Simply stated, productivity is the measure of input to output. It is typically tracked to gauge changes in performance over time. The most common way that healthcare organizations assess productivity is through internal comparisons against historical operations.
The recent challenges to and changes in the delivery of healthcare have spotlighted the demand for more enhanced leadership development moving forward. Throughout the pandemic, staff have displayed their resilience and ability to adapt, made possible by the innovative leaders that guided organizations through recovery towards stability without any predetermined path. This “trial by fire” approach was necessary given the unprecedented situation at hand, but has, in hindsight, proven the value of certain traits that need to be cultivated in future leaders.
For most organizations, healthy finances are the pulse by which operations are measured and improvement strategies developed. Fiscal sustainability sets the tone for services and staffing, balancing cost with demand and quality. Though many would argue that employees, namely nurses, are the heart of a hospital or health system, it is truly a strong margin that determines viability.
Long before the pandemic began, a shift started occurring in healthcare; an evolution of the nursing profession that introduced new opportunities to licensed staff, deviating from traditional patient care. While these innovative roles are enticing and serve to strengthen hospital operations by expanding skill sets and meeting previously unaddressed needs, these positions are creating further strain on care delivery. Staff shortages were already plaguing the industry and now nursing advancement is another element that organizations must navigate.
This is a question that many Americans have been asking themselves since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; is it better to stay home and visit with a doctor via a telehealth appointment, or is it worth it to venture into the office for a face-to-face visit? Born of necessity, the rapid expansion of the telehealth platform and its increasing popularity over the last 18 months have revolutionized the way that patients are receiving care. Telehealth appears to be one of the positive and lasting impacts of this mass-scale health crisis, widely adopted by providers as a commonplace treatment option. Though an in-person follow-up visit may eventually be required for some specialties, virtual visits have proven to provide the same level and quality of care as their in-person counterparts.
Demand in healthcare, by nature, can be hard to predict. A fundamental part of care delivery is being prepared for the unexpected, whether that be the effects of a natural disaster, large-scale safety event, or global pandemic. However, that does not mean that daily staffing patterns and annual budgets should be buffered to accommodate the “what-ifs.
You don’t need a leprechaun or the “luck of the Irish” to reap the benefits of a productivity management system. Healthcare organizations across the country are managing their COVID-19 recovery through productivity by appropriately aligning their resources with rebounding patient volumes and current community needs. Productivity initiatives promote high-quality care, cost reduction, patient/employee satisfaction, and sustainability.
Love is in the air, and in healthcare, change is always on the horizon. A focus on productivity and workforce optimization may be part of your organization’s 2021 initiatives, but you may be personally struggling with getting behind the proposed strategies. You are not alone – many industry leaders and professionals have a love/hate relationship with performance improvement.
Many healthcare leaders believe that the term “minimum staffing” is the result of performance improvement initiatives aimed at doing more with less. It is actually a critical component of any department’s operations and should be considered in all productivity strategies and staffing-based decisions. Minimum staffing levels indicate the number of manhours across each job code category in a department, regardless of patient census or workload, necessary to operate safely and efficiently.
In the past five months, we as healthcare professionals have all learned a lot about the human spirit's strength and have been humbled by our ability as an industry to persevere during this crisis. We have also come to realize that COVID-19 is here to stay. This devastating virus is not merely a passing health anomaly that we are working to overcome, but instead a permanent change to which we must adapt.