Summertime – the season in which we want to be our leanest and fittest. Most healthcare organizations are coming off winter and spring with a “reserve” of productivity that was built up during higher volume months. Unless proactively managed, these summer volume slumps can put hospitals at risk financially. The combination of variability in volume, high vacation utilization, and premium expenses can lead to large labor variances.
Although many organizations believe high, non-productive usage is the key catalyst of inefficiencies, the real culprit is backfilling for those team members without the volume to support it. If positions are backfilled appropriately, summer months can actually act as a “productivity lift.” The goal is to meet or exceed Worked Hours Per Unit of Service (WHPUOS) while minimizing the damage to the Cost Per Unit of Service (Cost/UOS). Here are some tips to stay lean and mean during the summer months.
Create and assess schedules to arrive at budgeted FTEs relative to summer volumes.
Impact Advisors offers a proprietary Daily Productivity Checkbook that allows leaders to proactively manage their productivity daily. Additionally, it charts hours and volume trends by day of the week and by quarter of the year. Leaders are empowered to see on which days of the week they are optimally staffed and where opportunities for better alignment exist.
If summer volume is expected to dip by 5-10%, the drop in FTEs from base should correspond. Critically assess which positions truly need to be backfilled when staff go on vacation. When Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day roll around, let your staff enjoy the holiday and, to the degree that it’s possible, don’t backfill.
Assess workload arrival patterns.
In addition to reducing FTEs to respond to drops in summer volume, staff schedules need to be optimized to correspond with when the volume arrives. Assess patterns by time of day and by day of the week and align staff schedules. Impact Advisors’ proprietary Scheduler tool can help optimize staffing to volume daily.
When volumes soften, critically evaluate the use of premium spending.
Agency (2 x budgeted rate) should be the first to go followed by overtime (1.5 x budgeted rate). FTEs working over their hire basis (not overtime, rather over their hire status) should also be evaluated. When a department is running over on paid hours and volumes are down, premium spending should not be used. Impact Advisors’ Position Control tool ensures that organizations are hired to the appropriate levels to support volumes.
Find the right combination of full and part-time to ensure elasticity.
How flexible is your current staffing configuration? Is your organization able to adapt to variability in volume? Each staff turnover is an opportunity to critically evaluate that position. Do you have the right complement of Per Diems, Part-time, and Full-time employees to effectively adjust to volume fluctuations?
By following these simple tips, your organization should be able to keep the “weight” off during the summer. If you are interested in more workforce management information or a free assessment regarding your organization’s opportunity, please contact Dave LeClercq.
Contributors: Betsie Sassen, R.N., M.S.N, Maggie Mahowald, Brinkley Gary