5 Ways to Simplify Workforce Management for Long-Term Care

April 18, 2022 Lynne Jackson

5 Ways to Simplify Workforce Management for Long-Term Care

Managing a long-term care or post-acute facility is enormously difficult, especially during a pandemic.  You face numerous challenges everyday as you strive to provide quality resident care.

Labor costs continue to rise while operating margins shrink. Regulations change and force you to modify business practices. Meanwhile you struggle to keep the right nurses in the right positions, three shifts a day, every  day…because you know that’s what your residents need. 

Well there’s good news. Simplifying workforce management efforts can help you better manage your long-term care facility, reduce labor costs, and achieve your desired staffing levels. Learn How SmartLinx Supports Senior Care Facilities Fighting COVID-19.

Try these five practices and see how your workforce management efforts become easier and more effective.  

1. Schedule proactively

Before workforce management took hold in post-acute and long-term care facilities, nurses retrieved their schedules by looking at paper spreadsheets administrators manually filled out and posted on a bulletin board. In today’s fast-paced facility, static schedules quickly become obsolete because they can’t adjust to all the changes long-term care facilities need.

Proactive scheduling not only eases the scheduling burden but can also anticipate and adjust to changes—automatically. To achieve this, you must look beyond standard workforce management technology to find the scheduling capabilities tailored for long-term care environments.

With tailored workforce management capabilities, you can create nurse schedules for multiple facilities in moments. The software proactively defines the appropriate staffing level based on the number of residents, their changing healthcare needs (acuity), and regulatory demands. For example, SmartLinx workforce management deploys daily unit assignment capability to streamline scheduling changes and automatically adjusts to changing patient-per-day (PPD) census values.

 “The amount of time saved on scheduling has allowed our manager s to dedicate more time to our residents,” said Amanda Todd Blaney, Director of Human Resources, Spring Valley Senior Living.

With proactive scheduling, your workforce management system can customize schedules for your resident population and their changing medical needs. See how Trilogy optimized schedules for 110 facilities. The nurse schedules will also staff your facilities to comply with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirements and internal policies, such as union rules. 

2. Empower employees to close scheduling gaps

Life happens. Even the most proactive schedules can’t prevent sudden openings when employees call out sick or arrive late.

To avoid shortfalls, some long-term care facilities overstaff while others rally employees to work overtime or call in agency workers to fill the void. These common practices cause labor costs to soar and can diminish the quality of resident care.

After all, excessive overtime will burn out the most dedicated employees, forcing them to give less than their best care. Meanwhile agency staff do not know your residents like your nurses do and are therefore less likely to form nurturing bonds with residents.

How to get the most out of your workers

The good news is long-term care and post-acute care facilities have an untapped resource at their fingertips…their employee base. The right workforce management system empowers employees to close scheduling gaps quickly while improving employee engagement in the process.

To work effectively, the workforce management system should give workers real-time access to current employee schedules on their mobile device. Using a mobile app that’s integrated with the workforce management system helps employees manage their schedule, balance work-life responsibilities and even close scheduling gaps.

Promoting self-scheduling

Nurses can make scheduling changes on the fly. In moments, employees can check their schedule, determine what shifts work for them and which don’t. They can use the mobile app to request PTO and even swap shifts with co-workers. They can even check how much PTO they have left before requesting a day off.  The workforce management app helps them explore their options. It provides a list of co-workers available to work the shift they can’t and initiates a swap shift request…all on the mobile app.

The mobile app also helps employees pick up extra hours by replying to open shift and swap shift requests. In addition, real-time access to scheduling changes helps keep employees in the right place and time since they can use their mobile device to quickly check their schedule and receive scheduling updates.

Management can approve or reject shift swaps and PTO requests and can notify employees immediately in their preferred method, such as a mobile app notification, email or text message.

3. Integrate live scheduling and attendance data 

When your workforce management system keeps you constantly connected to live scheduling and attendance data, you can quickly identify and stop problems before they impact your residents or your bottom line.

Most workforce management systems share scheduling and attendance data through periodic batch reports. This method forces you to dig through reports to find and analyze trends. Even worse, you won’t find problems until after they happened when it’s too late to minimize the damage.

However, since it’s designed especially for long-term care facilities, SmartLinx workforce management system provides real-time scheduling and attendance information to help you address problems when they happen. You’ll know the moment an employee clocks into work and receive alerts when a scheduled employee doesn’t clock in on time or calls out sick.

Use workforce management to fill open shifts

Filling open shifts is easy when your workforce management system not only notifies you of openings when they happen but also presents a list of qualified employees available to fill them. The most effective workforce management system presents real-time intelligence to inform your decisions.

For example, SmartLinx helps you avoid costly overtime by filtering available workers according to their qualifications, hours worked, and organizational policies. With the click of a mouse, administrators can offer an open shift to qualified workers who will not incur overtime hours. The employees receive the shift request instantly on their mobile device, via text message, voicemail, email or in-app notification. See how Oriole Health Care reduced overtime costs by 25% in less than three months.

Resolve attendance problems

Late punches, buddy punches, and missed punches make enforcing attendance difficult. Integrated workforce management can help by exposing attendance problems as they happen and help you access the underlying cause. SmartLinx tracks the key performance indicators (KPIs) important to long-term care operators and sends automatic alerts when as soon a threshold is crossed.

However, you don’t have to wait for performance alerts. You can open the color-coded dashboard to view KPIs of all your facilities in real-time and easily drill down for detailed information.

By integrating workforce attendance and scheduling data, long-term care facilities can quickly:

  • Ascertain gaps in coverage.
  • Create strategies to reduce overtime.
  • Improve payroll accuracy.
  • Address chronic policy violations.

4. Implement real-time compliance tracking and reporting

For long-term care operators, compliance is always top of mind. Some workforce management systems put the burden of collecting compliance data and creating Payroll-Based Journal reports on administrators. This process can take days or weeks every quarter.

When you integrate compliance reporting into your workforce management solution, you can reduce this tedious process to minutes. Watch how one long-term care provider reduced PBJ reporting to two minutes.

Innovative systems, like SmartLinx, optimize compliance reporting by integrating compliance tracking with scheduling and attendance functions. You can simply access the color-coded dashboard to track compliance across all your facilities simultaneously and push a button to generate a report.

Passing compliance inspections with ease

Producing compliance reports that meet the quarterly deadline alone won’t help you pass a compliance inspection. State and federal regulators want auditable processes. Unfortunately, most workforce management systems follow traditional report collection and submission practices that lack auditability.

Integrating real-time compliance tracking with scheduling and attendance features can create audit-ready Payroll-Based Journal reports. Real-time compliance reporting also enables you to easily demonstrate compliance during surprise inspections. You can access the centralized dashboard to retrieve compliance data for any facility and timeframe. Read how Greek American Rehabilitation & Care Centre refuted a compliance allegation in minutes

5. Use workforce management to improve Five-Star Ratings

As a post-acute and long-term care operator, you understand the power of Five-Star Ratings to attract new business, gain higher Medicare reimbursements and lower insurance and lending rates. And you know achieving and keeping your desired Five-Star Rating is a never-ending challenge.

In fact, most skilled nursing facilities fail to consistently meet the staffing requirements. And it’s not for lack of trying. Lack of qualified nurses contribute to more than 1.1 million open positions every month, according to Argentum.

When this limited pool of qualified nurses, it’s even tougher to find qualified people to fill three shifts a day, every day.

Staffing to Five-Star Rating requirements adds another layer of complexity. You must modify schedules on the fly to keep up with changing  resident needs and populations. Your Five-Star Rating for staffing really starts to slide when nurses take unexpected PTO and you can’t quickly fill their shifts.

“One troubling aspect of our findings is that 75% of nursing homes were almost never in compliance with what CMS expected their RN staffing level to be, based on residents’ acuity,” wrote Fangli Geng, David Stevenson, and David Grabowski in Daily Nursing Home Staffing Levels Highly Variable, Often Below CMS Expectations for HealthAffairs.

You need your workforce management software to stay on top of changing scheduling needs and identify when staffing changes damage your Five-Star Rating. After the fact reporting may help spot  staffing trends but does little to prevent the gaps that hurt you most.

To improve your Five-Star Rating, your workforce management software must track current and projected staffing against CMS requirements. It must also alert you when scheduling gaps threaten your next Five Star-Rating.

The most effective workforce management systems do this and more.

SmartLinx uses current and historical data to calculate your actual star rating against your desired rating. The workforce management system then alerts you when staffing changes compromise your desired rating and tells what how to remediate the staffing problem before it impacts your rating. Learn more, see The Growing Influence of Five-Star Quality Ratings


Additional resources

How to use a Mobile App to Enhance Employee Productivity

Maximize Quality and Minimize Labor Costs with Workforce Management Software

The CEO’s Playbook to Deliver Quality Care at Lower Cost

See How Oriol Health Care Slashes Overtime



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