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How Workforce Management Software Saves Hospitals Time and Money

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There has been a great deal of talk about the results of a late 2009 Harvard study -- " Hospital Computing and the Costs and Quality of Care: A National Study, " by David Himmelstein, MD, et al -- that concluded, according to its cover abstract, that "hospital computing might modestly improve process measures of quality but does not reduce administrative or overall costs." Some commentators, particularly those who don't seem to have read the entire study, have taken this to mean that that workforce management software and other hospital computing initiatives do not work. However, this is not what the study's authors say, and Workforce Management Solutions are never mentioned specifically. If you dig a bit, though, you can find clues as to how Workforce Management Solutions save hospitals time and money.

Despite "nurse staffing," "personnel management" and "staff scheduling" being only three of two dozen "computer applications" the study scored, the Harvard study is cited as proof that "hospital computing" is a failure, in all departments. Not so. Discussing the study with " Computerworld " magazine in December 2009, Himmelstein, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, mentioned three specific hospitals where new systems resulted in both "savings and increased efficiency." How so? The hospital and its vendors worked to customize the systems to their particular needs, not a revolutionary idea by any means.

Learning the right lesson

When the report mentioned examples of "success in deploying efficient e-health systems," it explained the positive outcomes were achieved "because they were intuitive" and designed with sensitivity to the people who would use the systems. Again, this is not a new idea in business, and any first-rate Workforce Management Solutions should be customized to the intended use -- and intended users.

The actual conclusion of the report should be more along the lines of, "Don't expect hospital computing systems to save you time and money without customizing them and making them intuitive." Although the report did not break out any results of the study dealing specifically with workforce management software, it is being trumpeted by some as a debunking of the "myth of computer efficiency." Again, the areas under study were not primarily staffing or personnel, but clinical interactions between and among doctors, nurses, patients and, rarely, administrators.

The reality

Workforce Management Solutions do not have to be part of some overarching, system-wide hospital computing solution. It can be integrated into these larger systems, certainly, but can also be deployed on a departmental level. Workforce Management Solutions vendors understand the need to centralize management of personnel to achieve financial, administrative and customer-service goals. All top-ranked Workforce Management Solutions vendors have flexible, customizable programs that can be tailored to specific situations, according to your unique staffing needs and objectives. You will get an efficient, centralized Workforce Management Solutions as well as the flexibility to select the precise service options your organization requires. No one in the Workforce Management Solutions business would ever recommend a "one size fits all" so-called solution.

Various kinds of managed services programs offer the freedom to combine, streamline, and automate the many administrative and operational steps required in a busy, multi-vendor staffing environment. Workforce Management Solutions cannot be expected to work well without staffing management professionals providing you with customizable service and technology solutions. There are numerous ways in which Workforce Management Solutions can improve operations, measure clinical performance and reveal the true (often controllable) costs of the hospital staffing function.

Benefits of Workforce Management Solutions

In addition to simplifying the communications with staffing vendors, a customized Workforce Management Solutions can expand your access to the pool -- from regional to international -- of qualified, high-quality candidates. Once you have tailored the Workforce Management Solution you will be able to standardize your approach, including quality control measures, across your entire contractor database. All of this adds up to streamlined, money- and time-saving personnel processes, including matching up candidates, scheduling and summarizing interviews, making hire decisions and tracking the new employee.

The obvious administrative benefits also pay off with Workforce Management Solutions, starting with centralized records, billing, reporting and cost control. With a customized Workforce Management Solution, you can better "see" what is happening with staffing, while tracking compliance and performance of valued vendors. With better, more accurate and up-to-the-minute information -- quality business intelligence, you might say -- better decisions are made and less waste is realized. Don't let anyone tell you that, "Harvard proved hospital computing doesn't work." It does -- as soon as you stop expecting pre-packaged solutions to work, and realize that customizing a Workforce Management Solution is the only way to go. It would be interesting to see Harvard study a little more of what was going on in the places they found "hospital computing" to be working. It's a safe bet that Workforce Management Solutions are part of the solution, as it can be for you.