How to do it... Information technology

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1 First of all, you must come to grips with the idea that you are not just a record keeper or assigner anymore. Gone is the tediousness of manual processes.

“If nothing else, workforce automation software has converted LTC managers from data inputters to information analyzers,” says Randell Johnson, a long-term care veteran and marketing manager for Prime Care Technologies.

“Combined with business intelligence, managers have what they need to effectively take action when action is required to care for their residents, avert any conflicts with relevant regulations and adhere to budgetary constraints.”

2 Whatever computer tool or system you use, it needs to be flexible in its structure since it needs to be able to accommodate organizations with different titles, organization charts and growth patterns.

“It should be easy to customize it and change it over time,” advises Mike Mutka, president and COO of Silverchair Learning Systems. Common tweaks that inevitably will be required over time should be able to be done by your team, without further intervention from a vendor, he adds.

3 Whatever system you use, it should be capable of handling many variables yet simple enough to operate, say many experts, including Brian Graves, Global Practice Leader of Kronos' Healthcare Practice Group.

“The easier the solution, the higher the adoption rate, which is needed to achieve the results of increased productivity, reduced labor costs, and minimized compliance risks,” Graves says. “Happy employees lead to better caregivers. And better caregivers mean happier patients.”

4 Real-time, whole house views of staffing are not available with some systems — but should be, Graves says.

“Ready access to time and attendance information allows managers to view staff on premises, as well as employees who are scheduled but not yet clocked in, in order to respond quickly to variances,” he explains. “And managers are able to track actual worked hours against scheduled hours to identify employees approaching overtime prior to filling an open shift.”

5 The instant information good software provides can be invaluable to a provider, adds Doron Gutkind of
LINTECH Software.

“Software can be used to determine the lowest cost of staffing by taking into account payment rules and work history,” Gutkind notes.

6 The key is to look for technologies that are proactive and predictive, not reactive, says Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift Software.

“Look for scheduling products that prevent overtime and other staffing issues, like over- or understaffing, before they ever occur,” Woodka says.

7 Integrated communications technology is critical to filling vacant shifts. That means a system that will give notices to everyone eligible to work.

“Typically, schedulers or DONs will spend hours calling through a list of employees, desperately searching for a replacement and awarding the shift to the first person who says yes,” Woodka says. “Or they have a handful of ‘go to' people who get all the extra shifts. This commonly leads to overtime, and it often angers employees who were not aware of the opening.”

8 The best advice about scheduling software is to remember that it is just a tool, reminds Woodka. You still need good strategy and follow-through to make things work well.

“It takes more than a good product to succeed with scheduling, so be sure to consider the expertise and services that go beyond the product in ensuring successful scheduling and labor management to meet each provider's goals,” he explains. “Hammers don't build houses — carpenters do.”