Workforce Planning in Healthcare

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Healthcare is a field that is not foreign to continuous change. Being a dynamic field, it is important that a health organization be capable of assessing the need for health professionals. That is exactly what workforce planning is for. Human Resources (HR) utilizes workforce planning to anticipate the number of healthcare professionals in an organization. Workforce planning ranges from identifying tasks and roles, to training requirements, to shortage and surplus anticipation. These decisions can impact an organization financially and the community in the form of available medical services and capabilities.

Workforce planning involves the use of methodologies to develop strategies for health organizations. These methodologies vary between countries, and they also differ between health organizations as well. The lack of a standard in regarding workforce planning does not improve  the accuracy of projections (Lopes, Almeida, & Almada-Lobo, 2015). Two of the most interesting methodologies in my opinion is the demand-based assessment and population-based assessments (supply-based assessment).

Demand for medical services greatly depend on the ability for people’s ability to afford healthcare. In the case of the United States that would involve people being enrolled in Medicaid & Medicare, insured, or able to pay out-of-pocket. Presently, the ACA has increased coverage and demand for healthcare. Demand-based assessment strategies allow health organizations to gauge the need for health professionals in the future. Changes in healthcare laws is currently unpredictable, which complicates workforce planning for many healthcare organizations. This can be seen in hiring freezes in response to uncertainty of future trends.

In the United States certain areas suffer from shortages of medical professionals. Many areas around the country experience a shortage in nursing staff and general practitioners. Many physicians are often specialized, but the future number of physicians could potentially decrease. This issue is compounded with the coming wave of retirees and increase in the elderly population. Population-based estimating analyzes the ratio of medical professionals to the population number. Although it is beneficial to decrease patient to physician ratio, the data varies per source which brings the reliability of population-based estimates into question.

Health organizations utilize data gathered through payroll, volumes, and clinical data to assess the demand of services and the needed supply of personnel (2015, September 29). Despite the data being available to HR departments to analyze future trends, many companies still manage to let workforce planning fall through the cracks. As mentioned before regarding population-based estimates, many health organizations struggle getting valid data (Harden & Fraher, 2010). The consistency of data presents an impediment to workforce planning because many health professionals are concerned with the now and clinical outcomes.

Demand-based assessment and population-based estimates assess two critical aspects of health care. It is important for health executives to understand the trend of demand for service. If there is a decrease in demand, employees’ jobs could be at stake and the financial well-being of the health organization could be at stake. Comprehending the supply of doctors is pertinent to health executives and stakeholders as well. Supply dictates the amount of services a health organization can provide. Adequate service affects whether a hospital is meeting the needs of the community it serves as well.

In conclusion, workforce planning is needed in order for an organization to better prepare for the future. The need for certain professionals is always changing due to population, community needs, political pressure, etc. Health organizations in the United States still struggle with workforce planning as there are still many barriers to success. One main barrier is the political scene and the issues dealing with the ACA and the future of the insurance agency.  Other impediments include an aging workforce, decline in health professional numbers, and extensive training of future health professionals (Harden & Fraher, 2010). Implementing a concrete workforce plan can save money on labor, increase the quality of medical care, and improve a health organization’s ability to prosper in such a dynamic field.

References:

Harden, B., Fraher, E. (2010). Workforce planning in the context of service redesign, workforce migration and changing demographics. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 17(4), 195-202.

Lopes, M.A., Almeida, A.S.,  & Almada-Lobo, B. (2015). Handling healthcare workforce planning with care: where do we stand. Human Resources for Health, 13(38), 1-19.

White, D. (2015). 3 Key Steps to Healthcare Workforce Planning. Retrieved from http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-capital-and-risk/3-key-steps-to-healthcare-workforce-planning.html

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2 thoughts on “Workforce Planning in Healthcare

  1. The US healthcare system seems like it’s always undergoing problems or change. With the population’s Baby Boomers rapidly aging, it is expected that millions of patients will be added to the system. Therefore, there is an expected shortage in healthcare practitioners and nurses. In order to avoid problems and provide a smoother transition, workforce planning should be implemented in every hospital and healthcare facility. Developing an effective workforce planning model is found on the American Hospital Association website.
    http://www.aha.org/content/13/13wpmwhitepaperfinal.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Julius that demand-based assessment and population-based assessment are more efficient strategies. “Accurately planning workforce needs in the future has proven to save healthcare organizations between 4% and 7% of their total labor spend” (White, 2015, para.10). Additionally, it ensures that appropriate staffing is available to provide quality care. White states (2015, para.7-9), the key steps to improve workforce planning are as follows:
    • Forecast supply and demand
    • Optimize core staff
    • Utilize contingency staff

    References
    White, President of Strategic Workforce Solutions, AMN Healthcare, D. (2015, September 16). 3 key steps to healthcare workforce planning. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/human-capital-and-risk/3-key-steps-to-healthcare-workforce-planning.html

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