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I mentioned before that at HIMSS this year I made a shift in focus from EHR technology to a look at what’s next after EHR. In most cases, the technology has some connection or tie to the EHR, but I was really interested to see where else a healthcare organization can apply technology beyond the EHR software.

I found one such case when I met with Ron Rheinheimer from Avantas. For those not familiar with Avantas, they’re a healthcare scheduling and labor management solution. In most cases, their workforce solution is something the nurses choose and often the CNO. I imagine that’s why it’s not talked about nearly as much as things like the EHR. It takes a pretty progressive CIO at a hospital to be able to see through all the noise of other regulations and work with the CNO on a workforce management solution. Or it takes a pretty vocal CNO who can make the case for the solution.

Ron Rheinheimer from Avantas made a pretty good case for why workforce management should have a much higher priority for hospital CIOs. He noted that about 60% of a hospital’s budget is labor expenses and 50% of the labor budget is for nursing. It’s no wonder that nurses take it hard when a hospital goes through layoffs thanks to an EHR implementation. However, given those numbers, optimizing your workforce could save your organization a lot of money.

I think this is particularly true as hospital systems get larger and larger. We’ve all seen the trend around hospital system consolidation and as these organizations get larger their staffing requirements get much more complex. Most of them start moving towards a centralized nurse staffing model. They start working on a floating pool of nurses in the hospital. While humans are amazing, once things get complex, it’s a great place for technology to assist humans.

Ron Rheinheimer also told me about the new incentive models that many hospitals are employing to be able to incentivize nurses to take the hard to fill shifts. Night shift differential has long been apart of every workforce, but with technology you can use analytics to really understand which shifts are the hardest to fill and reward your nurses appropriately for taking those hard to fill shifts. My guess is that we’re still on the leading edge of what will be possible with technology and managing the schedule in a hospital. Real time dynamic pricing for shifts is something that only technology could really do well.

As you can tell, I’m new to this area of healthcare technology. However, I find it fascinating and I believe it’s an area where technology can really improve the current workflow. I look forward to learning more.