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Managing Healthcare Staffing Costs

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2010
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Catholic Health Partners—a nonprofit health system with 34 hospitals in Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania—has worked to develop a labor management system that can provide managers with daily feedback, essentially real-time, about their departments. Within 24 hours a department manager can see how many patients are coming in the door and whether he or she is using the right number and kind of personnel to handle the volume, says Kathye Habig Nippert, FACHE, vice president of workforce management at Catholic Health Partners in Cincinnati.

Tracking labor expenses there is no small task. It requires managing more than 38,000 employees and a budget of about $1.2 billion for labor expenses in acute care. CHP is the fourth-largest employer in the state of Ohio, and has employees in four states. It takes a team of four analysts and a director of analytics just to manage all of the data flowing from the branches to the top of the enterprise and back down again.
"The key for us has been enabling technology and creating some tools at the regional and local levels, the frontline level, and being able to pull that data up at the enterprise level to monitor and manage and report. We have executive-level reporting that people can understand. It takes that complexity and makes it simple," says Nippert.

Improving processes

Real-time analytics can help leaders dig out savings from short-term trends. For example, CHP was able to save $3 million between 2008 and 2009 by cutting overtime and contract labor. It's also a good area to address because higher overtime rates in a hospital are associated with medical errors, patient falls, and other adverse events, says Suby.

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