How to Start Trimming Labor Costs

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , June 20, 2011

Becker says ideally hospitals need to "manage proactively on a shift-by-shift basis, not retroactively."

To remedy the scheduling and call coverage problem, Stormont-Vail still did not add technology, instead it worked with staff. First, managers were made aware of the wages of team member for on-call scheduling. That allowed managers to make more cost-effective decisions.

Second, an employee was hired to track the patient census in realtime and to determine how the teams should address it. An added benefit: Through the payroll system the census employee can figure out the skill mix of the staff clocked in at each facility to help make decisions as to where staff should go to meet demand.

While using the data from the time management system provided Stormont-Vail with insights on how to correct scheduling and call pay overages, it can also reveal when employees are taking unfair advantage of the time management system.

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At Saint Luke's Health System in Kansas City, MO, Tammy Leslie, senior director of compensation and benefits and Casey Knasel, director of payroll and human resource information systems, needed to get a handle on how the employees at the 11 hospital system were using time management.

They asked their current time management provider, Kronos, a leading global workforce management solutions provider, to do an optimization analysis. As with Stormont-Vail, Saint Luke's system analysis revealed a fundamental, and costly, scheduling issue. Managers scheduling the on-call or stand-by staff weren't able to discern when demand was rising nor could they determine which employees had the lowest hourly wage to call those individuals in to work. Knasel says the problem was that the hospital had failed to provide realtime patient census information and tie it to staff wage information.

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