Staffing Quotas

Myth vs. Fact

There is a widespread belief that staffing quotas, on their own, are the only way to plan for patient load. Yet, without automatic error-checking or additional forecasting capabilities, this approach will always come up short. (See: Does Your Physician Scheduling Software Count Quotas?)

Compared to full patient demand forecasting technology, relying solely on manually-enforced staffing quotas is like practicing medicine in the Dark Ages. By increasing the likelihood of short-staffing, inappropriate staffing, and unutilized space, manually-enforced quotas have a direct and negative impact on practice efficiency.

Nevertheless, belief in manual enforcement of quotas abounds. So, to counteract that belief, here are the five major myths medical practices have about staffing quotas – and the myth-busting facts that set the record straight.

Myth 1: Staffing Quotas Don’t Require Automation

The assumption that staffing quotas, tallied in a spreadsheet or, worse, kept only in the scheduler’s head, are sufficient is not generally based on an actual review of the evidence. In fact, most medical practices have never seen any technology used in conjunction with quotas, so they lack a valid comparison. As a result, manually-enforced staffing quotas are simply accepted as normal and never questioned.

In reality, automating the enforcement of staffing quotas by using patient demand forecasting software is a stronger method for ensuring sufficient coverage is provided. It also allows credentialing to be more appropriately matched to cases. Instead of using a “best guess” approach to scheduling, case needs can be correctly aligned with staffing resources.

Myth 2: Getting the Credentialing Mix Wrong is No Big Deal

The prevailing belief in many medical practices is that, if staffing quotas are not sufficient on any given day, someone can always be called in to work overtime, or a locum can be hired. Since it is so easy to fix, why worry about it?

The truth is, however, that those fixes are not so easy, after all. Overtime costs are a frequent factor in straining a department’s budget, and locums are notoriously pricey for a practice to rely on regularly.

Myth 3: An Unutilized Room Doesn’t Cost Anything

This myth is one of the most striking, as it shows a vast disconnect between perceptions and realities of running a healthcare organization. Yet, empty rooms are not just empty space – in fact, they are lost opportunities and lost revenue.

To be efficient, all resources – including rooms – need to be utilized as effectively as possible. Practices having financial difficulties while leaving space underutilized are not doing themselves any favors.

Myth 4: A Best Guess is Good Enough

There is a perception that reworking the staffing mix based on patient demand does not need to be done continuously, as a rough estimate is considered sufficient. However, most practices go through countless revisions of every schedule they build.

The truth is that patient load changes frequently, as does staff availability. It is just good sense to revise staffing levels in real-time, as patient demand changes.

Myth 5: Spreadsheets Work Just Fine

Spreadsheets are frequently used to coordinate staffing with patient demand. Yet, spreadsheets are unable to pull in data in real-time from either EHR or case scheduling systems. Worse, they need to be physically posted or manually emailed every time a revision is made.

The result is an ineffective, error-prone system, which is wholly unnecessary in the face of existing alternatives. Options now exist that can stream patient data directly from existing systems. In addition, mobile and cloud-based technologies are much better equipped to convey updates to providers immediately, and reliably.

Facts about Patient Demand Forecasting Technology

Staffing quotas serve as a useful guideline, allowing practices to build fair schedules well in advance. However, it is only with patient demand forecasting technology that practices are able to fine-tune their staffing as each week unfolds, to meet actual patient demand.

Forecasting technology syncs real-time patient information with the staff schedule. The result is improved staff and space utilization, as well as improved provider communications – leading to a level of practice efficiency that is leaps and bounds ahead of traditional, manual-enforcement of staffing quotas.

This post is an excerpt from the OpenTempo report on Patient Demand Forecasting.