Solving Healthcare’s Biggest Headache
How Acuity-based staffing can heal your workforce woes.
Imagine a busy hospital.
Hospitals can be a hotbed of stress for patients and nurses alike.
Could this be because healthcare facilities face an uphill battle with unique challenges?
- Hospitals face economic pressure to admit only the sickest patients
- Budget constraints press for early discharge
- Poor communication affects patients, clinical staff, and ancillary staff
- Rushed nurses are pulled between clinical and clerical chores
There’s something brutal about a modern high-tech hospital, especially when the technology is not seamlessly integrated into hospital operations. But, while technology is part of the problem, it is also healthcare’s ultimate solution.
It’s no secret. Big data is shaking up the way hospitals serve patients.
Why Invest in Acuity Data
Acuity is defined as “the measurement of the intensity of nursing care required by a patient. An acuity-based staffing system regulates the number of nurses on a shift according to the patient’s needs.”
In today’s increasingly competitive healthcare environment, data creates better results. Amid ongoing demands to do more with less, hospitals face a shortage of their primary resource – nurses.
Here are some constant problems that test a healthcare organization’s resources:
- Value-based care links hospital compensation to patient outcomes
- Healthcare facilities face escalating safe staffing legislation nationwide
- Patient outcomes rely on data-driven staffing decisions
- Length of stay, readmission rates, and mortality rates are all impacted by staffing
One goal shared by nursing executives and financial officers is finding solutions to improve staffing and scheduling. Acuity-based staffing is a valuable tool nurse leaders can offer chief financial officers. The system’s value lies in driving better clinical outcomes while boosting the bottom line.
Patient acuity data is employed to manage patient care outcomes and healthcare outlays. The same data can be used to define staff distribution. Acuity-based staffing puts the right nurse in the right place at the right time.
Despite uncertainties in the healthcare landscape, finance and nursing executives can still control the cost of labor. Any outlay on labor is an outlay on quality. Still, hospitals need a better bang for their buck.
Healthcare organizations are all about enhancing the quality of safety and patient outcome.
As the healthcare industry moves forward, the need for functional, acuity-based staffing solutions will grow. Healthcare reform ties a hospital’s bottom line directly to patient outcomes.
Acuity-based staffing is nothing new; the concept has been around for years. Most healthcare professionals know about it, but few have seen it successfully executed.
What charge nurse hasn’t had a deluge of unanticipated patient discharges in their unit? Empty beds and idle nurses mean lost labor costs. While nurses wait, no one can guarantee that new patients will arrive during their shifts. Action is needed to avoid an escalation in costs.
So much for a carefully constructed staffing plan! Spur of the moment changes can only do so much. Nurses must be re-assigned to short-staffed units; nurses are sent home. Somehow, it all works out. But the process is harder and more expensive than it needs to be.
Over time, scheduling problems frustrate nursing professionals and contribute to staff turnover.
According to Danielle Miller, Ph.D. (c), MSN, RNC-OB, “Ideal scheduling and acuity-based staffing are linked to operational and clinical excellence. By leveraging technology, you’ll be able to provide high-quality care to patients while being fiscally responsible to your organization. And the challenges are likely to grow, since our ability to schedule and staff appropriately is crucial as we transition from fee-for-service to a value-based care delivery model in healthcare organizations across the globe.”
It’s not only a question of getting the ratio right. Staffing and scheduling failures can be weighed not just in dollars but also human lives.
As Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, FAAN says in this report, “Positive clinical and operational outcomes linked to acuity-based staffing include decreases in mortality, adverse outcomes, and lengths of stay. Acuity-based systems maximize patient and nursing outcomes through enhanced decision making, improved operational outcomes, and improved nurse and patient satisfaction – all while boosting financial performance through lower cost.”
Patient acuity systems have been around for many years. The earlier systems relied on extra work by nurses and gave subjective results. When every patient was labeled “high needs,” charge nurses were reluctant to alter staffing.
For industry experts, patient acuity is a critical element of nurse staffing. Using acuity-based staffing methods improves patient outcomes and increases nurse satisfaction. Here are ten ways technology is transforming healthcare for the better:
- Giving objective, effective, and dependable acuity scores that inform staffing decisions
- Delivering real-time, actionable information on safe staffing
- Letting nurses clearly assess patient acuity, stability, and progress
- Focusing nursing assignments on continuity of care, nursing skills, and work environment
- Using reports to predict patients’ potential needs
- Allowing staffing gaps to be filled
- Assessing the financial impact of split-second decisions
- Improving team communication
- Delivering the best patient care possible
- Balancing nurses’ caseloads through acuity-based analysis
Nurses can align demand for care and hours worked with nursing-specific quality practices.
An acuity-based staffing system delivers accuracy and precision in staffing. The implementation allows for positive patient outcomes while providing cost-effective scheduling.
Healthcare’s Bottom Line
The largest percentage of a hospital’s operating costs goes into labor. The bottom line reflects every small improvement in the labor-to-revenue ratio.
Acuity-based staffing does away with the Excel spreadsheets used to manage staff scheduling and resources in the past. It ferrets out gaps and overages to ensure the best possible care for each patient. Finally, it improves communication between staffing and resource teams.
Utilizing this technology allows hospitals to regulate the timeframe for shifts and eradicate errors in shift allocation. Apart from the significant time savings in administration, the system can keep track of nurse overtime.
One Solution, Two Ways
Any facility using spreadsheets for staff scheduling will face unnecessary administrative work. Upgrading to a workforce management system will revolutionize staffing operations. And by saving time and adding transparency, staff satisfaction will be increased.
The implementation of workforce management solutions vastly reduces the use of agency nurses and allied overtime expenses.
Integrating an Electronic Medical Record system is one economical solution requiring negligible IT assistance. With Time and Attendance data implementation, an organization gains a host of benefits. Get faster, well-informed decisions at your fingertips with its easy setup and simple data input.
Acuity-based staffing will streamline your existing operation, simplify staffing, and reduce operating costs. It also has many other benefits, such as:
- It improves productivity management
- It eliminates stand-alone staffing management solutions
- The system can be shared across multiple departments and locations
There is a future where nurses will be recognized for the value of their contributions. The technology is here to measure the connection between investments in nursing care and better patient outcomes.
With balanced workloads, nurses have an opportunity to make a real difference. Pairing the right nurse with the right patient benefits both sides. Nursing is no longer an economic conundrum but becomes an investment in quality patient care.