5 Leading Indicators Your Nurse Scheduling System Needs a Check Up

Hospitals operate 365 days a year, 24/7 with no down time, so efficiently managing and scheduling staff is important. With this in mind, it is no wonder that about 31 percent of total hospital spend on Workforce Management (WFM) software in the U.S. is spent on nurse scheduling and staffing, according to a 2016 WFM Frost and Sullivan report.

But despite the investment, insufficient scheduling tools and processes can often be the unsuspected culprits in an organization’s inability to control labor costs and maintain high-quality standards.

Leading indicators

Five leading indicators, either individually or collectively, provide the best insight into whether or not an organization’s scheduling tools are impacting cost and quality. The following are just two of the signs that may indicate it’s time your organization’s scheduling software gets an audit.

Readmission Rates

According to research published in the British Medical Journal of Quality and Safety, staffing more registered nurses (RNs) without increasing overtime decreases the odds of readmission of medical/surgical patients by nearly 50 percent. Further, research published in BMJ Journal, Quality and Safety, indicates more staffing is not always the best solution but instead finding creative approaches that allow nurses to manage their own work schedules and to recommend staffing and skill mix for their units.

If a hospital is experiencing high readmission rates, then it is most likely time to evaluate the current scheduling software’s ability to help nurses collaborate with colleagues and view schedules in real time. Clinicians should be able to quickly view up-to-date schedules, exchange shifts and request time off from any mobile device.  A scheduling solution also needs to provide visibility into skill level and type of licensure such as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or certified nurse assistant to help ensure the right staff is filling shifts by unit type.

Labor Costs

If labor costs continue to rise above more than half of a hospital’s operating costs, then this is another indication to assess your scheduling software.  In a KPMG report, the typical overtime pay rate is 1.5 times the base pay. Overtime and the use of outside staffing agencies are often common practices.  Many hospitals use staffing agencies particularly for seasonal help. While often necessary, overtime and outside staffing agencies can increase labor costs quickly without the right management tools.

Scheduling software should provide a clear view into the staffing resources available.  With a modern scheduling solution, managers and nurses have access to other departments or locations, such as an affiliated urgent care center, and the transparency needed to view when a person is free to pick up more work.   The scheduling system should also show when overtime limits have been reached by each individual nurse and overall for the unit.

Other Three Signs May Surprise You

I have outlined only two of the five leading indicators every nurse manager and health care leader needs to know when it comes to providing the best scheduling software possible.  The other three may surprise you.  Remember, software that has not kept up with the latest technology can often hurt more than it helps.

For more on the connection between cost, quality and nurse scheduling, read the topic spotlight on “Unintended consequences of nurse scheduling on cost and quality.”


About the Author:

Teresa McCasky, RN-BC, MBA

Product Director, Innovation Solutions

Teresa has over 25 years of product management and Healthcare IT experience.  She has developed and launched a variety of innovative solutions aimed at improving the quality of care while simultaneously decreasing the cost of care delivery.


For a consultation, email inform@optum.com or call 800-765-6705

Find us at: optum.com/optumscheduler

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