Right-sizing staffing and resources is essential to healthcare operations

Even before Covid-19 forced healthcare organizations to pivot to responding to a global pandemic, they faced considerable obstacles as they transitioned to value-based care, integrated new technologies, and dealt with changing regulations and protocols from the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. Then, the pandemic brought a tidal wave of problems – organizations had to setup telehealth systems, bolster and/or reconfigure ICUs, develop testing programs and sites, and create virtual workplaces for staff.

In order to not only deal with these overwhelming needs but improve their operations, many organizations are turning to capacity planning and management. When implemented correctly, it can be an essential tool to responding positively to the ‘new normal’.

Without capacity management, work efforts can be incomplete, behind schedule, and overbudget. Healthcare providers will not be aware of under-performing teams or personnel, which can result in cost over-runs, stakeholder and team member dissatisfaction, and wasted opportunities. Allowing teams to be over-capacity can lead to burn-out, staff departures, distrust and anger within the organization, and issues becoming compounded into larger problems.

The secret to capacity management is utilizing it to right-size staffing and resources. First however, it’s important to understand what capacity management is. Capacity is the amount of output a system is capable of over a specific period. Effort is the amount of work a team needs to complete a task. Understanding how capacity and effort interact and influence workflows is essential to improving projects and initiatives, including how providers are responding to Covid-19.

Capacity planning is a phase of capacity management focused on the analysis of data, such as performance variances, stressed resources, configurations, software and hardware, and previous decisions about staffing and resource allocation.

Capacity management focuses on right-sizing resources to meet current and projected needs in a cost-effective manner.

Capacity management focuses on right-sizing resources to meet current and projected needs in a cost-effective manner. As a methodology, it presents a practical tool for providers to use to plan for capacity needs. It helps the team gauge available bandwidth, accurately estimate the number of resources needed, create a productive rhythm, recognize and fix under-performing teams, and replicate processes that improve workflows.

Providers that adopt capacity management can estimate efforts and tasks, understand how to estimate and manage capacity, utilize tools to track and manage capacity, improve processes and protocols, enhance communication tools, increase engagement, improve workflows, and allow staff to develop new skills and gain new knowledge.

This is because capacity management offers a considerable amount of flexibility. Organizations can determine where resources are being allocated, determine where they should be distributed, and make changes to benefit the team and the organization. It also offers them scalability by allowing organizations to see in real-time where resources are needed, where they currently are, and what would happen if they were re-allocated.

In conjunction, capacity management also introduces efficiencies by helping organizations better utilize resources, reduce overhead, and focus their attention on critical projects and initiatives. This can help them ‘free-up’ resources for other needs as well and determine where there is slack in the system to address unknowns – like a global pandemic.

Finally, organizations can save considerably on operations by streamlining how their resources are utilized, accurately determine resource utilization in real-time and determine how best to use their resources, and maximize their return on investments, get projects moving quicker, and minimize risk.

But it is essential for healthcare organizations to implement capacity management correctly to receive the most benefits. Brightwork Consulting has been providing capacity planning and management to our healthcare clients since inception. We focus on initiating capacity training so leadership can learn the best methodologies and tools to plan for and manage their capacity. We utilize existing tools (like Microsoft Teams and other technologies), and our proven step-by-step program to position clients to succeed.

If you’re ready for an introduction to capacity planning and management, click here.