COVID-19 Preparedness: Workforce Management Checklist
The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic may have passed, but the ongoing threat to our communities and workers endures. For health systems, responding to the crisis has meant rapid changes to workforce management policy and practice. At API Healthcare, those changes have led to many consultations with our broad, diverse base of customers: large and small, rural and urban, academic and regional, and everything in between. This list documents where we’ve seen patterns of success with the intent of helping you to consider new options, solidify improvements and build a solid foundation for what is to come.1. ALLOCATING WORKED TIME
As organizations redeploy a broader staff base, they need a uniform approach to tracking time worked. Your timekeeping system should adapt as your needs change and new situations arise. You may need workflows that allow you to:
- Allocate COVID-19 related work with a unique department, pay code, project, or special code.
- Capture all worked hours related to COVID-19 by adjusting pay rules (ex: salaried staff now clocking or recording time with a calendar).
- Ensure compliance with laws or policies requiring hazard or other special pay (ex: day shift staff member working a night shift, etc.).
- Make changes retroactively when needed.
There have been many iterations and interpretations to regulatory guidelines for non-worked time. Your system should be configured to reflect changing policies and strategies, even if temporary. You need to be able to:
- Code sick staff to ensure they are not called back until clear from quarantine.
- Temporarily allow negative balances or give special benefits to ensure sick staff stay at home.
- Code staff capable of working but unavailable because of unique constraints (ex: caring for a sick family member, or a single parent taking care of kids).
- Configure broad policy changes with as much automation as possible (ex: ensuring all staff are paid a percentage of their weekly hours).
Healthcare providers are putting mechanisms in place to ensure worker and patient safety. Sometimes this includes leveraging system capabilities like checking and monitoring workers for COVID-19 type symptoms as a condition to working with patients, including having the ability to:
- Decide between a worker self-declared condition (“attestation”) or an administered test (“screen”).
- Track the health check status with an indicator on workers’ shifts—most common are special codes or activity codes depending on the situation.
- Deploy monitoring expectations to those responsible for staffing that includes promptly reviewing the health check status, which can be automated through reports, exception messages, or preventing the staff member from clocking in to work.
Healthcare organizations set themselves up to be more agile in their response than under normal working conditions. Your system needs to be well-equipped to monitor staff by skill set so they can be quickly assigned to meet emerging needs, including capabilities that:
- Organize new needs—some operations are being shut down as others grow. Ensure every need is tracked on the schedule so your organization is scalable as the situation evolves.
- Show availability for redeployment—track staff by skill sets so they can be quickly assigned.
- Have one source of truth—your system can be the one place to find updated staff allocation, reducing the need for constant updates via call, text and email.
The pandemic has moved centralization from a priority to a necessity. Your command center can leverage your system’s actionable dashboards to monitor and respond to changes in staffing needs in real-time. Centralization capabilities you may need include:
- Real-time dashboards—use one screen to get a detailed pulse on staffing levels, even for interconnected units in large organizations or units split between COVID-19 and other patients.
- Quick response time —when a new need arises, the response springs into action: the need is communicated, the right staff members contacted, and the schedule changed to reflect the redeployment.
- Accurate recordkeeping—quickly match everyone on the roster with their timekeeping to ensure accurate pay, reporting and reimbursement.
For more about centralization, check out this blog by my friend and colleague Kristi Burgess: “Centralized Staffing During the COVID-19 Crisis.”
CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING EFFECTIVENESS
We recognize each person reviewing this list represents an organization in a unique situation. Whether your community is starting to see cases decelerate or you are still bracing in anticipation, we can learn from each other and grow together.
Our commitment is to help you proactively care for the immediate crisis while building a better infrastructure for the future. Here are some additional COVID-19 resources. Please reach out to me via email if you’d like to continue the conversation.
About Austin Mierow
Austin has been with the API Healthcare team for 7 years. His work with hospital leaders at every level convinced him to earn his MBA at the University of Chicago on weekends, where he focused on economics, operations and organizational behavior. To Austin, managing the healthcare workforce has a unique set of challenges that conventional thinking from commercial markets is ill-equipped to solve. He wants to find solutions that honor the work of caregivers, meet financial constraints and, most importantly help patients. When he’s not trying to find the optimal balance of employee engagement, patient outcomes, and operational efficiency, Austin can be found hugging his golden retriever Quint (who often reminds him to play less video games and go on more walks.)