Revenue cycle staffing patterns and ratios are all over the map among provider organizations. This makes sense when you consider that there are variables like technology, volume, patient type, payor mix, skillset, organization structure, mission and management practices. Hospitals often rely on benchmarks in conjunction with staffing decisions. Benchmarks do very little to recognize these variables in a useful way so they are generally not a universally reliable gauge for staffing decisions. However, there are some cases where all of these variables are homogeneous therefore lending credibility to the use of benchmarks for comparative analysis.
A more scientific approach that is globally applicable requires decision making based on the relationship of labor allocation to work arrival. This approach requires (a) full understanding of volumes in terms of type, arrival timing, processing requirements by type etc. and (b) realistic understanding of labor capability and availability at given times. The goal is to match labor allocation as precisely as possible to work arrival so that volumes are processed in a timely manner and productivity is maximized. The following is a hypothetical illustration of how this concept might be applied in various functional areas around the revenue cycle although the concept is applicable in almost every area.
Patient accounting offices usually operate based on a five day work week. Labor allocation in billing is the same each of the five days of the week (e.g. 8 to 5 Monday through Friday). However, the hospital is a 24/7 business and there is patient volume every day. When the billing team arrives on Monday, they have 3 days billing volume in their queue. If they can complete 3 days of volume on Monday, productivity is “x”. When they arrive to work Tuesday through Friday, they have only 1 day of volume each day so productivity is “X-2 days volume” and remains at that level through Friday. How is the change in productivity reconciled? Another scenario is that if they do not complete the 3 days volume on Monday, the hospital has a backlog until later in the week, assuming they caught up by the time they leave Friday at 5:00.
Flex staffing pattern to allocate labor to work arrival time:
- More hours are scheduled for Mondays, tapering down throughout the week based on work arrival
- Schedule weekend labor allocation in billing so that labor allocation better matches work arrival
The above is an illustration based on assumptions about volume and staffing patterns. It is intended for conceptual design that can be implemented using an engineering approach. Every hospital has to adapt this design in a way that recognizes their operating environment. It requires comprehensive understanding of volumes. However, we have applied this principal of “labor allocation to work arrival” in many hospitals successfully. It works in patient access, billing, follow-up, and most volume driven areas.
Principal, Nearterm Corporation