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February 17, 2011

Laboring the Costs for Productivity Improvement

Tips for Responding to Objections to Tackling Labor Productivity

Of the two key drivers in cost, labor and materials, labor stands as the area of cost that many hospital leaders are reluctant to pursue. Here are some arguments you may hear from your Diagnostic department leaders and what you can say to get your facility moving in the right direction.

"We already have a comparative productivity measurement system in place and the department has already achieved excellent productivity."

Productivity benchmarks and databases may not be truly comparative departments when looking at the degree of automation, age and capabilities of the diagnostic equipment, and the populations served.  Department leaders may also create and add totals into their volume to reflect what they perceive to be their real workload, thus giving a distorted productivitymeasurement.

"Reduction in my staff will result in decreased patient satisfaction."

Oftentimes an adjustment of scheduling and workflow processes to account for staffing changes does not take place with new technology.  By staffing to these changes, you can ensure that patients are not backlogged waiting for appointments, that there are no holdups in the ED, and length-of-stay is not increased -- ultimately meaning patient satisfaction remains high.

"My department's test volume has increased between 5-10 percent for the last 2 years, so I need all the staff I have plus additional staff to meet this continued volume growth."

Keep in mind that with newer technologies, staff can conduct tests and report results faster without having to quickly increase staff for increased volume.  Bottom line, if you are having an increase in volume it may be more efficacious to look at technological solutions rather than simply adding an FTE that may be unwarranted later if volume patterns return to "normal" or slightly above "normal."

Operational Efficiency

You can further enhance your facility's operational efficiency by setting up teams to track and monitor process improvement and workflow adjustments.  To sustain newly improvedprocesses as a result of the team's work, make the tools available for managers to continue to monitor and enhance processes.  Examples may include:

1. Balanced scorecards to monitor process effectiveness (quality, customer satisfaction, operational processes and financial metrics)

2. Staffing plans based on volume data by time of day, day of week and seasonal variations from your laboratory and radiology test data systems

3. Productivity comparison database to monitor and trend productivity daily and biweekly

 To learn more, read the full article, Laboring the Costs for Productivity Improvement

 If you missed previous articles about cost efficiency/cost containment strategies and tips, be sure to read the Dollars & Sense Archives.

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