Healthcare professionals know that staffing for hospitals, clinics and other facilities presents unique challenges not only for daily operations, but annual budgeting.
These challenges arise because healthcare facilities depend on essential personnel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Every unit needs a particular number of nurses, assistants, lab technicians, custodians and more contingent on the day and time. Closing for any period of time is simply not an option.
The necessity of these professionals creates a pivotal distinction between replaced and nonreplaced employees. Many other industries rely on professionals who would be considered nonreplaced staff and don’t have to account for the ancillary costs of replacing nonproductive time in their annual budgets the same way healthcare facilities do. When these industries’ employees are sick, take vacations or attend training sessions, the workplace simply goes without them for the duration.
This isn’t possible in the healthcare industry where the safety and well-being of others depends on the availability of facility staff. Hospitals and organizations must carefully plan ahead every year for the expense of replacing a percentage of essential staff during nonproductive time in addition to the ordinary cost of their workers’ salaries.
To define the annual worked time and determine the funds needed for these essential personnel, hospitals and clinics use staffing patterns or master rotations.
A desire for something better
Healthcare administrators rely heavily on decentralized spreadsheets like Excel to plan their annual budgets, but these have always been a limited and often disadvantageous tool.
Information is scattered across departments and workers with individual spreadsheets, and though budgeting for any healthcare facility is a collaborative effort, relying on these documents makes it difficult for administrators to work together.
Each floor manager has his or her own document and sharing this information means emailing unsecure documents back and forth between people. This creates an excessive amount of work for everyone involved – not to mention the employee whose job it is to compile every floor’s budget into one master sheet. It also lacks approval process, and tracking any history of changes.
Once a master sheet is created, updating it becomes another time consuming process. Not only is the master sheet difficult to follow when it includes thousands of data points, but even the smallest error is liable to cause major budgeting issues – one incorrect figure could lead to the budget being off thousands or millions of dollars. Additionally, finding a small but important error in order to correct it is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Spreadsheets grow even more cumbersome as facilities attempt to track their real-time spending compared to their budget to determine if they need to adjust their finances or plan differently for the next year, as there are no quick or easy-to-read reports.
Stepping up to fulfill the need
Questica has provided superior budgeting solutions to various industries for more than 15 years but found the market lacked software tools specifically designed to meet the budgeting challenges of the healthcare industry.
With the help of industry experts, Questica designed from the ground up a budgeting program that addresses the need for more efficient and accurate staff planning in healthcare organizations.
Questica’s staff planning module provides healthcare facilities one centralized budgeting resource. Instead of relying on error-prone spreadsheets, hospitals now have a tool that allows them to input their unique staffing requirements and salary and premium information to forecast their anticipated staffing costs.
Features of the staff planning module
Every healthcare facility will have distinct staffing needs, which is why the module allows for customization through its features and functions:
- Replacement planning: The module’s most essential function is enabling efficient and accurate planning for the replacement costs of essential personnel. Administrators can plan for the total number of replacement hours they anticipate needing for the next year and program the software to account for a certain number of replacements depending on the day and apply any necessary premiums. Administrators can also specify that particular positions are replaced with certain workers. This precision allows for a more accurate planning of costs.
- Staffing pattern entry: The module allows administrators to enter staffing patterns to identify the different type of shifts worked throughout the seven days of the week. The software then automatically generates shift premiums from the staffing patterns, including a determination of the additional cost of employees working on statutory holidays. Staffing patterns can have different start and end dates in the module so administrators can track different workload needs during specific times of the year like summer or Christmas. The crucial result of the staffing pattern entry function is a determination of the worked hours the facility requires for the year.
- Premiums: Administrators can input a variety of premiums that will affect their budgeting, including on-call and overtime premiums. The module automatically generates additional costs such as evening, night, weekend or holiday premiums from the defined staffing patterns.
- Statutory holidays: Healthcare facilities often run on minimal staff on certain days of the year like Christmas. The module allows for holiday settings to automatically kick in when applicable, impacting the worked time (i.e. full-time equivalents, FTEs) in the budget as well as the premiums paid for staff working on statutory holidays. This improves the accuracy of the budget without administrators taking on more work.
- Templates: Shift styles are generally the same across healthcare facilities, which means floor managers greatly benefit from staff planning templates. The module allows administrators to create a template that includes essential budgeting information and that managers can add to. This allows for optimal accuracy with minimal configuration by individual managers.
- Continuous summary: The program provides a real-time summary of data as managers create their shift plan in the module. This allows them to see their FTEs as they input their staffing patterns with totals for worked, nonproductive and replacement time.
- Automatic forecasting: Healthcare facilities often need to budget more than one year in advance, which is why the module allows for forecasting an unlimited number of years.
- Reporting The module offers comprehensive reporting capabilities for healthcare facilities to use in determining the feasibility of their budgets, tracking their real-time costs regarding their budget and much more.
With the Questica staff planning module, the healthcare industry and public sector organizations now have the ability to improve their budgeting process, and create accurate budgets that better track their actual costs over time. Find out more by requesting a demo, or signing up for a free monthly webinar today.