Different healthcare professionals face different problems. As most hospitals have round-the-clock shifts and operate 24/7/365, their challenges are often linked to one of the following topics:
- Time and Attendance Tracking and Management
- Flexible staff scheduling
- Immediate staff redeployment during crisis situations (e.g. COVID-19)
- Accurate and timely budgeting
- Complex claims and allowance computations
All of these tasks often create a large amount of administrative demands that take away time that could be better spent providing quality care for patients. It can take a serious toll on the overall ability to provide quality care for the patients.
Imagine spending uncountable hours creating schedules, manually entering payroll information, and handling scheduling requests from each and every employee. Does that sound like a normal routine for someone working in the healthcare sector? Too often, the answer to that question is “yes”. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, then it is that it’s time to open up to the world of time and attendance software and learn about it.
So, why healthcare?
As the common saying goes – “Health is wealth.” – health is the only thing that money cannot buy (yet) and if it deteriorates, anything else becomes insignificant. Care is something the entire world needs at this point in time, including hospital staff and caretakers. The COVID-19 pandemic has encapsulated the world with unforeseen outcome and panic. The disease is spreading rapidly, leaving behind sick patients and deprived individuals.
Every hospital spread across the globe is seeing a spike in patient admissions. With each day, the number of people who require medical attention is rising; overburdening the hospitals and draining out every ounce of energy from their workforce. In the fight to defeat the Coronavirus, medical institutions and hospitals are in the forefront. They are taking the majority of the blows for the people behind them.
At the front, we see them battling against the pandemic with all their might and will. We see hospital staff and doctors putting all they can to save lives and stop the spread of the virus. What we don’t see is the challenges that they face. What we don’t see is the number of threats and perils, which can often be even more intimidating than the pandemic itself.
The Current State of Global Healthcare
On March 11, 2020, novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt across the globe as the number of infected individuals is growing exponentially.
Given the prevalence of the coronavirus globally, it is imperative for health care employers to take extra precaution for their employees. It is evident from all public health communications that the efforts to flatten the growth curve of COVID-19 will not only prevent illness, but will also reduce the pandemic’s potential to overwhelm critical health care resources.
During times of a pandemic, working protocols can often become neglected and chaos can ensue. Working shifts might frequently change as the influx of new patients can be unpredictable. Requiring nurses to work on an ad-hoc basis can often complicate matters related to payroll if no system for automated time and attendance tracking is in place.
Hospital management needs to have proper insights into its labour data and keep an eye on every movement of its employees for the sake of contact tracing. With the right technology, large hospitals in Singapore and Hong Kong are trying to strike the right balance between labour demands and staffing levels and to enhance their contact tracing efforts.
Challenges Faced by Hospitals
A catastrophic situation calls for desperate measures. Such overnight changes affect the regular schedules of each and every hospital staff member. Not only do hospitals have to manage the influx of patients, they also have to be vigilant with their management and superintendence, thereby improving overall patient care amidst the challenges they face everyday.
Challenge #1:- Hospital Compliance and Adherence to Rules
Many hospitals have made significant changes in their daily shift schedule in order to meet the rising patient care demands. Many hospital staffers are working as long as 12 hours a day. Most hospitals are taking the call to split their staff into two separate teams, each team working a 12-hour shift.
This has led to drastic changes in their daily attendance schedule. The attendance scheduling system has had to go through a complete change where, instead of assigning individual shift timings to each employee, the staff is split into two teams, i.e. Team A and Team B. Each team assigned a shift with a fixed duration of 12 hours. Further attendance can be then done based on this schedule. These are immediate and effective changes that need to come into effect during demanding times such as the ones posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A staffing and attendance solution can quickly help hospital management to split its staff and assign shifts directly from the software. The staffing and attendance software should automatically send notifications about the schedule changes, making sure each staff member is aware of the proposed changes.
On top of that, hospital management also needs to ensure that its sick employees are granted medical leaves immediately in order to minimize the cross-contamination risk. Leave can be of two, three or five days depending upon the agreed terms.
A sophisticated workforce management solution should allow its employees to easily upload their medical certificates such that their leave can be granted quickly. Employees should not have to go through the hassle of manually reaching out to their manager through communication platforms such as WhatsApp in order to request for their leave. More importantly, a modern workforce management solution should automatically track and flag the employees violating the leave policies (e.g. taking more leave than they are entitled to or not showing up for work at all). Hospitals need to keep track of their employee’s presence and absence and automatically flag those who do not adhere to the rules.
Lastly, many employees have been asked to self-quarantine. Those who contracted the coronavirus or the medical staffers who show symptoms of COVID-19 have to make sure they stay at home and follow social distancing. Medical supervisors and managers are obligated to pass an order for them to quarantine themselves and present them with a letter of authorization stating they have been asked to stay away from work under unavoidable circumstances.
These administrative tasks should not be communicated in person (again, due to cross-contamination risk). Additionally, these administrative tasks can suck up a lot of time that should be better spent caring for hospital patients. Hospital management should be able to broadcast new policies and shift changes directly from its workforce management solution to ensure that every staff member is up-to-date.. If an Employee A is found to have contracted the Coronavirus, the entire hospital staff should be made aware. A smart workforce management system should mark Employee A as home-quarantined and ensure that staff replacements for employee A are quickly found.
Challenge #2:- High-Fidelity Employee Tracing
In response to the global pandemic, it is amazing to see how quickly countries and especially the frontliners are taking uber-necessary steps and precautions; setting examples for future pandemics. Singapore, for instance, taught the world what to do during this crisis: The Singaporean government and hospitals made sure that the use of N95 masks, face-protectors, goggles, and gowns are reserved for proceedings where respiratory secretions can be aerosolized and for other known or suspected cases of COVID-19.
Singapore made its quarantine policies more nuanced. If a hospital staff tests positive for the Coronavirus, the Singaporean government used a mix of bluetooth-enabled mobile applications and sophisticated workformance management solutions to quickly conduct contact tracing and find out who was in ‘close contact’ with the infected individual.
How is this done? Hospital management uses meticulous attendance and time tracking software to accurately track when and where each hospital staff was.
If the exposure is found to be shorter than the prescribed limit but within six feet for more than two minutes, the hospital staff can stay on the job if they wear a surgical mask and have twice-daily temperature checks. Staff who have had brief, incidental contact with an infected individual were asked to monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g. dry cough, fever, loss of taste and smell).
Benefits of Time & Attendance Systems in the Healthcare sector
Unlike in other industries, healthcare professionals are rarely able to work remotely. Healthcare providers often need to employ numerous hourly workers who are non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act; which varies by country due to differing labour regulations.
Hospitals have to manage potential work shortages, consider extending work hours, cross-training employees when they have to cover for absent coworkers, and have to create teams that can cover for absent or overworked employees. All of this should be seamlessly managed by a robust workforce optimization solution.
1. Creating a secure attendance system
In the healthcare sector, nurse managers frequently have to manage multiple shifts of the nurses they are supervising. Using manual systems such as logbooks (paper & pen) can make them vulnerable to human error.
Employees might attempt to carry out attendance fraud through methods such as “buddy punching” or “tailgating”. A modern time and attendance tracking solution should allow for accurate time tracking and prevent attendance fraud. With a state-of-the-art software in place, hospital management should gain deeper insights from the detailed reports that are generated by the software. Information regarding sick leave, paid leave, unpaid leaves and public holidays should be available with the click of a button.
2. Improving the overall quality of patient care and employee care
When everything in an organization runs smoothly and the organization has a positive atmosphere, its output is generally good. Studies have shown that when employees are happy, they tend to be more productive. Immaculate management of time and attendance can go a very long way in streamlining your daily operations, increasing employee morale and improving productivity. The level of staffing optimization is directly linked to improved patient care.
Hospital staffers and doctors are the ones who come in regular contact with the sick patients, drastically increasing the chances for them to contract the virus. Hospital authorities need to keep a close eye on each and every employee who comes in close contact with infected individuals. The rapid expansion of the COVID-19 virus can be attributed to a lack of awareness and precaution. For example: doctors and hospital staff in Italy did not quarantine themselves and continued with their daily routines even after coming into contact with patients infected with COVID-19. Many hospitals failed to keep a clear track of where their employees were going, with whom they were meeting which rooms they entered and who else might have become cross-contaminated.
This led to an explosion of the Coronavirus across multiple hospitals in Italy. Had the hospitals kept a clear track of the aforementioned factors, they might have been able to curb the epidemic and nip it in the bud. This is another reason why a time and attendance solution can be of utmost importance in the healthcare sector. Hospitals can easily track the footprints of hospital staff and augment their contact tracing initiatives.
3. Accurate payroll processing
An inaccuracy in payroll processing is always costly for hospitals and a headache for its employees. With hundreds of staff members working round the clock in different shifts, working overtime and night shifts, taking prolonged or shorter amounts of breaks, complexity is not unexpected and quite often chaos can ensue. A modern time and attendance system can precisely track the hours worked by each and every employee and calculates the salary accordingly.
Hospitals always need to ensure that patient care is their number one priority. It can not be compromised, neither during any normal day or during crisis situations such as the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. Besides patient care, hospitals need to ensure that their staff is being treated fairly and that they have complete visibility and transparency into their shift schedule. This is where a time and attendance solution can function as a bridge between hospital management and the ground staff making it easy for the hospital to have the perfect balance between patient care and workforce optimization.
Workforce Optimization software can be a boon any hospital would look for during the time of emergency and deadlock. Technology is not just a necessity, but a utility. If utilized correctly it can help humans augment their current capabilities and rise above the occasion to deal with pandemics such as COVID-19. A situation like this requires hospitals to maintain harmony among the staffers by not overburdening them with unoptimized work schedules. The right workforce management software can help hospitals conduct contact tracing and quickly make the required staffing changes. Technology has the potential to enable healthcare professionals to save countless lives.