A Prescription for Healthcare Workforce Modernization

AI, ML, and predictive analytics help health organizations plan staffing around weather, nearby hospital closures, and other emergencies.

Healthcare systems are under tremendous pressure to evolve their workforce planning strategy. Staffing levels remain in flux, which makes relying exclusively on backward looking analysis less effective. External pressures from industry consolidation and significant shifts in patient-provider interactions make past data only one of several factors that must be considered in effective forecasting.

By blending advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) into existing methods, healthcare providers gain more clarity in workforce planning and optimization. These advanced tools augment the workforce planning analytics that organizations already use to assess seasonal shifts and demographic trends, by adding new abilities to respond to discontinuous or short-term emergency situations.


A Lasting Challenge Demands a New Approach

The end of a lengthy public health emergency does not press the reset button on years of structural changes. The healthcare industry is in the midst of a substantial realignment in both the supply of and demand for services. Employees have realigned their priorities due to years of emergency response, burnout, return-to-work policy clashes, and compensation issues, among other factors.

At the same time, consumers continue to push for more access to care, and are more keenly aware of their nearby care options. Healthcare organizations, facing market and regulatory pressures, compete for a limited pool of skilled labor. Many have chosen to consolidate or exit service in both urban and rural areas, creating additional supply-and-demand challenges for the provider organizations that remain.

Some of these challenges will play out in boardrooms and legislative chambers for years to come. Others have tangible and immediate impact on a daily basis in hospitals and clinic networks. Quick fixes to staffing challenges, such as third-party travel nurse providers, add substantial operating costs while doing nothing to address long-term structural problems. Healthcare systems face elevated labor costs and lower patient and employee satisfaction when relying on patchwork solutions to these problems. And all of these issues can add increased risk for organizations aiming to provide the best care to patients.


Staffing for Short-Term Challenges

Advanced analytics tools can help healthcare organizations adjust to challenges such as:

  • "Flu Season" and other periodic illnesses
  • Regional hospital closures
  • Regulatory changes impacting staffing requirements or availability
  • Epidemics
  • Weather events (hurricane, typhoon, tornado, etc.)
  • Other natural disasters (fire, earthquake, etc.)


Responding to Healthcare Workforce Challenges

To address these structural challenges, Guidehouse has expanded its healthcare consulting practice to include advanced workforce modernization by leveraging analytical tools, AI, and ML to enable healthcare organizations be forward looking and proactive. 

These new tools augment what is already one of the industry’s most mature approaches to data-driven forecasting and planning. We have used descriptive and diagnostic data, including care delivery metrics, procurement statistics, granular employee pay rates, and historical insights to support data-driven decisions in healthcare workforce management for years.

Guidehouse has long supported healthcare providers with staff-leveling insights using year-over-year data with adjustments for seasonality, department, caseload, and population trends. The new methodologies augment this long-term approach with additional flexibility to chart a course through short-term challenges, including unanticipated shocks.

Our team is experienced in building sophisticated staffing models with a predictive edge. These models can account for interdependencies among clinical and ancillary departments and model unscheduled events, such as mass-casualty incidents, hospital closures, and disease outbreaks. Specialized hiring models can include predictions of applicant attrition risk throughout the employment life cycle using robust, modeling techniques to generate more accurate forecasts in the face of fast-changing conditions.

Guidehouse’s AI solutions are also prepared to take information in narrative text and use it to better support decisions. These natural language sources could include traditional news media, social media, and patient sentiment analysis. Natural language processing (NLP) can extract tremendously valuable information that might not otherwise be apparent in the data. Information about major events that bring people together (a big game or concert) or attract a large number of out-of-town guests (a business conference) can be just as important as historical trends when planning the weeks ahead.

Guidehouse applies modern data science principles to make the most of the data we already have to help manage staffing for unprecedented events, like epidemics. With high-end modeling, Guidehouse tools can also predict how these disruptions will continue to ripple through the system as some patients forgo care and others see their elective procedures delayed indefinitely.

Analytics are integrated into a digital twin, which replicates real-world conditions in order to make meaningful predictions. With digital twin capability and models that account for employee motivations and patient priorities, we can model something with no precedent, such as the imminent closure of a trusted nearby hospital.

Major disrupters in your region, including typhoons, heat waves, chemical spills, hurricanes, and tornadoes, will be considered in the staff model of any Guidehouse report. Quantitative and blended-type data, as found in medical claims and EMR records, can also provide both historical insight and the basis for future or streaming predictions that can steer staffing and employee development plans.

To better manage variable demand without the high marginal cost of nursing agencies, Guidehouse’s healthcare analytics team can help design and implement internally managed travel programs. These programs ensure that your staff is focused on meeting the needs of your patients across your locations.

The Guidehouse team includes professionals with an insider’s understanding of the care team demands and care delivery challenges found across a variety of clinical departments and ancillary services. These subject matter experts can help break down the organizational and operational barriers to modernizing your staffing processes, both within and outside the lines of data and predictions.

Our subject matter experts can also aid in the evaluation and implementation of intelligent automation solutions. Applied effectively, such solutions can empower patients without sacrificing the goal of a right-sized healthcare provider staff.


Tangible Benefits of Healthcare Workforce Modernization

Involve Guidehouse’s healthcare modernization capabilities are already delivering real-world benefits to private and public healthcare organizations, including:

  • Accelerated decision-making
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced schedule variation
  • Improved care quality
  • Automated schedule workflows for efficient, accurate results
  • Public sentiment analysis on healthcare initiatives
  • More accurate modeling of influenza spread

These services are designed to provide both data-driven decision support and decision automation to deliver results. Our team can bring similarly comprehensive improvements to staffing strategies. For example, our models can help provide rapid insights about the resulting shifts in both supply and demand for services caused by a significant change in the local competitive landscape, such as a hospital closure. These insights can also promote improved employee engagement, strengthen leverage with payers, and reduce the need for third-party staffing agency contracts.

Organizations interested in healthcare workforce modernization can engage with Guidehouse on a level that fits best with their needs. Guidehouse can deliver analytical tools as a managed service, provide decision support on an ad hoc basis, or provide a full suite of tools and insights as a complete advisory relationship.

Reach out to a Guidehouse representative to start a discussion about where and how workforce modernization can begin for your healthcare organization. Or take a self-guided tour of Guidehouse Discover, our consolidated digital platform combining data analytics, AI, and infrastructure optimization.


This article is authored by Bassel Haidar, Kyle Harrison, and Fred Sieling.

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