Expanding Patient Scheduling During a Pandemic
Case Study Apr 15, 2022
Forecasting for your staff is complicated, especially in a healthcare call center environment. Patient call volumes are constantly fluctuating due to weather, illness, disease awareness campaigns, scholastic schedules, and holidays and can cause unpredictable peaks and valleys. All of this, in addition to a workforce with more mobility and increased competition to retain the most qualified staff, can be challenging.
Some healthcare facilities have access to a workforce management suite enabling them to use historical call volumes, trends, and patient behavior patterns to generate an accurate forecast. Others still rely on the Erlang C calculator to come up with a baseline to assess the total number of full-time employee equivalents needed to handle the incoming call volume. This type of forecasting can be less accurate, leading to staff burnout, attrition, and higher abandonment rates. Frustrated employees may seek other employment opportunities that provide a more stable environment and work-life balance. High turnover rates can be crippling to patient services levels and budgets alike.
Employee Satisfaction & Retention
Healthcare employees are accustomed to being asked to work unconventional and extended hours, but they require ample notice to create the structure to organize their lives and care for their families. Workforce management solutions can make it possible for you to provide your staff with their schedules months in advance so they can effectively plan for holidays, school schedules, childcare, and personal activities. Knowing what to expect, your staff will be less stressed and more engaged in the workplace. The care that you show your staff will be multiplied and transferred to the patient during crucial interactions, resulting in long-term patient satisfaction and loyalty.
Call Volume Management Strategies
According to our Harris Poll data, 60% of patients say that ease of access is a critical concern when connecting with a provider. A major dissatisfier for all teams is dealing with angry patients who’ve waited on hold for too long. De-escalating these calls takes more time, further exacerbating wait times. Workforce management software forecasts call volumes by time of day, allowing breaks to be planned for when volumes are at their lowest. By forecasting and verifying how many are on the phone when they are expected to be, the overall service level is improved with fewer upset callers and happier team members.
Fair and Equitable Scheduling
Too many healthcare managers are still relying on analog processes involving homegrown worksheets and paper schedules to keep track of each day’s activities. This is hard on them and hard on their teams. Workforce management software can alleviate much of this chaos. It is essential the software you choose reflects state and city labor laws along with contracts, should the operations be working with labor unions. For example, the law may indicate two fifteen-minute breaks within the first four hours and the last four hours of an eight-hour day. This specificity can be applied to the workforce management algorithms and be automatically calculated into shifts. This ensures you are aligned with the labor requirements of your teams and relieves the concerns about fair and equitable schedules.
Workforce Management Tools
Workforce management technology allows you to manage your employee’s expectations, attain their consent during scheduling, decrease shrinkage, and create transparency in the workplace. Paying kindness forward through workforce management technology promotes employee satisfaction, which translates to empathetic encounters with patients, and ultimately leads to enhanced patient satisfaction.
It would be great if everyone could show up for work every day. The reality is, your employees have complex lives outside of work and need time off for parenting, health issues, and vacation time. Workforce management software can help support programs to add to this level of flexibility and coordinate with the lives of your teams and your patients. Examples of flexible arrangements to consider include things like temporary shift trades, building in a one-hour lunch instead of a half-hour, and more. Once these accommodations are entered into the software, you will be able to see the expected service levels and can take action to refine phone coverage. This level of organization allows you to offer better working conditions and greater flexibility to your hardworking team members.
Forecasting the Slow and Busy Times
Seasonality isn’t a surprise to anyone, and it shouldn’t catch you off guard. When you have a strong history of accurate call volumes and an analyst who regularly communicates trends and patterns to you, this simplifies planning. As a leader, it’s important to have a grasp of the ebbs and flows of your call volumes. Communicating major volume shifts to front-line staff in advance will instill confidence and decrease stress. For example, during times when calls are forecasted to be slower, let your team know there will be more vacation time options to choose from. Conversely, you can also help your team plan for high-volume episodes and give them a sense of how long they are expected to last. These are great times to think of incentives or friendly competitions to get everyone invested in success. Either way, predicting volume shifts rather than reacting to them leads to a calmer, happier workplace.
Create an environment that supports both staff and patients by updating your workforce management tools. Get in touch with Tegria today to learn more about the strategies and products we recommend.