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Employee leave management may not seem like something that should make your top list of priorities, especially in a busy nursing facility. However, an effective leave management policy ensures your assisted living facility runs properly while giving staff members a chance to recover from illness or injury or attend to their loved ones.

As a manager or owner of a nursing facility, it's essential that you also free up time dedicated to payroll, scheduling, time clocks, HR issues, and applicant tracking to manage your staff leave and keep them happy. Here's what you need to know about building an effective employee leave management policy.

What Is Employee Leave Management?

Employee leave management, or time-off management, is the process of managing and organizing time-off requests for parental leave, vacation, sick leave, holidays, or emergencies for your nursing staff. There are many different nurse leave policies, guidelines, and rules that you and your staff members must follow to stay in compliance and keep your assisted living facility running smoothly.

Organizing all aspects of leave management will also ensure that your staff members receive the benefits they're entitled to and make them feel supported during their absence. Here are the most important elements of employee leave management:

While these aspects of leave management are essential, they can be difficult to handle on top of running your facility or overseeing other essential nursing functions, such as payroll or scheduling.

The primary goal of leave management is to effectively handle staff time-off requests fairly and accurately while maintaining other staffing requirements to help keep everyone on the same page. Having a strong, clear staff leave management process makes it easier for team managers, staff members, and HR departments to work together and meet everyone's needs.

 

Adhering to FMLA in Healthcare

It's critical to remain compliant with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when managing your staff time-off requests. The FMLA provides eligible staff members to take job-protected, unpaid leave for certain medical, family, or emergency reasons under specific conditions and terms. Staff members under the FMLA still maintain their group health insurance coverage and are entitled to up to 12 workweeks of leave within a 12-month period for reasons such as:

Staff members are typically eligible for leave under FMLA if they've worked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12 months. The FMLA ensures staff members get these 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year if they meet certain requirements while maintaining their job security and health insurance benefits. Here are some ways you can simplify FMLA leave compliance in your nursing facility to make your processes more efficient and protect against lawsuits and violations:

Benefits and Challenges of an Employee Leave Management Process

You have to deal with many things as a CEO, manager, or admin of a long-term care facility. While it's necessary to ensure your staff gets the leave they are entitled to, it's vital that you do everything correctly to avoid violations, abuse, or compliance issues. Here are the primary benefits and challenges of employee leave management and how you can improve your process.

 

Benefits of Leave Management

While, at first, the sound of giving every staff member up to 12 weeks off work may feel counterproductive, there are many benefits to giving your workers this time off if they request it. A transparent leave management process can improve your facility's bottom line by:

When you have an accurate and detailed schedule of when people will be absent for leave, you can benefit from better work planning and organizing your staff schedules and hours. Without a precise leave management process, it can be challenging to know which of your staff members' positions you have to cover or how to adjust schedules to ensure no one works too much overtime.

Getting your leave policy right can also help attract new staff members and ensure you apply the policy fairly and consistently across your company. This consistency can help reduce any issues or errors with communication or documentation, leading to more effective team workloads and less disruption with productivity. These overall improvements can also create more engagement among your nurses.

Challenges of Leave Management

Now that you know the many benefits of a strong leave management process, it's wise to be aware of some of the challenges you may face when implementing it for the first time or adjusting an evolving policy.

There are many different parts to maintain when managing your business workflow and staff leave, which can easily throw your staff off track and result in lower productivity. Not to mention, complying with regulations and labor laws is a top priority. Here are a few obstacles you could face when managing staff leave.

Best Tips and Practices for Your Employee Leave Process

Building and maintaining well-balanced employee leave procedures can be challenging without the proper knowledge and tools. Here are some helpful tips and best practices to guide your policy development and leave management process.

Understand the Law and Stay Consistent

The first step in creating an efficient, fair leave program is to know the ins and outs of local, state, and federal laws regarding your nursing staff and assisted living facility. This will help you ensure your leave policies align with all ordinances and mandates that apply to your healthcare business. There are many ways you might run into legal trouble if your leave management policies are not consistently applied or if you unintentionally discriminate against different staff members.

For instance, you might want to consider a staff member's circumstances and make exceptions. However, bending the rules for some people means others won't receive that benefit, which can create legal trouble. To avoid these issues, you need to have clearly written policies and ensure all schedule makers, admins, or managers are adequately trained to stay consistent with your entire staff.

Outline Your Leave Policy Guidelines

There are many different types of leave or circumstances your staff members will need guidance on, so you should include all of the following information:

Be sure to clarify these rules and answer any common questions or concerns about FMLA leave you and your staff might have to avoid an influx of confusion or emails regarding PTO or unpaid leave. You can even promote your company culture in these policies by encouraging staff members to take advantage of these benefits if their circumstances fit the criteria.

 

Allow Your Policies to Evolve

It's possible to miss a detail or two even if you plan your policies well. A staff member may have a unique situation that doesn't fit the guidelines in your policies, so it's important to allow your policies to evolve and change them as needed to accommodate your staff's needs.

For example, if you discover a flaw in your outlined rules, you can always make the necessary changes and look for new ways to improve existing policies. This will help your staff feel supported and know that you're keeping track of important issues.

Communicate Your Policies Clearly

You must communicate with your staff, whether you send out a digital staff handbook, post your policies in the lounge, or hold a meeting to go through your PTO and leave policies verbally. Make sure your staff is aware of their benefits and rights throughout every level of your organization. Your nurse managers should thoroughly understand your policies so they can answer any questions and resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.

In addition to regularly discussing your policies and promoting transparency, it's important to immediately communicate any changes to your policies, rules, or guidelines with your staff. Though it might be challenging to get every staff member to attend a meeting at once, you can send emails with your employee handbook and highlight these changes.

Include any necessary information about these changes, such as when they go into effect and whether they change any staff leave requests already in place. Give all staff members as much notice as possible when making changes so they don't feel caught off guard.

Maintain a Sustainable Workflow

You can help your staff members in your facility by improving their workflow—even with an absent employee or two. One study found that nurses spend at least 25% of their day on administrative tasks. You can make these processes easier and more efficient with automated software to optimize scheduling, enhance control and flexibility for time and attendance, and improve reporting and compliance.

Maintaining a sustainable workflow will also help support staff members taking leave. If your staff members feel too stressed to take leave or guilty that their colleagues and other nursing staff will be under too much pressure in their absence, it can create even more frustration. Providing your staff with automated solutions will help them get through their tasks quickly and accurately, improving productivity and accuracy and reducing stress while others are on leave.

Your nursing staff already multitasks as they deal with residents and patients in your long-term care facility. They can become stressed as they spend more time on documentation or become interrupted by phone calls and other administrative tasks that keep them from spending time with patients. Keeping your workflow efficient will also help you focus more on investing in the well-being of your nurses, which will allow them to invest more in their patients.

 

Schedule Effective Leave Management With SmartLinx

The hustle and bustle of your facility can make it difficult for your staff to feel comfortable asking for leave and following the proper processes, which makes it challenging for you to manage these requests without being left shorthanded. Optimizing your workforce with automation from SmartLinx can help you efficiently distribute staff hours, schedules, and temporary transfers to allow other employees to take extended time off. It's no secret that technology can ease administrative burdens for healthcare workers, and it also allows them to deliver better quality care.

In addition, SmartLinx software allows you to manage nursing leave scheduling and communicate changes instantly with your staff. Your staff can benefit from less stress and more flexibility when they can get notifications directly to their phone about time-off requests. Whether you're looking to improve your staff leave management processes or optimize your current workforce and shift your business conditions, SmartLinx provides an all-in-one solution to your long-term nursing facility needs. Schedule a demo today to get started, or contact us online with any questions.

In today's healthcare environment, patient satisfaction and technology go hand in hand. Senior living facilities can use digital healthcare tools to build a foundation for positive patient experiences, leveraging the power of data for better organization, efficiency, and care quality. Technology offers various direct and indirect benefits, from reducing expenditures to streamlining a nurse's workday.

Let's take a look at how information technology can improve the work of clinicians to support positive patient experiences.

What Does the Patient Experience Look Like in Long-Term Care?

The patient experience is heavily influenced by the technology that moves the practice forward. If caregivers are working with slow, frustrating programs that don't provide robust patient information, they might miss important healthcare details, develop poor bedside manners, or become too overworked to deliver quality care. Since technology forms a foundation for most clinical tasks, poor solutions create ripple effects for the entire staff and ultimately detract from the patient experience.

 

Some elements of that affect experience include:

  1. Healthcare outcomes: Of course, the quality of care is one of the most significant parts of an independent living facility. Residents should be receiving the highest quality of care possible, and technology can enable important insights into healthcare outcomes. Without the right tools, a facility may struggle to improve its quality of care and resident experience.
  2. Healthcare delivery: How patients receive their care can also impact their experiences. Frustrated, overworked caregivers, unnecessary delays, and miscommunications can significantly damage a patient's perception of their care.
  3. Interactions with staff: Older generations typically prefer providers who provide emotional support and explain conditions clearly. Staff members can create positive assisted living resident experiences by understanding their patients' expectations and delivering empathetic, friendly interactions that put the patient first. Technology can support these goals through detailed data access and efficient processes that leave time for caring interactions.

Data collection and management underlies virtually every part of the patient experience. Data drives decision-making and can power new capabilities, like leveraging artificial intelligence and optimizing care through increased access to information. Tech can be a powerful tool in improving the patient experience, particularly when it comes to personalization.

Why Is Patient Satisfaction Important in the Healthcare Industry and LTC?

The patient experience is a vital part of patient satisfaction, a metric that has some wide-reaching effects. It can impact everything from reimbursement to marketing to health outcomes, with some direct and indirect benefits.

For example, hospitals have a direct incentive to achieve high patient satisfaction—it affects their reimbursement rates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) withholds a small portion of Medicare reimbursements and only pays it out to hospitals that meet specific standards. These standards include having an appropriate readmission rate and achieving high scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), a survey given to a random sample of adult patients about their experience.

But patient satisfaction isn't just about reimbursement—it's often a marker of overall success, positively affecting revenue and helping attract new residents. Hospitals with excellent HCAHPS patient ratings, for instance, saw net profit margins averaging 4.7%, compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings.

A high patient satisfaction score can also help LTC facilities set themselves apart from the competition. It shows the real-world assessment of a facility's patient experience and encompasses many aspects, making it an excellent number to track. It can offer prospective residents an at-a-glance measure of what to expect.

Other positive outcomes associated with high levels of patient satisfaction include:

Whatever your organizational goals, patient satisfaction likely plays a significant role. Fortunately, with so many different aspects involved, you have many options for improving it.

 

How Can Technology Help?

One of the most promising options for improving the patient experience is leveraging digital tools, especially as an aging population increases the strain on the healthcare workforce. The number of people aged 65 or older has increased from 41 million people in 2011 to 71 million in 2019—a whopping 73% increase in just 8 years. The U.S. Census Bureau expects that number to continue to rise.

Almost 70% of industry experts say that digital healthcare solutions are highly relevant for the business. For most respondents, improving well-being through health outcomes is the primary purpose of digital health services. It's also good for keeping up with the competition, retaining customers, and reducing expenditures. Virtually all U.S.-based health system leaders agree on the importance of actively investing in digital transformation.

To improve the patient experience, LTC facilities must use it correctly. Some of the top reasons for a negative healthcare experience include a lack of efficiency and helpfulness. Many digital healthcare solutions aim to fix these problems, streamlining work processes and optimizing care.

For example, self-service scheduling can help prevent burnout, allowing staff members to enjoy their work and stay engaged. On the backend, the facility might use AI to match team members with patients based on their skills or create a schedule according to census and business demands.

The possibilities are endless, and digital tools are a major part of improving patient satisfaction in the modern healthcare system.

 

How to Improve Patient Experience in Healthcare With Digital Tools

Digital tools are one of your best patient experience solutions nowadays, but they should also help you improve aspects like convenience, trust, and health outcomes. Here are some of the ways LTC facilities are improving patient care through technology:

1. Collect and Analyze Data

More tech means more data. LTC facilities need to process that data to learn from it effectively. From remote monitoring solutions and patient scheduling to employee trackers, the amount of information entering your systems can be extensive. Digital healthcare technologies can make sense of it all, placing your data in a centralized platform that links up these different systems and helps you find new insights.

AI might alert providers when a new treatment would interfere with an existing condition, while a comprehensive scheduling solution could incorporate census data to generate optimized schedules. Better data handling can help speed up a range of processes, like patient intake, payroll administration, and staff assignments. It can also provide valuable information on various metrics, like health outcomes and efficiency.

These insights can guide decisions throughout the business. In scheduling, for example, you might collect and analyze census data, employee availability, screening information at time of clock-in, and other elements required for a satisfied, efficient workforce.

2. Streamline Administrative Processes

LTC facilities commonly turn to digital tools to speed up their processes. Team members can work more efficiently by eliminating time-consuming manual processes and improving transparency and communication. By spending less time on administrative tasks, they can spend more time focused on what's important—the patients.

Say an office manager spends the majority of their day on scheduling and resolving various HR demands. They choose to implement a time-saving scheduling platform that allows staff members to self-service their scheduling needs and provides at-a-glance project management tools through a real-time dashboard. The administrator frees up a significant part of their day to meet the organization's overarching goals.

The program may also use AI to streamline the administrator's day. It can help facilities predict resource requirements, adjust schedules, and intelligently address other operational needs.

3. Attract and Retain Talent

An enjoyable patient experience depends on the care team. When staff members are in a good mood, enjoy their work, and don't feel stifled by technological limitations, they can provide better care. Fortunately, tech can enable efficient workflows that allow team members to focus on more valuable tasks, like interacting with patients.

Easy access to tools like time-punch platforms, early paychecks, and scheduling can make the workday more enjoyable, helping keep employees happy and engaged. Optimizing these elements is valuable for both employee and employer. Staff members can enjoy schedules and payments that fit their needs, and employers can avoid conflicts or gaps while minimizing the time it takes to issue paychecks and schedules.

The right tools can help your employees feel valued. You might use attendance tracking features to easily identify top employees, offering rewards and acknowledging them for their hard work and dedication.

Technology can also help during the selection and onboarding process. You might have many applicants to work with or benefits to manage, and technology can simplify the process. It can help you make job postings, sift through applications, communicate with candidates, and find the best fit for your organization.

4. Improve Communication

Improved communication among staff members of a facility can speed up the workday, enhance patient care, and increase employee satisfaction. Strong technology solutions allow administrators and clinicians to easily communicate with each other, providing timely responses for filling shifts, last-minute conflicts, and other issues that could lead to a scrambled and overworked team or a dissatisfied employee.

Fast communication methods can also streamline on-the-job activities. Rather than tracking down an employee to relay an important message, administrators can push information to all applicable employees from their time clocks, freeing up more time for everyone. Attentive team members who have time to devote to patient care can also help create a more understanding, focused experience.

5. Achieve High Visibility

A powerful feature of digital healthcare tools is the ability to collect all of your data in one place.

Your EHR collects patient data in one spot, but you can also use centralized information in areas like managing overtime and scheduling. An administrator might, for instance, look at a real-time dashboard to understand key labor trends, hours reconciliation, and budgeting data for a full picture of the practice. They can better meet the needs of staff, increase engagement among the workforce, and take steps to improve the patient experience—all while protecting the bottom line.

Technology can also create visibility on an individual level—mobile schedule management allows staff members to receive notifications on their phones about open shifts, new schedules, schedule changes, time-off request approvals, and more. They can stay in touch with supervisors and help ensure quality staffing and patient care.

6. Create Equity Among Staff

A key part of staff satisfaction—and by extension, patient satisfaction—is equity. Self-serve options can limit logistics issues and help ensure everyone has the same level of access to available shifts, direct communication, time-off requests, new schedules, and other important elements of their work experiences. In addition to helping employees accomplish various tasks, the right technology can offer peace of mind. Employees can rest easy knowing their work needs are simple to manage.

Equity can help limit animosity among team members and boost teamwork, ensuring a staff that works together to offer the best patient experience possible.

7. Focus on Continuous Improvement

Technology can also help facilities reach their goals of continuous improvement. You might use those powerful analytic capabilities to assess performance and find ways to improve. New insights might help you predict resource needs, make more informed decisions, and improve compliance. You could also use punch attestation to collect staff surveys and get a pulse on how their workdays are going.

One example of a digital feature for continuous improvement is Spotlight and its Five-Star Rating predictor, which helps you see how past, present, and project staffing for your facilities compares to federal regulations. It delivers custom suggestions for helping you meet your rating goals.

8. Consolidate Your Systems Using Automation

Using multiple disconnected systems means you're not taking advantage of the easy-to-access, centralized capabilities of modern digital healthcare tools. Almost 90% of clinicians said they need to consult different electronic systems at least a few times a day to access patient information. During the COVID-19 pandemic, executives said they added five systems on average.

Look for all-in-one platforms that can help with a variety of tasks with automation systems. SmartLinx, for example, performs payroll, scheduling, workforce analytics, HR, and much more. You can limit the number of programs your staff needs to access to do their jobs well and deliver exceptional patient experiences.

 

How SmartLinx Helps Improve Patient Experience

Many types of digital health tools are available for LTC facilities, but perhaps the most important is the one that underpins everyday operations. Technology automation and data can streamline your scheduling, payroll, and other HR demands, leaving staff members to focus on the important things. That's where SmartLinx comes in.

SmartLinx is a comprehensive workforce management platform that simplifies these tasks using automation, allowing you to create more efficient and enjoyable patient experiences. Your staff can spend less time focused on the day-to-day minutia of administration and more time creating a great patient experience.

Learn more about how one easy-to-use platform can empower you to:

Explore everything SmartLinx has to offer or reach out to us today to learn more about technology improving healthcare.

 

While caring for the ill or older adults can be a rewarding experience, it also has its challenges. Failing to acknowledge the stress of caregiving can affect your employee's health, relationships, and state of mind, leading to burnout. Learn how to recognize and understand the causes and symptoms of caregiver burnout so your employees can continue to provide excellent care to those in need.

 

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

Burnout is a state of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion that occurs when caregivers overextend themselves or don't receive the help they need.

Caregivers are often so busy looking after others that they forget to care for their own needs. Some of the most common causes of burnout include:

Symptoms of Burnout

When caregiver burnout reaches a critical level, it may manifest in physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

The physical signs of burnout can affect a caregiver's health by:

Mental and Emotional Symptoms

Burnout symptoms can also affect the mental and emotional health of a caregiver by:

Support Your Workforce With SmartLinx

Caregiver burnout is a serious issue that affects patients and employees. At SmartLinx, we provide workforce management for healthcare to ensure your caregivers have the support they need. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

If you're like many long-term operators, you're always looking for enhance resident care and resolve staffing problems.

After facing down the greatest healthcare crisis in a century, you're ready to move on and close any  operational gaps the pandemic exposed.  You'd also like to rebuild your workforce and equip it to handle future challenges.

Organization of all types and sizes are turning to technology to improve performance and contain costs.

McKinsey & Company reported that “92% of companies expect to adopt digital technologies.”  And that was before COVID-19.

Technology helped senior care operators battle the pandemic on multiple fronts from connecting residents to loved ones to meeting healthcare needs through telemedicine to limiting the spread of contagious bacteria via touchless and thermal-sensing systems.  Long-term care operators are hoping technology can take their operations to the next level.

Before 2020, Ardent Partners Research called out total workforce management strategy as an emerging approach for enhancing the organization's infrastructure.

“Sixteen percent (16%) of businesses today have some form of a total workforce management program in place (9% in place for several years, 7% only just within the past 12 months.”

Now healthcare organizations across the nation consider a total workforce management (WFM) strategy critical to their long-term success.

Healthcare providers use total workforce management strategies to tackle workforce challenges that jeopardize their long-term viability, such as rising labor costs and shrinking staffs. A total workforce management strategy also leverages WFM technology to achieve strategic objectives.

Total workforce management takes a proactive approach to a traditionally reactive functions by anticipating future workforce needs from projecting the number and type of employees needed to fill anticipated gaps and managing the workforce daily.

A total workforce management strategy combines elements from traditional workforce management, human resource management systems, and human capital management (HCM) with cutting-edge digital transformation initiatives. When crafted into a comprehensive total workforce management strategy, this solution can help operators:

Envision Your Total Workforce Management Strategy

Crafting your total workforce management strategy starts with casting a vision and getting buy in. To succeed, a total WFM strategy must involve every level of your organization from the C-level suite seeking to address big picture issues to the end user employees tasked with using the new software.

Keep in mind, the total workforce management strategy is much more than a technology rollout or infrastructure change. Sure, these are key components of any total WFM strategy but if you focus on implementing individual applications rather than a holistic approach, you could miss out on the long-term benefits a total workforce management strategy offers.

For example, because of the staffing shortage many senior care operators focus their total workforce management strategy on talent acquisition and talent management. This approach offers limited but important benefits, as operators combat rising employee turnover that topped 129% in many skilled nursing facilities. But focusing on one aspect, even the toughest one, will leave other ones vulnerable.

Your total workforce management strategy should serve as a blueprint for creating a workforce equipped to address short-term challenges and meet long-term business goals. You must first forecast future workforce needs and then evaluate your workforce management and human capital management approaches through a strategic lens to understand where they may fall short.

Workforce management essentially puts the right people to work, in the right place, at the right time. When you start defining a total workforce management strategy, you must choose WFM technology that empowers the systems and processes required to facilitate employee productivity in years to come.

Before you start planning out technology spends, you should analyze future demands on your workforce and what you'll need to support them. When you evaluate existing workforce management and HCM capabilities, consider planned enhancements, and then align all capabilities with future workforce demands and look for gaps.

Once you map out where you want to go and what's needed to get there, you can evaluate current and emerging technologies to determine the functions best suited to power your vision. The following steps can help.

  1. Break down desired functions
  2. Compare features
  3. Insist on seamless integration between functions
  4. Evaluate the user experience for every role in every application
  5. Prioritize user friendliness
  6. Find analytics that can spot trends, inform decisions
  7. Request live demos of key functions
  8. Create a communication and change management plan

Remember to envision a WFM infrastructure beyond standalone applications. Your total workforce management strategy must extend beyond siloed functions to encompass complementary capabilities from human capital management to enterprise resource planning and more.

Make Integration a Top Priority

In addition to implementing effective workforce management capabilities, you must ensure they interoperate. Many workforce management and human capital management functions originated as standalone applications, such as scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and HR management systems. They streamlined routine operations and helped operators drive efficiency, contain costs, and improve quality.  However, what was once effective is now inefficient as these siloed applications are ill-equipped to handle future demands.

Workforce management solutions are evolving into an integrated suite of related capabilities. Integrating core staffing, attendance, and management functions helps optimize these processes, expose inefficiencies, and ensure the consistent and accurate application of workforce policies.

However, not all integrations are the same. Some systems exchange data periodically via batch reports. Others use application programming interfaces. The best are often native applications to the platform.  Look for a workforce management solution that shares real-time data between all the functions and presents live workforce information on a centralized system. It's important to be able visualize real-time staffing data across the entire enterprise on one dashboard.

Make sure to include the following foundational workforce management capabilities into your strategy.

The most effective WFM applications are the ones that are purpose-built for long-term care and senior living.  They're easier to use and help operators comply with federal and state regulations.

Benefits of Integrated Workforce Management

 

In addition to optimizing workforce operations, a total workforce management strategy should increase employee productivity and match hiring with business. Expect to reap the following benefits from your total WFM strategy.

Streamlined Administrative Functions: Integrated WFM systems streamline standard staffing operations from creating and adjusting schedules to tracking attendance in real-time. Access to real-time scheduling and attendance data lets you immediately spot employee issues, absences, tardiness, and overtime.

Lower Labor Costs: When your workforce management system is fully integrated, it helps solve problems in real-time. For example, it can close open shifts without incurring unnecessary overtime or agency fees. Oriol slashed overtime by 25% in three months. It can also help prevent overstaffing and understaffing, using analytics to detect inefficiencies and inform decisions.

Achieve compliance and demonstrates Compliance on Demand: Payroll-Based Journal systems that are fully integrated with WFM systems can automatically track compliance data across each department and display the data on demand. Since the systems continually collect compliance data, they can also rapidly generate reports, making compliance reporting quick and easy.

Get Smart with Analytics

Total workforce management strategies have taken on new life as organizations deploy them to anticipate workforce demands, develop better workforce contingency plans, and improve end-to-end workforce operations.

”An increasing number of organizations are embarking on programs to embed data and analytics at the heart of their operations, aware of the potential to transform performance,” according to the McKinsey Global Institutes, which “estimates data and analytics could create value worth between $9.5 trillion and $15.4 trillion a year if embedded at scale—and $1.2 trillion of that in the public and social sectors.”

To achieve these forward-thinking goals, you need to leverage real-time data to inform decisions and analytics to identify trends and project future needs. Data and analytics also give you greater transparency into your operations.

Advanced Workforce Management Analytics

Organizations across multiple industries are turning to workforce analytics to optimize their business and consider a total workforce management solution a strategic investment.

According to a Datis study “more than two-thirds of CFOs indicate they want to invest in data analytics” to better understand their workforce and create cost efficiencies.

Analytics based on real-time data empowers leaders with the insights they need to inform a variety of decisions from proactive workforce planning to on-the-fly resource allocation. In addition to optimizing routine functions, analytics can help you identify and prepare for future demands and adjust your technology to support evolving business goals.

In long-term care, you can use analytics  to adjust scheduling criteria to match changing regulatory demands and patient acuity. Instead of relying on administrators to determine how to reallocate staff to care for residents  with escalating medical needs, providers can use WFM analytics to automatically modify schedules, alert  schedulers of additional needs and gaps, and offer open shifts to qualified workers. The most advanced systems can also create ideal schedules in compliance with PPD and CMS regulations and identify the most qualified employees not poised to incur overtime.

As a senior care operator, you must be able to do more than just optimize employee schedules—you need the ability to adapt quickly to changes, especially sudden scheduling gaps. Purpose-built WFM systems can provide at-a-glance views of live attendance and scheduling data across all facilities, enabling administrators to analyze patterns and identify problems. Fully integrated solutions will then automatically notify the chosen employee of the opening in their preferred method. See how Trilogy Advances Quality Care and Reduces Costs.

Better Five-Star Ratings

Five-Star Quality Ratings can make or break a provider's reputation. Consumers and physicians alike use Five-Star Ratings to choose facilities for prospective residents. Financial institutions base lending decisions on a facility's Five-Star Rating. Likewise, the government uses it to calculate per-patient Medicare reimbursements. Despite their importance, most facilities struggle to support federal staffing requirements.

In fact, 75% of nursing homes don't comply with required levels of nursing staff, according to researchers from Harvard and Vanderbilt.

By integrating real-time scheduling and attendance systems, a total workforce management strategy  can help you adjust staffing to ensure compliance despite fluctuating dynamics. The most sophisticated WFM systems can help you achieve your desired Five-Star Rating by predicting your rating based on staffing data and instructing  you how to improve it long.

Conclusion

Adopting a total workforce management strategy that includes a digital transformation will help long-term care operators dramatically reduce costs while increasing transparency and efficiency across all related workforce operations. This innovative approach helps you manage the entire workforce from hiring to retiring and encompasses daily workforce operations and compliance as well as providing centralized data for business managers.

Additional Resources

Senior Care Guide: Crafting Your Total Workforce Management Strategy

Schedule a Live Demo of SmartLinx workforce management solution suite.

For long-term care and post-acute care providers, every dollar matters. Costs continue to rise while reimbursements stall or fall. However, costs represent only one priority. Resident care continues to top operator priorities as they strive to deliver high-quality care every day despite  mounting challenges. Workforce management software has taken center stage in this battle because of its ability to control workforce operational costs and empower quality resident care.

“What makes workforce management special is that it is very closely tied to day-to-day operations. Put in a system today and a manager may be able to reduce overtime costs tomorrow,” according to HR.com

The growing demand for workforce management software has prompted an influx of solutions vying for your business. Since many systems make similar claims, sorting through the myriad of options can be challenging.

The following guidelines will help you find workforce management software that closely aligns with your short and long-term goals.

1. Define your workforce management software needs

Before getting started. You need to know what you want from workforce management software and why. Most skilled nursing care and senior living providers buy workforce management software to streamline administrative processes and daily workforce operations. Of course, workforce management software should automate manual tasks and eliminate inefficiencies. But is that enough?

 

Although administrators bear the greatest responsibility, they are not the only ones who stand to benefit. Workforce management software touches numerous people across the organization with each stakeholder group experiencing different impacts.

Consider all perspectives. Some workforce management software systems allow multiple employee groups to access the system and leverage some of its functions.

  1. Identify who will set priorities for your workforce management software and make the final decision.
  2. Determine who the new workforce management software will impact and how? Map out potential impacts to each stakeholder group from senior executives to middle management to healthcare workers, especially nursing staff.
  3. Prioritize all stakeholder objectives.
  4. Compare and contrast each solution's impact on each stakeholder group and look for the software suite that positively each. It's possible.
  5. Give special consideration to front-line employees who deliver hands-on care to residents and prioritize workforce management software that best supports their needs.

2. Specify business outcomes

Workforce management software providers tout their ability to increase efficiency and, by default, reduce expenses. There's more than one way to thwart rising expenses. Analyze how each system handles operating expenses and reduce expenses, especially labor costs. Keep in mind not all workforce management software can address the unique needs of skilled nursing and senior living facilities.

In fact, many workforce management software systems treat all healthcare facilities the same while others assume an even broader approach, using the same process for all enterprises of a similar size. Though they may appear feature-rich, these systems can prove very difficult to configure for skilled nursing and senior living environments. Generic systems can force users to search through lots of irrelevant screens to find the data they need. You could also end up paying for features you'll never use.

Tangible ROI/Reduce labor costs

Workforce management software can be a powerful tool for reducing some costs. In fact, research from HR.com claims "75% of organizations report ROI in less than a year."

What drives efficiency in some environments may not do so in yours. Labor costs represent the greatest expense in most organizations, including skilled nursing and assisted living. Workforce management software often cuts costs by cutting headcount. In healthcare, this benefit is limited to administrative resources since quality care and compliance require strict staffing levels. Find out how Excelerate cut labor costs by 15% and overtime by 30%..

Although workforce management software cannot affect the overall number of caregiver roles, it can reduce associated costs by reducing overtime and overstaffing expenses. To maximize your return, you must analyze how each system manages labor and review its ROI track record. Solutions designed for skilled nursing and senior living often generate higher ROI than generic workforce management software.

Save money on scheduling

When scheduling capabilities integrate with time and attendance tracking, workforce management software enables you to identify scheduling gaps in real-time. Some systems can even help close them without running up overtime or agency costs.

Fix attendance problems

Attendance problems jeopardize quality care and budgets. Make sure the workforce management software can alert you when a worker fails to punch in or submits unscheduled time off. The system should also identify trends and attendance policy violations. Staffing needs vary day to day due to changing resident populations and acuity. Your workforce management software should keep up with fluctuating resident needs. Make sure your software tracks PPD census values for each facility and automatically adjusts the schedules to support changes.

Fill open shifts fast

You should also look for workforce management software that automatically presents the names of qualified employees who can fill open shifts without incurring overtime. With the click of the mouse, you should be able to offer employees an extra shift and then automatically receive their responses. See how Oriole Health Care reduced overtime costs by 25% in less than three months.

Eliminate overstaffing

Overstaffing quietly drains resources. Look for workforce management software with a centralized dashboard that displays status for all facilities/sites/departments. Then you can quickly pinpoint overstaffing/understaffing, drilldown for details, and reallocate resources quickly.

3. Align Workforce Management Software Capabilities with Quality of Care

Your workforce management software should help your facility run better and ease the burden on your workforce. Quality care revolves around staffing. Research demonstrates how the availability of qualified nurses reduces injuries, improves outcomes, and obtains faster medical intervention when needed.

The New England Journal of Medicine estimates the mortality rate for understaffed units as 6% higher than their fully staffed counterparts.

 A UCLA study states increasing the number of RNs and hours of nursing care per patient could save 6,700 lives and 4 million days of patient care in hospitals each year.

Long-term, senior, and post-acute care organizations must staff their facilities to support their fluctuating resident populations and their changing needs. A workforce management system designed specifically for these environments can make sure schedules:

Improved Productivity

When you give employees what they need to work efficiently and balance their work-life responsibilities, you can dramatically improve engagement and, in turn, productivity. Workforce management software should give employees real-time access to scheduling information and key financial data, like paystubs, on their mobile devices. Some systems take it to the next level with self-scheduling capabilities that let employees quickly adjust their schedules to support their lives. Discover how to use a mobile app to enhance employee productivity.

Easily Compliance with Federal and State Regulations

Compliance reporting is integral in workforce management software, especially in the highly regulated healthcare industry. However, each healthcare sector has a different set of regulations. When you choose workforce management software specifically designed for skilled nursing, you can more easily generate compliance reports. See how Greek American reduced payroll-based journal reporting to 2 minutes.

4. Choose Workforce Management Software Tailored for Your Environment

Although the core workforce management functions are the same throughout most environments, their application differs substantially even in similar environments. Consider the various healthcare fields. Scheduling, attendance, and compliance are critical to each field's success. But the rules governing their application are based on different regulations, operational dynamics, medical procedures, and patient needs.

Implementing a workforce management system designed for all healthcare environments would be cumbersome to navigate as you'd have to bypass numerous irrelevant features. More importantly, it's less likely to continually adapt to evolving regulations specific to your needs and neglect functions that could advance key business outcomes, like overtime reduction and quality ratings.

Customize the basics for Skilled Nursing and AL/IL facilities

Make sure the core workforce management capabilities — scheduling, attendance tracking, and compliance — achieve the business outcomes you desire. Scheduling for optimum care fulfills only part of the quality equation. Tardiness and sudden absences are a routine part of every operation.

As a result, look for workforce management software that can automatically identify and close scheduling gaps before they impact resident care. To do so requires first integrating attendance management, time tracking, and scheduling data. Second, it requires providing real-time alerts and scheduling fixes when gaps occur.

Compliance shouldn't be an afterthought. Look for workforce management software, like SmartLinx,  that actively tracks relevant compliance criteria in real-time and notifies you when a facility falls below the set threshold. The workforce management software should also produce full compliance reports on demand. Get the 7 Secrets to Payroll-Based Journal Success.

Make Ease of Use a Priority

Let's face it. Managers don't have time to scroll through multiple spreadsheets to find data. Make sure the interface complements your workflow and lets you find information immediately. Be wary of workforce management software that treats all healthcare installations the same. In many cases, these systems are cumbersome, filled with fields you'll never need and complexity that will prove difficult to navigate.

Your workforce management software should also provide at-a-glance views of live attendance and scheduling data across all facilities. Designed exclusively for skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, SmartLinx workforce management presents the real-time data on multiple facilities on a centralized, color-coded dashboard. Drilldown capabilities put all the data you need at your fingertips.

Remember, creating ideal schedules shouldn't be labor-intensive. SmartLinx workforce management software can quickly generate schedules that support multiple facilities' requirements and comply with staffing regulations. See how Trilogy optimized schedules for 110 facilities.

 

Add business analytics

Incorporating machine learning into workforce management software enables you to identify trends and resolve issues before they cost you money. For example, SmartLinx workforce management software can help you control labor costs by predicting and preventing overtime as well as spotting inefficiencies. Learn how SmartLinx Spotlight enlightens business decisions.

In addition to recommending staff qualified to fill shift openings without incurring overtime hours, the software can incorporate organizational policies, such as union rules, in its recommendations. With the click of the mouse, you can notify employees of openings in each one's preferred method, such as text, email, voicemail, or mobile app alert.

Engage employees

Many caregivers work different shifts from one week to the next to accommodate the facility's growing demands. This flexibility comes with a cost.

“Unstable work schedules have a profound effect on employees and can have serious consequences for organizations. More often than not, this instability is the result of inaccurately anticipating scheduling needs. Thirty-two percent of managers recognize this is a top scheduling challenge,” according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Giving employees tools to balance work-life responsibilities increases their engagement and commitment.

“Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work -- highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity,” according to Gallup.

Look for workforce management software that supports a full range of mobile capabilities. Enabling workers to access new schedules, sign up for and swap shifts in real-time provides the flexibility they need to manage their lives. The mobile app lets them perform necessary tasks quickly at their convenience, which enhances engagement and loyalty.

Improve your reputation

In addition to fulfilling compliance reporting requirements, SmartLinx workforce management software can also improve your Five-Star Rating for staffing. SmartLinx tracks staffing for all facilities in real-time and alerts you when staffing issues arise that could jeopardize your desired Five-Star Rating. The system then tells you what you can do to remediate the issue before it impacts your rating. Learn how to land a perfect five-star rating.

 

Additional Resources

Maximize Quality and Minimize Labor Costs with Workforce Management Software

How to Gain Efficiency through Lean Utilization and Workforce Management Systems

Trilogy Advances Quality Care and Reduces Costs with SmartLinx

Parker Jewish Saves 6 Figures in Labor Costs


Get the Latest on Payroll-Based Journal and Five-Star Ratings

Empowered primarily by Payroll-Based Journal Reports, Five-Star Ratings have defined success for long-term care and post-acute care facilities for the past five years. Those with the highest Five-Star Ratings enjoy higher per patient Medicare reimbursements, more physician referrals, better financial rates, and an overall stellar reputation.

Many skilled nursing facilities watched their reputation sour during the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of their Five-Star Rating.

Rising media attention as well as state and federal government scrutiny have put long-term care operators under a microscope as journalists and authorities strive to quantify the reason behind for COVID-19's devastating effects on resident populations.

Evolving Federal Oversight on Long-Term Care

During his election campaign, President Joseph Biden pledged to make long-term care facilities safe from COVID-19 and other threats while criticizing the previous administration for rolling back regulations designed to protect senior care and post-acute care residents.

The previous administration claimed it valued “people over paperwork” when it sought to reduce compliance requirements during the pandemic. Seema Verma, administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), chose to reduce survey frequency for skilled nursing facilities with high Five-Star Ratings, stating higher ranked facilities needed less attention.

As part of the Regulatory Relief Act, the Trump administration delayed finalizing a rule requiring  long-term care facilities maintain a compliance and ethics program. But Biden's new leader of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra  is expected to finalize and enforce these efforts.

Currently, most long-term care facilities have a formal compliance program. Those that don't should step up their compliance efforts and develop a program that carefully adheres to government guidelines.

New Policy Reinstates Safety and Infection Control Rules

Critics condemned this lack of oversight during the healthcare crisis that slammed long-term and post-acute care facilities and left more than 130,000 dead. After the former administration was accused of allowing COVID-19 to fester in skilled nursing facilities due to weak oversight, the new president released an official policy statement vowing to reinstate key safety rules first established under President Barak Obama.

And now, the burgeoning administration is expected to follow through on promises to improve senior care. What they consider the relaxed of oversight of skilled nursing facilities will likely become history.

President Biden committed to increasing the frequency and scope of surveys for skilled nursing facilities and “restore levels of penalties needed to obtain compliance with quality standards.”  The Biden-Harris proposal features:

With the spotlight shining brightly on regulation, skilled nursing operators must stay abreast of changes to enforcement and penalties when creating their Payroll-Based Journal action plan. It's in their best interest to find technology solutions, like integrated Payroll-Based Journal and workforce management systems, that automate compliance monitoring and reporting.

In addition, long-term care operators must prepare for the unexpected —surprise inspections from federal and state regulators, who will look to prove or refute their Payroll Based Journal reports. Not only must they comply to stringent CMS staffing, operators also must stand ready to use their Payroll-Based Journal software to demonstrate compliance at any time. Passing a surprise inspection requires proving compliance for any date or time within a few minutes.

Despite rigorously collecting and creating Payroll-Based Journal reports, operators will struggle to pass a surprise inspection unless their Payroll-Based Journal system is fully integrated with the employee scheduling and time tracking systems.

When it's integrated with the workforce management applications, the Payroll-Based Journal system can immediately generate compliance reports for any time or date without require administrators manually research and create the PBJ reports.

Infection Control Deficiency

Infection control issues were prevalent before the pandemic but lacked strong consequences for deficiencies. According to a Government Accountability Office report issued in May, 82 percent of more than 13,000 nursing homes surveyed had an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in one or more years from 2013 to 2017. But the Office's review of federal data shows that “implemented enforcement actions for these deficiencies were typically rare.”

Stricter Oversight of Payroll-Based Journal Reports Coming

Another Biden campaign promise focused on providing staffing and training adequate to meet the needs long-term care residents' needs. In fact, the President's team cited a study that drew a correlation between levels of nursing staff and the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in senior care facilities.

Researchers determined the better staffed a facility was, the fewer residents died from COVID-19. More caretakers meant senior care residents received better care and were more closely monitored. The pandemic compounded staffing challenges as the nursing staff and employees fell ill.

The Biden campaign pledged to increase the frequency and scope of surveys and data collection and “restore levels of penalties needed to obtain compliance with quality standards.”

Staffing Ratios Face Widespread Scrutiny

Rumor has it, the government may revise the staffing ratios at skilled nursing facilities, specifically the per patient ratio for caretakers, especially certified nursing assistants (CNAs). CNAs generally care for approximately 15 patients per shift while staff nurses supervise two to three CNAs, according to  Christopher E. Laxton, executive director of AMDA—The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Staff nurses are also tasked with administering medication and other key caregiving tasks for those 30 to 45 patients. Laxton believes this staff-to-patient ratio is insufficient especially when compared to staffing requirements at hospitals.

Meanwhile, studies continue to confirm the connection between levels of nursing care, especially RNs, and better resident outcomes. One study of Connecticut skilled nursing facilities discovered facilities with more RNs experienced fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths. Another study of California facilities found that facilities where RN staffing levels did not meet the recommended minimum standard of 0.75 hours per resident day experienced twice the probability of COVID-19 infections among residents. It also found that  80 percent of the state's nursing homes didn't meet that standard.

Growing media attention will undoubtedly pressure the government to review staffing requirements and more carefully inspect staffing data in Payroll-Based Journal reports, which could prompt tougher requirements and mandatory penalties.

New CMS Long-Term Care Guide Hits the Presses

Within a few weeks of Biden taking office, CMS published an updated “Long Term Care Survey Process (LTCSP) Procedure Guide,” which went into effect Feb. 6. The CMS guide describes inspection processes for skilled nursing facilities and directs inspectors to evaluate whether “concerns with staffing can be linked to resident complaints, or quality of life and care concerns.”

In April, CMS proposed a rule that included several regulatory changes, including measuring Medicare fee-for-services claims data to estimate the rates of infections acquired in skilled nursing facilities that resulted in hospitalization. The proposed rule included changes to the Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program for FY 2022.

In its rule proposal, CMS aligned infection rates to characteristics in the facility's operation, such as staffing levels. For example, CMS noted the infections can be related to high turnover rates and low ratios of staff to residents.

While the administration is looking at tightening oversight, Congress, too, is considering changes. Legislators have held hearings looking into long-term care facilities and COVID-19, as well as ways to improve quality of care.

With such renewed focus on skilled nursing facilities, it's safe to expect there will be increased penalties for falling out of compliance and more surprise audits to support tougher enforcement of regulations. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to stay abreast of changing regulations and expectations to keep facilities in compliance.

Don't be surprised to see the government crackdown more on staffing and enact serious repercussions for any facility that violates these regulations.

Find Technology that Promotes Compliance

Technology can make a big difference in satisfying CMS requirements. Workforce management systems can help automate hiring and enhance employee engagement to help stem employee turnover and promote the required level of staffing. Learn the secrets to PBJ success.

Payroll-Based Journal software helps operators prove compliance by automatically collecting staffing data and comparing staffing levels to the resident population, also known as PPD census values.

During the pandemic, CMS waived several quarterly Payroll-Based Journal reports. The demand for quarterly reports resumed later in 2020 despite the Trump administration's relaxed approach to skilled nursing facility oversight and penalty enforcement.

Not all Payroll-Based Journal systems are the same.  Many systems simply collect historical records and require a great deal of manual intervention. These PBJ reports may help operators meet the quarterly Payroll-Based Journal submission requirements. But they cannot help operators achieve compliance or pass a surprise inspection.

Proactive Payroll-Based Journal reporting can ensure your compliance reports meet CMS standards. When it's integrated with workforce management applications, such as scheduling and attendance tracking, operators can automatically create schedules that adjust to PPD census values and customize them to also support state staffing requirements.

Looking forward, it's best to be prepared for enhanced oversight and ready to anticipate the demands of regulators.

This will take some work. But technology can smooth the way and enable facility operators to meet the challenges ahead.

Get started optimizing your Payroll-Based Journal reporting with a personalized demo to ensure all data captured is auditable and verifiable.

For additional tips on how to meet the demands of today's compliance regulations, download our recent webinar "Common Compliance Pitfalls and How to Avoid Penalties".

 

Report: 2021 Long-Term Care and Post-Acute Compliance 

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