Acuity Management Systems: Efficiencies and better health outcomes

By Martin Barlow - November 14, 2016

High quality care while managing costs is a delicate balance in today’s health system. Currently in the state of Victoria, nurse-patient ratios in public hospitals are legislated whilst within the private system there is a constant battle to ensure quality outcomes and maintain equitable distribution of shifts across the workforce.

It’s not just staffing levels or nurse-patient ratios, it is also about ensuring the right mix of staff with the appropriate credentials and certifications for the shift.  There is a lot of data to maintain and sift through to ensure you have the best possible mix from both a skill and cost perspective.

A number of organisations in the Healthcare sector have examined their workforce strategy to develop cost effective rostering and manage patient hours/staffing mix, but how many effectively manage staff to acuity ratios?  The ability to match staffing skills and ratios to individual patient needs based on their individual care requirements.

Software vendors are also joining in with providers such as the Australian Trend Care product, the OptiLink product from Workforce Management providers, and Kronos.  As organisations immerse themselves in the world of real time patient data and the ability to more accurately measure and manage resources for patient outcomes, a software that can analyse this data and provide the best staffing ratios is becoming increasingly important.  This can then integrate with Workforce Management Systems to provide not just the right staffing mix but a list of staff who can work the available shifts.  A click on the ‘OK’ button and these staff are allocated to rosters.

Like all decision-making systems, they are only as good as the data they have to start with.  Careful analysis of the quality and timeliness of data is critical.  Poor quality data, coupled with ill-considered business rules, could possibly result in ‘suboptimal’ patient outcomes.

It is critical the data is cleansed, ensuring staff accreditations, skills and qualifications are correct and up to date.  There is also a need to have the history of patient care levels and a clear understanding of the correct staffing levels for specific patient care needs.

Staffing levels need to be clearly analysed to understand the baseline for quality health outcomes and gaining an understanding for the skills and competencies to deliver them.  There is also a need to understand the legislative requirements for rostering.

Organisations need to move thoughtfully on Acuity Management Systems and work through various proof of concept and pilot stages.  The need for a carefully considered implementation plan, together with clearly defined measures of success, is a must to ensure quality outcomes.

Martin Barlow is a Client Director with Pitcher Partners Consulting (PPC), Melbourne. He is a leader of PPC Health & Care industry team, and a subject matter expert in HR and workforce management solutions.


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