As 2011 drew to a close, the Daily Briefing sat down with a group of Advisory Board experts to garner opinions on the most important issues for members to watch in 2012.
In the first in a series of articles, we explore the 2012 health care workforce—with a special focus on nursing and human resources.
Labor costs: Pressure to curb growth
The coming year is sure to be filled with continuing cost pressures, and pressure to achieve lower labor costs (and higher workforce productivity) will be intense. What’s more, a one-time cut in hospital labor budgets will not be sufficient to enable hospitals and health systems to thrive in the new environment.
Patient care leaders must pursue a new generation of strategies to slow the growth of labor cost, such as:
- Increasing the ratio of flexible staff to core staff;
- Targeting drivers of incremental overtime;
- Investing in alternatives to sitters; and
- Advancing employee wellness.
Inpatient staffing model: Need to innovate
In light of rising patient acuity and nursing salaries (and reimbursement rates not rising commensurate to cost growth), current inpatient staffing models are threatening to become unsustainable.
In the coming year, look for nurse leaders to innovate on the inpatient staffing model, with the goal of finding an approach to inpatient staffing that allows all caregivers to practice “at the top of their license” and assures high-quality, financially sustainable care.
Cross-continuum nursing roles: How to develop them
Due to changing reimbursement models and patient demographics, hospitals and health systems have new imperatives to manage their case mix and provide care in the most appropriate setting. This focus on avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions has catalyzed experimentation with a number of cross-continuum caregiver roles (nearly always filled by nurses) designed to support at-risk patients and populations to manage their own care at home.
In 2012, look for nursing leads to continue to experiment with the scope and responsibilities of these new cross-continuum nursing roles.
M&A activity: Push to redesign organizational structures in response
The environmental pressures in the U.S. health care industry have many observers predicting an upsurge in mergers and acquisitions.
Hospital and health system HR executives involved in consolidation, many of whom are simultaneously expanding across the continuum of care as well as horizontally, are quickly confronting challenging questions about organizational structure—within and beyond the human resources enterprise. In the coming year, look for a resurgence of interest in organizational redesign and productivity, with a focus on which functions should be centralized, decentralized, or outsourced.
Where to learn more: The HR Investment Center's Perfecting the Business Partner Model publication offers strategies to redesign organizational structures. HR Investment Center members also can register for this year's national meeting.
Physician alignment strategies: How to succeed
The importance of hospital-physician alignment isn’t news to hospital executives. Nor is the shift to employment of physicians. Unfortunately, hospitals relying solely on employment agreements to achieve stronger physician integration have been sorely disappointed.
In the coming year, look for hospitals and health systems to strengthen their alignment and partnership with physicians by pursuing strategies directed toward improving physician engagement.
Hospital leaders’ roles and responsibilities: Time for an update
As hospitals and health systems adapt to new market imperatives, many hospital HR leaders are asking:
How should hospital leaders’ roles, responsibilities, and formal job descriptions change to reflect new organizational priorities? How should performance management and compensation systems be redesigned to ensure leaders are focused on the appropriate priorities?
Understand how to create a highly productive health care organization in 2012. The HR Investment Center's national meeting will review strategies to bend the cost curve and instill accountability. HR Investment Center members can learn more or register now.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our series where we’ll explore service line-specific imperatives for 2012.