Top 9 Challenges for Healthcare Facilities and How Your Technology Can Help

October 4, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

Top 9 Challenges for Healthcare Facilities and How Your Technology Can Help

It's no surprise that many current problems in healthcare come down to workforce management. Even in a post-pandemic world, many facilities struggle to meet goals due to less staff in the workforce, high agency costs, evolving regulatory demands, and many other issues. In long-term care specifically, a concerning 61% of assisted living facilities and 78% of nursing homes worry that workforce challenges might force them to close.

If your facility is also concerned about these challenges, you might be reconsidering your technology. One popular workforce management platform is Kronos, but this solution wasn't built specifically for healthcare facilities and often can't meet the unique needs of these organizations. Smartlinx is a Kronos alternative that's packed with features to address the current problems with healthcare facilities. Let's look at some of the top healthcare management problems and their solutions and how Smartlinx can help you reach your goals.

1. Overtime and Staff Cost Management

Nearly every nursing home and assisted living community in America is asking staff to work overtime or pick up extra shifts. About 70% of them have had to hire agency staff to fill the gaps. Of course, the direct costs of these requirements are costly for the facilities, but they also pose problems for workers and residents, who might receive lower-quality care from overworked staff.

Another significant cost of staffing is the time spent on scheduling. Organizing team members across multiple facilities, diverse census demands, and worker availability can be time-consuming and pull administrators away from more valuable tasks.

Both Smartlinx and Kronos allow you to generate staff schedules in advance. However, Smartlinx comes with several healthcare-specific tools to minimize overtime and respond to real-time updates on demand. Smartlinx can:

  • Optimize schedules in real time, across multiple facilities, according to the resident census, resident acuity, hours per patient day, and service changes.
  • Automatically identify true staffing gaps and overstaffing in real time, including planned and unplanned changes.
  • Provide real-time analytics tools to show you where your labor budget is going and help you identify opportunities.

Smartlinx has a proven track record of reducing overtime and labor costs for healthcare facilities. Excelerate Healthcare Solutions reduced overtime by 30% and decreased overall labor costs by 15% with the platform. Another client, the Parker Jewish Institute, saved over six figures on overtime costs alone.

2. Staffing and Agency Utilization

Part of the equation of high labor costs is the need for agency staff. Agency staff is often necessary to fill empty shifts, but that process can be labor intensive and error-prone since the facility cycles through new workers each day. Yet these staff members can be mission-critical in maintaining your standards of care and avoiding compliance penalties.

Many facilities also struggle with assigning the right people to shifts. For example, you may need to ensure you always have a staff member working who is licensed or certified in a particular skill. Maybe you have a high-acuity patient who could benefit from a nurse experienced with their condition. Even if this alignment isn't necessary for compliance, it can improve the quality of care and worker satisfaction.

With smarter staffing tools, you can access schedules in real-time and maximize the value of your full-time staff. Smartlinx boosts visibility for your entire staffing ecosystem, so you can make better business decisions for your largest business expense and rein in agency spending.

Smartlinx can immediately identify and recommend the most qualified workers to fill open shifts based on skill, overtime status, company policies, and other criteria. It offers responsive, real-time solutions to staffing issues by tracking their responses and updating schedules. When you do need agency staff, access to the Smartlinx Staffing Marketplace can help you fill shifts faster from the largest agencies on the market.

2. Staffing and Agency Utilization

3. Staff Turnover

Turnover is rampant in all parts of the healthcare industry. Nearly a third of hospitals anticipated critical staffing shortages in January 2022. Turnover is one of the biggest current challenges in nursing, with solutions that need to come from many angles.

While workers leave the industry for many reasons, some of the most prominent include increased stress due to understaffing, high caseloads, poor work environments, absenteeism from co-workers, and a lack of workplace support. All this stress can contribute to burnout, which is associated with diminished work performance and job satisfaction and higher turnover rates.

As you build a supportive workplace that minimizes stress, burnout, and turnover, your staffing solutions can make a big difference. You can create a well-staffed environment and provide tools for better communication and convenience.

You can also offer flexibility. Considering over 61% of workers look for well-being and work-life balance in their employer, flexible options can be useful retention strategies. Smartlinx, for example, might allow a working parent with a sick child to call in from their phone before their shift, automatically notifying other workers. A free staff member can pick up the shift quickly in a streamlined, convenient solution that reduces stress for everyone involved.

By improving coverage and eliminating challenges related to schedule management, your team can enjoy a less stressful workplace overall, and you can tackle one of the biggest contributors to burnout.

4. Staff Engagement

Staff Engagement

For similar reasons, staff engagement is also a pressing problem with considerable ramifications, especially for assisted living facilities. Businesses with engaged staff members see 41% less absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. They also have workers who are more likely to stick around, achieving 59% less turnover. Healthcare is an industry that relies on positive relationships between patients and staff, and disengaged workers can affect the quality of care.

Both Kronos and Smartlinx offer staff mobile access to their schedules. Smartlinx goes further to boost engagement in areas like:

  • Shift management: The Smartlinx platform automatically notifies workers when open shifts become available, paid time-off requests are submitted, and other workers respond—all through their preferred method of communication. Smartlinx also allows workers to sign up for open shifts and swap shifts with other team members at any time.
  • Benefits administration: Smartlinx can boost engagement through easy benefits administration. You can focus on delivering better benefits with a streamlined administration resource, and workers can enjoy quick, intuitive self-service tools to set up and manage benefits from anywhere.
  • The interview and onboarding processes: As the first interaction many workers will have with your organization, hiring should present a smooth experience that gives applicants confidence in their potential workplace. The Smartlinx applicant tracking system (ATS) can help you easily manage applicants, ensuring no one slips through the cracks and interviews are neatly organized. When it's time to onboard, that process goes smoothly, too, all from within an integrated system.

5. Workforce Quality Compliance and Avoiding Penalties

Healthcare facilities must meet various compliance demands, from staffing minimums to reduced hospital readmission rates and reporting requirements. Without clear tools for meeting these requirements or proving compliance, you might face significant fines or a reduced rating that can affect your ability to attract and serve residents. Manually compiling this compliance information is both time-consuming and prone to error. It also calls for a robust data management system that ensures you can access documentation immediately if asked to prove your performance to a regulator.

Although both Kronos and Smartlinx can generate quarterly payroll-based journal (PBJ) reports, Smartlinx also automatically collects and classifies staffing information required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). You can quickly and easily generate reports to show compliance with all federal and state regulations. These reports can cover any period and facility, including overnight shifts and contractor hours, and are 100% compliant with CMS formatting standards for painless submission processes.

Since regulators usually need to see reports with a quick turnaround, on-demand, audit-ready reports allow you to prove compliance immediately. One Smartlinx user, Greek American Rehabilitation & Care Centre, was able to do just that and show compliance to regulators right away, wiping the complaint away within 15 minutes.

While federal and state compliance is essential, quality care and documentation can also help you avoid liability issues that might come from negligence claims. No one wants to be on the receiving end of these allegations, and proper staffing can help you minimize risk while protecting yourself with thorough recordkeeping.

6. 5-Star CMS Rating Governance

Long-term care (LTC) facilities rely on their CMS star rating to prove the quality of their work. CMS announced an update to the star rating system in July 2022 to encompass more data on staffing and turnover. These ratings now include the number of nurse hours per resident per day, staffing hours per resident per day on weekends, total and registered nurse staff turnover within a given year, and the number of administrators who have left a nursing home within a given year.

With such a heavy interest in staffing, a change to workforce management strategies is more important than ever. Kronos is a broad system designed for all kinds of workplaces, so it does not offer insight into this vital part of LTC facility operations. Smartlinx helps you stay on top of your rating and provides actionable tips for improving it. The platform predicts your star rating in real time by automatically analyzing hourly staffing data and CMS calculations. It identifies staffing issues that could adversely impact your rating and proactively recommends steps to fix those issues to protect and improve your rating.

7. Preparing for Future Demands

By 2030, all baby boomers will be over 65 years old. Since this is the second-largest age group behind millennials, the older population will likely strain healthcare facilities significantly, especially if staffing problems don't resolve. These facilities need to prepare for high-acuity, high-volume census demands. Many facilities have already had to limit admissions due to staffing issues, which can impact revenue streams and further compound workforce problems.

To prepare for these growing populations, facilities must prioritize workforce management, such as achieving low turnover rates and well-aligned schedules. Smartlinx tools can help you build fully staffed shifts, retain workers, and achieve high-quality, profitable care delivery. Kronos has several scheduling tools, but they're not targeted to a healthcare facility's specific needs and changing requirements.

Preparing for Future Demands

Another looming issue for any healthcare organization is the evolving nature of regulations and reimbursement policies. As these topics change, Smartlinx can help you prepare for what's next through comprehensive documentation and clear audit trails, complete with source data and processing history.

8. Profitability

Limited admissions, high staffing costs, and low Medicaid reimbursements all contribute to the financial challenges facing healthcare care facilities. Of course, these problems are complex, but improving your workforce management can help address some of the most pressing issues. Reducing staffing costs can free up more revenue to limit the impact of low reimbursements, while higher retention helps you stay fully staffed and eliminate the need to cap admissions.

When many facilities are concerned about closing their doors due to rising expenses and unsustainable revenue models, profitability is vital. Kronos might help with some elements of workforce management, but Smartlinx can help you optimize your workforce specifically for the healthcare environment. It can help you cultivate a profitable facility with high-quality care, easy compliance, and an efficient, engaged team.

9. Intuitive Technology

Healthcare tends to lag in technology adoption, but modern solutions can help significantly. Administrators have a lot on their plates. Streamlining scheduling, report generation, benefits management, and other operational aspects can free up countless hours for more valuable initiatives.

By placing all these tools into one integrated piece of technology for all types of healthcare facilities, Smartlinx offers a solution that's easy to use, implement, and understand, eliminating the need to hop between applications to get the job done. We also provide unparalleled support services—including deployment, training, support, and optimization—so you can maximize your return on investment and make the most of your software. Our team is highly knowledgeable in the healthcare industry, so we're ready to help you reach your facility's unique goals.

Lastly, one of the most significant barriers to technology is security. Built for the healthcare industry's strict standards for data quality, Smartlinx abides by robust security protocols and tools to keep your organizational data safe.

The Ideal Kronos Alternative for Healthcare Facilities

The Ideal Kronos Alternative for Healthcare Facilities

Workforce challenges continue to threaten the success of healthcare organizations and reduce the quality of care they can deliver. We made Smartlinx to combat those problems. Whether your priority is reducing labor costs, optimizing your schedules, staying compliant, or something else, Smartlinx has the tools to help.

Kronos is an appropriate solution for many businesses, but long-term care facilities and hospitals are unique—shouldn't their technology be unique, too? Smartlinx addresses the distinct environments and problems present in healthcare settings so you can meet your goals. Reach out to us today to request a demo and see everything Smartlinx has to offer!

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