medical staff. So, it becomes important for them to have some days off to recharge and recuperate. Not only is this necessary for their mental health, but it is also important for patient safety as the mental health of the staff would directly impact the quality of care they deliver.
Optimum staffing is a major challenge for companies belonging to almost every industry. When it comes to hospitals, the workload is not predictable or consistent. The senior management at a hospital has no way of knowing when they would need additional staff or when everyone would need to pull a double shift. Incidents like explosions, natural calamities, or a pandemic suddenly result in a sharp increase in patients.
However, the staff requirement experiences periodic increases and decreases during normal times. In light of this, a healthcare workforce management software system helps administrators to figure out the increases and decreases in workforce requirements more accurately. As a result, there is no overstaffing or understaffing. Overstaffing impacts the hospital’s revenues, and understaffing results in overworked staff, jeopardizing the patients’ health.
A hospital scheduling system uses a consolidated interface to enable senior management to deploy their human resources better so that there are enough staff to handle increased workloads but not so much as to cause overstaffing.
3. Efficient Payroll Management
As mentioned earlier, hospitals have no fixed working hours, and many staff members would have to pull multiple or extended shifts to attend to emergencies. Additionally, some might have to work overtime due to a sudden increase in demand. A manual, pen and paper method of calculating the corresponding wages is not only slow and cumbersome but is also prone to errors, especially at large hospitals. But advances in healthcare automation have resulted in healthcare staffing scheduling software being able to factor in all the overtime, sick leaves, and flexible working hours and calculate the exact wages for every staff member.
This is not only faster and free of errors but is also easier on the hospital since it can avoid employing additional staff for accounting.
4. Regulatory Compliance
When it comes to healthcare, most people are aware of the need for HIPAA Compliant Solutions (Health Insurance Portability and Affordability Act). But healthcare, like other industries, also has regulations for ensuring the welfare of employees. This includes everything from adequate leaves, maternity leaves, minimum wages, overtime pay, etc. As mentioned earlier, healthcare workforce management software makes it easier for hospitals to track and monitor the staffing and payroll part of the operations. All the reports about employee working conditions can be aggregated using the software to help prove compliance. Moreover, a customized platform for healthcare workforce management can also be programmed to ensure compliance during staff scheduling.
5. Reduction in Overhead
Managing the human resources at hospitals is a challenge since emergencies can extend the working hours, and the very nature of the working environment doesn’t guarantee 9 to 5 working hours. As mentioned earlier, several situations would extend staff working hours, and taking all of those into account calculating leaves and overtime is important from a human resource management perspective. That is where workforce management software helps streamline activities.
Managing activities at hospitals using pen and paper is not only slow and error-prone but would also incur expenditure in terms of overhead. Hospitals would have to hire additional staff without a digital platform. But medical staffing management software eliminates that need and speeds up the workflow.
As mentioned above, a hospital is a workplace just like a software company or a factory, so it is necessary to manage the staff at a hospital. Managing human resources is just one aspect of day-to-day operations at hospitals, along with handling medical coding, billing, claims, insurance analytics, and overall financial management. So, a platform for health workforce management that can integrate with other medical solutions such as electronic health records help senior administrators better track human resource activities.
Innovations in cloud computing in healthcare have given rise to cloud-based software for medical staff management. This solution eliminates the need to invest in physical infrastructure, dedicated hardware, and an IT team.
4. Features To Watch Out for in Healthcare Management Software
Having a solution to handle hospital human resource activities is highly important. But multiple solutions are available, making it a little difficult to choose one. This section will discuss some of the important features to watch for if you invest in health workforce management software.
There may not be such a thing as the best features to have or a set of ideal features for hospital staffing software. It all depends upon the hospital, its size, and its services. So, it is necessary to know what a hospital needs and choose accordingly. What works for one might not be as well-suited for another. However, there are a few common features that are must-haves for most, if not all, healthcare organizations, whether it is a large hospital or a medium-sized outpatient clinic. Let’s have a look at some of them in detail –
a. User-Friendly Interface
This is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing just about any type of software. A digital platform for managing the workforce at hospitals and clinics has to be easy to use since it is a matter of efficiency and productivity. Effective human resources management is central to smoothly functioning hospital workflows and patient care.
A navigable interface would make it simple to get used to it. One of the major indicators of a good interface is the number of clicks it takes to search for something or navigate from one function to another. Additionally, it also depends on how long the average person gets the hang of things. Features like automatic notifications, task windows, and loading time are other factors that determine how usable software is.
This is an absolute must-have for every type of software, especially enterprise software. Enterprise software is bound to contain confidential information concerning people, including their demographics and financial data. Cybercrime has steadily been on the rise across the globe, and cybercriminals have been getting bolder and more audacious with their cyberattacks. In light of this, ensuring digital security has become ever more important.
Hospitals are bound to have broadly integrated systems composed of multiple software solutions with seamless electronic data exchange. If one of the systems experiences a data breach, it might also compromise others. Government regulations mandate a certain degree of security for such applications, especially in the healthcare industry. Furthermore, hospitals must use solutions that comply with regulations or face steep penalties.
c. Mobile Application
Depending upon the size of the hospital, it would be enormously beneficial if the workforce management software was also mobile-based. Everybody uses a smartphone, and a human resource management platform that can run on smartphones helps streamline operations. There might be times when managers or administrators may have to leave their offices and go elsewhere. During such times, it would help immensely if the HR management solution could run on an Android or iOS smartphone. That way, managers could check messages, access files, view required data, send messages, and complete tasks while on the go. This increases the speed of workflow and boosts the overall productivity of the administrators.
d. Reporting and Analytics
Managers need to know what their workforce has been doing and need a way to measure their performance. One of the best ways to do that is through reporting. Generating detailed reports on various metrics on performance like attendance leaves taken, patient feedback, clinical decision outcomes, quality of care, and so forth shed light on the state of things. A function for generating reports is a vital tool for managers to assess their workforce and make informed decisions about any aspect of workflows.
Additionally, an healthcare analytics or medical informatics feature can process large amounts of business information and reveal vital insights that would not have been obvious to people. Things like the best performing doctor, best-rated doctor, most frequent medical procedure, best paying insurance payer, and others are immediately discernible with a few clicks. It helps the managers know their workforce better, implement strategies to improve where necessary and boost overall efficiency.
Healthcare analytics solutions like these go a long way in helping hospital administrators improve operations. Furthermore, they reveal patterns that might be useful for the healthcare industry. Things like the average age group of people diagnosed with heart disease, correlations between diet and particular diseases, certain diseases and ethnicity, and so on. These help policymakers to devise better population health management strategies.
e. Staff Scheduling
This feature is one of the most coveted for agencies offering a case of home healthcare services and other centers for outpatient services. Just as in larger hospitals, such organizations need to have a schedule for their staff, and it should consider all the factors like overtime, emergency response, or other atypical situations. As mentioned earlier, this feature is important for healthcare workforce planning solutions based on the type of organization. Large hospitals might already have other similar systems in place and probably wouldn’t need this feature exclusively.
But this is a highly important feature, more so if the organization is large with many employees. Some workforce management software also has automatic scheduling functionality. Whether automated or manual, managing the schedules of doctors, nurses, or caretakers of different specialties with a few clicks on a digital platform is fast and convenient. The timings, shifts, and requirements are all readily visible, which makes scheduling easier and more efficient.
f. Integration with Existing Health Systems
As mentioned earlier, the function of being able to integrate with third-party medical solutions is a huge benefit a workforce planning solution could offer. But if you’re planning on investing in one for your hospital, it is necessary to ensure that it can work seamlessly with other medical software already present. Integration with medical coding, billing, and the patient engagement system help improve the hospital’s overall operational efficiency and the quality of patient care.
5. Why Must Hospitals Invest in Workforce Management Software?
We have already seen the benefits of using a software solution to manage the hospital staff and some of the important features of such software. But all types of software have their benefits, so why is it necessary for the healthcare industry to invest in this platform? In this section, we will explore why hospitals, in particular, need to implement software to manage their workforce.
The United States is facing a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals – physicians and nurses. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has estimated that the country could have a shortage of well over one hundred thousand doctors by the end of this decade. Additionally, there are increasing vacancies for nursing jobs throughout the country. Studies and research carried out across hospitals, clinics, and medium-sized ambulatory care centers indicate this problem worsening with each year.
In addition to the clinical staff, the healthcare industry in the United States also employs several non-clinical professionals. These range from medical coders to people assessing insurance claims, following up on them, and relevant financial experts. In light of these problems, the public health situation in the country paints a grim picture. Over 40% of American adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and about the same portion also are said to have suffered from anxiety and depression. Some experts even estimate that about 1 in 5 adults suffer from mental illness.
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated all the problems with American healthcare, from a shortage of professionals to rising care costs.
Additionally, a rapidly aging population needs to be looked after, and senior care in the United States is becoming a serious matter all by itself. Public health experts estimate that tens of millions of seniors will be in the country, and the cost of their care is rapidly increasing every year. So, shortages in staffing coupled with increasing pressures on the healthcare system are bound to increase labor costs. This analysis has been agreed upon by numerous healthcare executives as well as industry analysts.
Moreover, there has been a growing push towards a value-based model of reimbursements, in which providers get paid according to the quality of services they provide, or rather, the patients’ medical outcomes. This is in response to the prevailing “fee for service” model where providers get paid based on the number of services they provide. In other words, they receive healthcare payment for every consultation, test, scan, and treatment.
A push towards value-based reimbursements would undoubtedly put most of the financial risk on the providers.
In addition, telehealth technologies, which became highly popular, have been met with skepticism by payers. Many payers don’t consider virtual care the same as in-person care and refuse to provide full reimbursements.
So, to sum it up, the healthcare industry is facing a sharp rise in costs and a shortage of qualified professionals. A study shows that labor expenses account for nearly 60% of the overall operating cost for medical organizations, and this cost cannot be increased the way it is currently. In other words, efficient staffing has become one of the top priorities for the healthcare industry.
It won’t be a stretch to say that better management of staffing expenses is one of the major concerns for healthcare executives. To this effect, using a healthcare workforce management software platform enables administrators to streamline all the activities concerned with staffing. It empowers them to devise superior recruiting, scheduling, and retention strategies by aggregating all the necessary data and functions into one interface. In the long run, this method significantly reduces employee turnover and optimizes human resource operations.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous benefits to using such software to handle everyday human resources workflows. It reduces operational overhead, greatly improves the management of the staff, and also indirectly impacts the quality of patient care positively. So, using medical staffing software for hospitals is a necessary investment bound to yield dividends in the long run as the industry braces against rapid changes.
6. Health Workforce Management for Homecare Agencies?
As we have mentioned above, senior care is becoming one of the country’s most pressing healthcare challenges. The number of elderly people is growing yearly, and we need innovations to tackle this growing demand. Home healthcare agencies have grown in popularity because they bring care where it is needed, outside clinical environments. We will explore the need for staffing software for such agencies in detail.
There are approximately 55 million people in the United States at 65 years of age or older. In a few short years, any of them will surpass 70. Needless to point out, this age bracket attracts several health complications such as heart disease, loss of sight or hearing, arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, dental problems, and frailty in general. Many seniors live alone or with their spouse, who is most likely to be of the same age group as them. This puts enormous pressure on the relatives as well as the healthcare industry as a whole to handle senior care. The growing costs of care have not made things simple in this regard.
In light of this growing concern over senior care, there has been a surge in organizations offering home care services. Moreover, medical technology has also seen several innovations, such as home-based motion sensors and wearable technologies to detect heart rate, body temperature, etc. But most people prefer an actual person to a device since most seniors tend to be unacquainted with technology and wouldn’t feel comfortable around it. Additionally, seniors are more likely to be seriously injured from a fall, miss out on taking their medications, not show up for physician appointments on time, have problems with transportation, and so on.
So, home health care agencies have begun expanding their staff to offer a wide range of care services. Those range from full-time nurses to physicians who make house calls and professionals specializing in hospice care. So, home healthcare companies need to have a diverse roster of medical professionals to attend to patient needs. As their staff strength increases, so would the overhead associated with managing this staff. This is where good health care staff scheduling software enables the managers to streamline human resource operations.
Unlike a hospital, the patients needing care from such organizations won’t be in one building or even a neighborhood, and they are bound to spread across a large part of a city or wider. This brings up a new set of challenges for staffing managers who need to ensure that a physician tends to all the patients without too much waiting. So, software to manage the workforce of a home health services organization needs to have a set of features that empower managers to track the activities of a remote workforce.
Certain features are essential for such organizations. Let’s have a look at some of them –
I. GPS Tracking of the Staff
The job of home caregivers involves going over to the patients’ houses. The staff must be mobile and cover a considerable distance within a certain time frame. In light of this, the managers need to know the exact location of every staff member so that they might coordinate the activities better.
For example, if a patient needs home healthcare services, the manager could dispatch the doctor or nurse nearest to the patient’s residence. However, suppose that a professional can’t reach the residence for any reason. In that case, it could be a flat tire or some other emergency; the manager can find out his/her exact location to confirm the problem. Subsequently, the manager could look for other doctors/nurses in the vicinity and dispatch them to the patient who needs care.
This form of tracking improves not only operational efficiency but also the quality of care. The patients won’t have to wait too long for a doctor or postpone the appointment. The home care agency can improve customer relations and productivity and enforce staff accountability.
II. Smart Scheduling
This is one feature that every type of healthcare organization would want to use. We have already discussed its necessity for hospitals. But a feature to streamline the scheduling of shifts is perhaps even more important for an organization offering home health care than a hospital. The staff would be in different locations, and it becomes necessary to make sure all of them have a well-planned schedule for every day. This is also where GPS tracking is beneficial.
If there is a sudden need for a house call, it becomes easy to know which doctor or nurse is available and can attend it. This feature enables the management to plan the schedules for their staff before the day begins and send it over to everyone. A single digital interface showing the entire schedule, coupled with everyone’s location, helps better coordination of services and patient care.
III. Time Tracking
This is a vital aspect of efficient management concerning the patients. Each doctor or nurse might need to make multiple daily house calls. So, the time spent on each of those calls might directly impact on the quality of care delivered. So, managers must know how much time the doctor or nurse spends at every house. A very quick house will raise suspicions, and a long one might indicate something serious. Either way, managers can track the time spent, know what their staff did, and even assign a different care provider in case the scheduled one is held up on a house call. Tracking the time is a good tool to assess the quality of care
7. Factors to Consider When Investing in a Healthcare Workforce Management Software
At a time of rapid digitization in most aspects of healthcare, from appointments, medical billing, and medical records management, to administrative operations, the need for a solution to manage the workforce is undeniable. Here, we will discuss some things to consider when buying a digital platform for workforce coordination.
We have already discussed the important features of medical workforce management software. But if you are an executive at a hospital and are looking for such software, there are certain parameters you need to watch out for before making a decision –
A. Company Track Record
A brand’s reputation speaks for itself. Medical coding software technology is a large industry, and there are bound to be multiple companies offering the same type of software. So, it is important to know the company’s track record of the software you are considering buying. A good way to assess this is to know how long they’ve been in business, the background of the leadership, and the customers they’ve sold it to.
Furthermore, you should also visit a hospital where the product is deployed to see how it works and if it will be a good fit for your organization.
B. Custom-Developed Vs. Pre-Developed
A pre-developed software would have most of the features and functions necessary for managing a workforce. It would be relatively cheaper and can be deployed faster since it is readily available. But it won’t match your organization’s needs precisely, and the staff might need some time to get used to it.
On the other hand, a custom-built platform would be tailored to match your needs, making it easier for everyone to get used to it. However, it will be more expensive and require months to develop.
The healthcare industry will face major changes by the need of this decade; with the push for value-based reimbursements and increasing digital adoption, it is more important than ever to have an efficient means of managing the staff at hospitals. A dedicated software empowers managers to coordinate staff workflows better and streamline day-to-day operations. Such a type of software is a prudent investment to make.
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Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.