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The Truth About Productivity

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April 4, 2020

Two men

We have arrived! Healthcare has finally begun joining the ranks of other industries in the pursuit of greater productivity. We are now playing big boy business games with our grown up workforces and my-oh-my how un-welcomed it is!

But why is that? If the goal of measuring productivity is to find a way to accomplish more with less, then why isn’t our new focus on productivity being met with cheers and adulation? Everyone wants to be as efficient as possible don’t they? We as an industry want to be able to provide more for less in our pursuit of our ultimate goal: great healthcare for all . . . don’t we? The core answers to those questions are a resounding, “yes”! Yet we are struggling as an industry with our first forays into improving productivity and it is time we understood, “why”. In spite of what 100’s of managers, directors and VP’s we have spoken with think, improving productivity is not a bad thing! As a matter of fact, it is a long overdue necessity for healthcare. As reimbursements shrink (we have less money to spend per volume of service) and workforces age (we have to spend more per hour of labor) and boomers are beginning to retire (we have fewer people to do the work) and volumes are rising (we have more work to do) it seems to us as if productivity should be the most open water cooler conversation in healthcare. See if any of these sound familiar to you:

“I have a 100% exempt department. All my staff are salaried. But the system has given me productivity targets based on worked hours and tied to census. Now I am frequently having to chose between sending home people who will then be PAID NOT TO WORK or missing my productivity goals.” “In order to hit my productivity targets, I end up flexing people down, but when they go home they just take PTO so now we are PAYING PEOPLE NOT TO WORK when before at least I could have had them doing something for that money.” “I send home so many people and schedule so many days off in order to hit my productivity targets that sooner or later my staff will run out of PTO and the day that happens and they are sent home with no pay, they will all quit.” “I run a support department and 90% of our work is necessary whether our census is 50 or 500. Our work volumes have almost nothing to do with census so why am I having to send home needed staff just because house volumes dropped?” “All but 3 people in my department are exempt. In order to meet my productivity targets I am sending them home and giving them days off, but since the work still needs to get done and our time is not tracked, those of us who are still working just work later or come in on the weekends to get the work done. So even though our reported worked hours are less, we are working the same hours except now we are approaching burnout.”

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