What does “Best Practice” mean in the healthcare environment? Just as in any other field, “Best Practice” is the commitment to using all the knowledge, processes, data, and technology at one’s disposal to ensure success. However, let’s take that one step further and note that this success must be realized in the most efficient manner possible to make a difference to your organization’s bottom line. Controlling costs through the proper utilization of resources and minimization of waste are ways that hospitals and health systems are achieving “Best Practice” status. Below are ten effective Workforce Optimization strategies that we have helped healthcare leaders implement to manage labor and control costs.
1) Communicate, communicate, communicate!!
For any improvement initiative to be successful, all key participants (management, physicians, staff, etc.) need to be on the same page. Routine communication is essential to ensuring buy-in, proper execution, and desired outcomes.
2) Challenge the status quo to accomplish things differently.
A forward-thinking attitude is often the impetus behind the most effective cost containment strategies.
3) Reach out to peers/industry resources for benchmarks, feedback and/or alternative solutions.
There is no harm in asking for help! A fresh perspective can lead to the discovery of new and existing opportunities for sustained improvement. Understanding how others are performing only leads to opportunities that you can share with your staff to optimize your workforce. Internal and external analysis leads to the identification of the priorities for your improvement efforts.
4) Examine all practices/policies to validate necessity.
Eliminate the “that’s what we’ve always done” mentality by determining if current operations are still effective or merely remnants from past, now antiquated, processes
5) Develop alternatives to the existing systems to encourage innovation and improvement.
Your staff is your greatest asset. Involve them in brainstorming news ways to approach care delivery and overall operations. No one knows the business better than those at the forefront.
6) Be visible/accessible to staff and solicit input.
Controlling costs and maximizing efficiency is not something that can be done alone – it takes a village! Show your managers, staff, physicians, etc. the importance of the proposed initiatives through your direct efforts and challenge them to be your partners in implementing positive change.
7) Develop good hiring practices!
Build a strong, skilled team that is the appropriate size to effectively and safely provide high-quality care to the population served. Seek out those with attributes that will help to propel the organization forward by effecting necessary change.
8) Set uniform expectations for all staff.
Accountability is the driving force behind the success of any improvement endeavor. By setting realistic expectations and implementing goal-enforcement tactics such as routine progress tracking and achievement recognition, staff will be motivated to think things through.
9) Manage the manageable!
There are many things that healthcare leaders have little control over. Labor expense is not one of them! Ensure you are properly flexing staff to volume, have the right skill mix, are utilizing staff to their full capacity, and are approving/monitoring all overtime. Missed opportunities to staff effectively can add up!
10) Change comes slowly, be patient and steadfast.
In the healthcare business, good things don’t necessarily come to those that wait! Be proactive; be the change agent, and set improvement and cost control strategies in motion. The results may not be realized quickly or without effort, but the effects will be lasting. Making just one or two small changes each month in every department in your facility will have a dramatic compounding impact on your financial, operational, and quality performance.