Healthcare Industry Consolidation: Are Expert Workforce Partners Needed?

The single largest investment for healthcare organizations is the workforce, accounting for more than half of the operating budgets for hospitals, health systems and other healthcare facilities. When health systems consolidate, one of the major challenges they face is integrating, managing and optimizing their much larger workforce. Success in this endeavor is critically important.

The newly integrated workforce must deliver on the value promised by the consolidated enterprise, which is why healthcare industry consolidations need the most advanced workforce solutions available. The mission of every sector in the consolidation – whether it’s in enhancing the patient experience, improving care quality, realizing economies of scale, expediting the shift from volume- to value-based care, implementing new population health strategies, improving revenue cycle management, or launching new technology – is dependent on the effectiveness of its workforce.

Integration challenges. Most healthcare organizations already face workforce problems in the form of shortages of nurses, physicians, technicians and technologists, coders, leaders – in practically every position. Consolidation doesn’t relieve shortage problems, because most organizations’ workforces are already stretched very thin. The paramount challenge may be that the new organization must integrate workforces that have entrenched and often widely different quality standards, procedures, training, values and cultures. Consistency across the newly consolidated organization must be attained through standardization and adoption of best practices.

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Innovations needed.  Consolidation is producing sophisticated regional enterprises of vertical services and facilities stretching across multiple states, including some emerging as Fortune 500 companies. Solutions to workforce challenges need to become more sophisticated to match this growing organizational complexity. A continuum of effective workforce innovations, many of which have been in use in other industries, are now available in the healthcare industry, though they have been largely untapped until recently.

The talent imperative in healthcare can be effectively addressed through these innovations. Comprehensive managed services programs that optimize the contingent workforce are becoming mainstream. Radical new credentialing innovations can be leveraged to improve time-to-revenue and productivity for physicians and other clinicians. Predictive labor analytics can accurately forecast patient volume months in advance and then match scheduling and staffing practices to the forecasts. Workforce solutions also are available to help find the best talent for leadership roles, which are critically important to guide an industry undergoing fundamental change to revenue based on value instead of volume, while adding the objective of population health along with individual health. The vital realm of health information management is another area where workforce solutions can raise performance in quality, efficiency, and revenue generation.

Stuck in reactive mode. However, when it comes to workforce solutions, many healthcare organizations remain in a reactive mode, with managers scrambling to fill holes in staffing needs on a daily basis. And many still rely on inadequate paper-based and/or disparate systems to manage workforce challenges. Such practices do not fulfill the needs of the sophisticated healthcare organizations emerging from the wave of consolidations. Modern healthcare workforce solutions are needed, but many healthcare organizations don’t have the resources, capacity, or bandwidth to achieve these solutions on their own. Or, they are unaware that advanced, technology-enabled workforce solutions are available.

Consolidation won’t help solve workforce problems if neither enterprise has expertise ineffective workforce solutions. In fact, the result may be double the workforce problems without any solutions. And the all-too-common entrenched silo approach toward staffing can make matters worse.

Partnering to optimize. The bright spot is that new entities emerging from consolidations can often leverage combined resources to invest in advanced workforce solutions that will ensure that their enterprise-wide workforce is optimized and performing at its highest level. Expert workforce partners who are entirely focused on solving healthcare workforce problems hold the key. Such partners are found outside the walls of hospitals and healthcare systems, and the best ones can quickly integrate with patient-care organizations to customize solutions.

Success in the era of healthcare consolidation will ultimately be judged by consumers, whose growing power can be seen in the increasing reliance on value-based metrics to select providers and determine reimbursements. Trends toward greater transparency and reliance on patient feedback mean that the impact of any merger on patient care and patient experience will soon become apparent. Since the healthcare workforce is the greatest differentiator in patient satisfaction and all of the sectors of the healthcare enterprise, the services of an expert workforce solutions partner is critical during and after consolidation.

Dan White

Dan White
Dan White is president of strategic workforce solutions for AMN Healthcare.

Dan White

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