Improve staff-manager relationships with collaborative scheduling

A healthy relationship between staff members and their manager can positively impact turnover rates, vacancy rates, percentage of sick calls, quality of work and staff satisfaction scores.

With so much at stake, it is critical that healthcare leaders make it a priority to foster strong relationships with their employees. That can be daunting for busy leaders who already feel like they don’t have enough time to cover their duties and focus on quality of care.

However, improving your relationship with your staff might be simpler than you think. In fact, here are ways that a scheduling application can support healthy staff-manager relationships.

Encouraging respectful communication

Eliminating all those phone calls asking staff to work saves time and honors employees’ personal lives. With the right scheduling application, you can notify staff of an open shift with a single tap, and they can just as easily respond if they are available to work.

Staying connected on the go

You no longer need to be at home or near a computer to know what’s going on. With healthcare scheduling applications, you and employees can see up-to-date schedules, receive notifications of open shifts, swap shifts or read announcements – on your mobile device from anywhere.

Promoting participation

When you and your employees have full visibility into your staffing needs, employees are empowered to engage in the scheduling process. Staff members are more likely to fill open shifts when they can easily see what is needed and then volunteer without dealing with a bunch of red tape. That saves you so much time. 

Offering flexibility

Enabling staff to swap shifts with other qualified staff allows them to self-manage life situations or changes that come up. They don’t have to explain their circumstances to their managers, who simply review and approve shift swap requests as they appear. That offers employees some control over their shifts, which can improve job satisfaction. 

Enabling managers to focus on what’s important

Simplifying scheduling and getting staff more involved frees your time to support staff and build a positive culture. It also allows you to spend more time with patients and ensure an overall high quality of care.

It’s easier than you think to adopt cloud-based scheduling. In fact, many solutions don’t require any IT help, and all maintenance and upgrades are taken care of for you. Plus, all that can be bundled into simple monthly pricing that is very affordable and has no hidden costs or surprises.

If you are ready to support a healthier work environment, take advantage of next-generation scheduling solutions. Learn more now.

 

 

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Visibility and access are key to making strong, data-driven decisions

Data-driven or evidence-based decision-making is a must in today’s world of staffing and scheduling. We use data to inform decisions, track the impact of decisions, defend decisions, and identify ways to avoid repeating mistakes in the future.

The challenge for most of us has always been that the data required to make the right decisions is rarely easily accessible when we need it. When it comes to scheduling, it is not realistic to expect staff managers to make quick, accurate data-driven decisions when the data is buried in email, paper reports and filing cabinets.

The good news: technology can put that data at your fingertips

Scheduling applications are designed to expand visibility into key data right at that moment when decisions are made.

The following types of information can be available instantly:

  • Overtime amounts
  • Seniority
  • Date last called off or on
  • License expiration
  • Over-/under-staffing
  • Missed clock-ins

Additionally, with just a tap, you can drill down into more detail. That level of visibility into the data you are already collecting during day-to-day activities enables leaders to make quicker, smarter decisions and improve consistency, fairness, quality and the bottom line.

The right data at the right place and time

These days, most people are inundated with data, and they don’t know how to apply it or use it to improve their decisions. When you evaluate scheduling applications, don’t just consider how much data you’ll receive. Instead, make sure you have the right data, displayed in the right places. It’s ideal to have all the data you need to reference on the same screen where you are actually making staffing decisions. It’s just a more efficient, productive, less error-prone way to work.

For example, when you’re making a choice between three qualified staff members, you will make the best decision if you can easily see relevant information right next to their names:

  • How many hours they have already worked
  • Who is in overtime
  • Who called off last
  • What their seniority is
  • What their pay rate is
  • Their skills and credentials

Well-designed and modern staff scheduling software offers that functionality, empowering you to make quicker, smarter decisions.

ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler is a cloud-based application that streamlines staffing and enables you to manage and update your schedule from your phone.

To see it in action, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler now.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

7 revenue cycle management best practices

We understand that your focus is (and should be) caring for your patients. But we also understand that patient care cannot happen without processes in place to ensure proper payment of expenses. With ever-changing healthcare regulations and new reimbursement models, it’s imperative for healthcare organizations to maintain a strong, stable revenue cycle management (RCM) process.

ABILITY Network has developed a variety of applications to help your staff save time and simplify complex tasks. Here are our seven best practices to help you develop and implement a successful RCM program.

1. Collect more information up front

Because the patient is such an increasingly important payer in today’s healthcare system, it’s crucial to collect all personal information available at the time a patient first seeks care — potentially even before they arrive for an appointment. Not only does this information provide the foundation for the claims you will process, but it will also dictate how you will collect payments from the patient or make payment arrangements for the balance due. Effective communication helps patients to understand their benefits and possible treatment alternatives.

2. Aggregate the data

As benefits and insurance regulations continue to change, it’s important to implement a revenue cycle management process that is able to aggregate all of the data throughout the cycle. It will provide benchmarks and analytics for key insights that can improve your process and your business success. Sometimes there is little you can do to increase your income and you may need to look at the expense side of the business. Easy-to-read financial reports can help management and staff to better understand expenses, ways to reduce costs and maximize revenue where possible.

3. Consolidate revenue cycle management to a single provider

Some healthcare organizations use multiple vendors for different revenue cycle functions, requiring extra time and resources to manage it all. Instead, consider consolidating your revenue cycle management operations to a single provider who can provide eligibility verification, claims management and patient payment processing. A single, comprehensive system streamlines workflows, increases staff efficiency and simplifies the billing process for patients, which can help them better understand and meet their obligations.

4. Collect patient payments at or before the point of service

This is one of the most difficult parts of revenue cycle management, but also one of the most critical. Collecting patient payments — as much as you can, as soon as you can — is important in keeping your organization’s money flowing. Determining Medicaid and Medicare eligibility and helping patients understand their coverage options is key. This is made easier by developing a relationship with patients and educating them on the insurance process, so they understand their financial responsibility ahead of time. As medical deductibles increase, more patients are having to pay more and may need to arrange financing or payment options prior to receiving non-emergency services.

5. Track claims throughout their lifecycle

Identifying the reasons for claims denials is as important as resolving them. Verifying insurance eligibility is the first step to ensure accurate billing. It’s also important to be able to track claims from submission to payment. Claims denials from Medicare and other payers should be recorded and analyzed to look for trends or common errors that can be corrected to stop the cycle of lost revenue.

 6. Implement staff development programs

One of the best ways to reduce denied claims is to ensure they are coded and processed correctly. As healthcare changes so quickly, it’s important for providers to develop and implement regular education programs for employees that teach proper coding techniques, comprehensive chart documentation and financial policy reminders. Besides reducing medical errors, training can also help reduce employee turnover.

7. Keep improving performance

 Even if your revenue cycle is functioning nicely, avoid the maintenance-mode mentality. Instead, keep pushing for optimum performance that maximizes your cash flow and net revenue. Use your data to find ways to earn a little more and to save a little more – perhaps by cutting costs, decreasing denials and reducing bad debt and underpayments.

Contact your revenue cycle management experts today

When you need assistance implementing best practices for your revenue cycle management process, reach out to the experts at ABILITY. We have powerful applications to develop and maintain positive revenue cycles within your physician practice, hospital or other healthcare organization — no matter the size. Request your free quote today and start maximizing your revenue.

How to check Medicare status quickly and easily

For physician practices, hospitals and all healthcare organizations, streamlining your revenue cycle management is critical. One of the best ways to recoup payments faster is with up-front Medicare eligibility checks. With the changes in the Affordable Care Act, patient responsibility is often in play and healthcare organizations who can communicate effectively with patients about how to pay for their medical treatment will be more successful at collecting full payments. At ABILITY Network, we offer a quick and easy way to check Medicare status online.

Why checking Medicare status is important

Medical benefits are always changing so it’s important to check the Medicare status of your patients often — whether it’s for prescription drugs or a specific procedure. This can cause a strain on some physician practices, care facilities, hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Save staff time and resources and quickly determine Medicare status with ABILITY CHOICE Medicare Eligibility. With 24/7 access to Medicare’s HETS database, your staff will be able to gather real-time, detailed eligibility status and medical benefit information, allowing you to:

  • Receive payments faster by verifying Medicare eligibility at the beginning of patient care
  • Reduce staff workload
  • Quickly identify Medicare replacement plans and secondary payers
  • Reduce denied claims with upfront identification of Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plans

How often should you check Medicare eligibility?

It’s important to check your patient’s Medicare eligibility throughout their course of treatment. Working with an information technology company like ABILITY can help reduce the time spent completing these frequent Medicare status checks. At the very minimum, you should check Medicare status:

  • The first time the patient reaches out to you for medical service
  • Before any submission of a home health request for anticipated payment (RAP)
  • Before any submission of a hospice notice of election (NOE)
  • Before every claim submission

What information do you need to check Medicare status?

To check Medicare eligibility, you must have the following patient information:

  • First and last name
  • Medicare Beneficiary Identification number (MBI)
  • Date of birth (month, day, 4-digit year)
  • Gender

What can you communicate to patients with a Medicare eligibility check?

Communicating often and effectively with patients is key to receiving complete payment for medical services in a timely manner. Being able to check Medicare status quickly and often will allow you to know and communicate to patients:

  • The deductible amount they have remaining for the year
  • Information about their primary insurance if Medicare is the secondary payer
  • Any patient-enrolled Managed Care Organization (MCO) or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
  • That status checking is 100% HIPAA compliant

Let ABILITY help with your Medicare eligibility checks

No matter the size your practice or healthcare organization, ABILITY can help simplify complex revenue cycle management processes with the latest data-driven applications. You can count on us to optimize reimbursements and the quality of care you offer. Request a demo of ABILITY CHOICE Medicare Eligibility today. We look forward to helping your organization grow!

Skipping meals and bathroom breaks: Are your nurses putting their health at stake?

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nurses rise to the challenge during times of crisis. For months, we’ve heard heroic stories of nurses playing pivotal roles in the pandemic response and going the extra mile to care for hospitalized patients.

In the Year of the Nurse, we’re all witnessing just how vital nurses are to public health. We’re also learning about the sacrifices they make every day. While those sacrifices may be front and center right now, they are nothing new.

Nurses have always put others’ needs ahead of their own, but issues such as the nursing shortage are increasing the selflessness. Many nurses can’t escape patient-care duties at all during long shifts, and it’s impacting their mental, emotional and physical health. They skip meals – and even delay bathroom breaks – because they are so busy caring for patients.

So, it’s no surprise that the leading causes of nurse fatigue are: excessive workloads (60%); being unable to take lunch and dinner breaks during a shift (42%); and not being able to take any breaks during a shift (41%), according to the Workforce Institute. The fatigue is so pervasive, that nearly a third of nurses have called off sick just to get some rest, according to that same study.

A big chunk of our nursing population is, quite frankly, overworked.

Taking a toll on nurses’ physical and mental health

Aside from the obvious health problems of denying the body food, drink and trips to the restroom, working without any kind of relief from patient responsibility is terrible for mental and emotional health.

In fact, according to a recent study,15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout and 41% felt unengaged, and as the data we noted earlier suggests, a lack of breaks contributes to that.

Everyone, even unflappable nurses, need a bit of stress relief during long shifts. Those who don’t get it are more likely to get sick, suffer burnout or leave their job for a better situation elsewhere.

Patient care is also at risk

Mistakes and safety issues increase, and patient satisfaction scores drop as a result of an overwhelmed, overworked nursing staff. While most nurses battle through it and continue to provide adequate care, some don’t.

It’s a basic truth that exhausted, stressed and burned out nurses cannot provide the same quality of care as ones who are rested, regardless their skill level or commitment to the job.

Make breaks part of your culture

Each of your nurses should have a 15-minute break for roughly every four hours on the job, according to industry standards.

So, what can you do to ensure your nursing staff is taking those much-needed breaks? Follow these tips:

Tell them to. You are the boss, and they will follow your lead. Remind them of your polices and explain why 10 to 15 minutes of downtime is critical to their job performance. Most important: Never make them feel guilty for needing a break.
Relieve them. As the nurse manager, be ready to step in as needed so that nurses can take breaks.
Create a renewal space. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® at Midwestern Regional Medical Center created a quiet space that offers aromatherapy, music therapy, a massage chair and other stress tamers. It’s been so successful that the administration approved the creation of several more spaces. Look for an area, such as your break room, that you can convert into a relaxing space.
Adopt better staffing processes. When you are understaffed, nurses can’t take breaks. Adopting a nurse scheduling solution, such as ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler, helps to ensure you have enough staff scheduled and that you can quickly find replacements for unexpected and last-minute call offs.

To learn more, watch this video.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Three tips for better nurse engagement that drives quality care

Nurses are the heart of every healthcare organization. Not only are they passionate about providing expert care, they are also educators, counselors and their patients’ strongest advocates.

While caring for nursing home residents can be rewarding, it is also quite challenging. Working long demanding shifts in a high-stress environment can lead to burnout and high turnover, which can quickly result in sub-optimal care and increased medical errors. In fact, a research report from the University of California San Francisco found that the median turnover rate for nurses at long-term care facilities is 44%, which is significantly higher than the average for the healthcare industry.

Nursing engagement is key to preventing complications and reducing medical errors and mortality rates, according to research by Gallup. Engaged nurses are more responsive to their residents’ needs, more efficient and effective when providing care and less likely to experience burnout or leave their place of employment.

So how can your skilled nursing facility improve nursing engagement? Here are three tips:

1. Encourage and value nursing input

Include and involve nurses throughout improvement initiatives and allow them to be active participants in decision making that impacts the organization, patient care and their nursing role. Nurses will be more engaged if they know their input matters.

2. Ensure accessibility and responsiveness

Nurses need to know they have a committed leadership team behind them. Take steps to make leaders accessible to nurses and responsive to their needs. This builds a trusting relationship, which will drive greater levels of engagement and commitment to your organization.

3. Recognize nursing contributions

Honest and meaningful recognition of a job well done increases loyalty and engagement. Find ways to recognize the many contributions nurses make to their residents and your facility.

Whether done in a public forum or through personal, one-on-one communication, showing appreciation improves nursing morale and instills a sense of pride.

Want to learn more? Discover how ABILITY CAREWATCH can keep your nursing team on the right track with quality initiatives.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and CAREWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

The three priorities nursing leaders should have for the rest of the year

This year has been a roller coaster so far, with influenza and COVID-19 wreaking havoc in healthcare facilities across the country and world.

While many of us may still be in recovery – or even survival – mode it’s important to not lose sight of the longer-term goals for your team and organization.

Nurse job satisfaction

If you want high quality of care, your nurses’ overall satisfaction with their job is vital. It’s easy to see that happier nurses are going to offer a better patient experience than ones who are miserable. And the research backs it up.

The American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) collects information from U.S. hospitals to help healthcare organizations pinpoint areas for improvement. Using that data, researchers have found a direct link between nurses’ job satisfaction and patient outcomes. For example, they noted that a 25% increase in nurse job enjoyment over two years was linked to a quality of care increase between 5% and 20%.

That job satisfaction quotient may be particularly challenging right now. After months of turmoil and stress, with potentially more to come, don’t forget to check in on your nurses to find out how they’re holding up. Schedule one-on-one meetings to talk things through and evaluate how they are doing.

However, the biggest key to job satisfaction is improving staffing and nurse scheduling, especially when it to comes to nurse-patient ratios and helping nurses preserve their work/life balance. Learn how ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler can help with both.

Turnover

Turnover has a direct link to job satisfaction. If nurses are unhappy, they are more likely to quit.

In 2019, we saw the turnover rate for bedside RNs decrease 1.3% and it stands at 15.9% right now, according to the 2020 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report. While a dip in turnover is certainly good news, it’s still too high and the cost can be devastating.

In fact, according to the same report, the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $44,400 and, ranges from $33,300 to $56,000. For the average hospital, we’re talking about losses in the $3.6 to $6.1 million range. Most can’t sustain that. Besides, we’re already facing a nursing shortage as it is, and you can’t afford to lose good people.

Again, after prolonged upheaval and stress, many of your nurses could be thinking about quitting or even leaving the profession altogether. Prioritizing their job satisfaction is critical to keeping them onboard.

Training and nurse development

Developing staff is one of the smartest ways to both retain nurses and attract new ones. It’s also a way to increase the overall skill sets and value of your staff. With every skill they learn, they improve your organization’s ability to provide a high quality of care.

It’s critical to provide in-house training and development programs to keep their clinical skills fresh. However, also provide training that goes beyond that. Training in communication, conflict resolution and leadership makes nurses more capable in their current roles, while also preparing them for future management and leadership roles.

The challenge is often creating the time for them to take training on top of long shifts. Still, it’s important to do so, if you want the best and brightest nurses working for you.

To see firsthand how you can improve your staffing process, request a demo of ABILITY SMARTFORCE Scheduler.

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY SMARTFORCE® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

Skilled nursing facilities to receive break on reporting staffing data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended timeline requirements for reporting direct staffing data in skilled nursing facilities. The extension is part of a series of blanket waivers to CMS requirements that is designed to relieve bureaucratic stress on SNF staff as they implement infection control programs to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and protect residents.

Under CMS regulations, skilled nursing facilities are normally required to report information on direct staff – anyone responsible for the hands-on care of residents – to the CMS in a uniform format at least quarterly. The waiver applies to data pulled and submitted electronically to CMS through the Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) system.

The reporting requirements whose timelines are being waived include:

  • The work category for each direct-care staff member
  • Resident census data
  • Staff tenure and turnover
  • The number of care hours performed by each staff member per day
  • Designation of direct-care staff as facility employee, agency worker or independent contractor

Skilled nursing facilities that are overwhelmed by their response to COVID-19 infection or prevention do not have to submit paperwork to take advantaged of the relaxed timeline for reporting direct staffing data. Because the timeline extension was part of a blanket waiver by the agency, it automatically goes into effect for all skilled nursing facilities. The measure, which was announced on April 24, is good for 60 days. That timeframe could be extended based on the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extended deadlines for reporting staffing numbers do not apply to data that was due to CMS for its April reports. That data should have been collected before a public health emergency was declared on Jan. 31.

The timeline extension was part of a large series of blanket waivers issued by CMS to help skilled nursing facilities better address and cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Source:

Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020,  memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-28-nh.pdf

 

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

CMS temporarily lifts MDS reporting timeline

Skilled nursing facilities will see the timeline requirements for reporting the Minimum Data Set (MDS) to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) extended as they work to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS announced at the end of April that it would provide a blanket waiver for MDS reporting timeline so facilities could focus their energy on infection control programs that could help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The timeline waiver applies specifically to regulations listed under 42 CFR 483.20. The MDS data under that code documents and monitors residents’ conditions by assessing cognitive patters, vision, communication, mood and behavior, psychological and social health, physical function, continence, diagnoses and condition, medication, treatments and procedures, activity and discharge planning.

Some of screenings affected by the timeline waiver include:

  • Pre-admission Level 1 and Level 2 screenings, which are typically required within the first 14 days of admittance
  • Quarterly review assessments, which are required at least once every three months
  • Annual assessments, which are required at least once every 12 months
  • Assessments that mark significant changes in a patient’s condition within 14 days of those changes

Under normal circumstances, all MDS data collected during resident assessments must be encoded within seven days and reported to CMS within 14 days.

Because the waivers were a blanket order issued by CMS, skilled nursing facilities do not have to file any additional paperwork if they will be delaying the reporting of the eligible MDS. The waiver does not apply to MDS required for CMS’s April 29 reports, as that data would have been collected before a public health emergency was declared on Jan. 31. The blanket waiver is in effect for 60 days, though there is a potential to extend the waiver.

 

Source:

Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020,  memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-28-nh.pdf

 

ABILITY and design® and ABILITY® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.

CMS waives hospitalization requirement for SNF patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced it will waive several requirements for SNF residents impacted by COVID-19. The measures, which were announced at the end of April, are intended to help facilities adapt quickly to accommodate residents – and to help ensure residents are eligible for needed benefits – in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the waivers related to SNF patients include:

Hospitalization requirements

With the blanket waiver, patients will be eligible for CMS coverage without the usual prerequisite of three days of prior hospitalization if they have been displaced or been affected by COVID-19.

Renewal of benefits

The provision also allows residents who have exhausted their long-term care benefits to renew their SNF benefits without having to begin a new benefit period if they were prevented from completing and renewing their previous benefits due to the coronavirus crisis. To be eligible, their benefits must have been renewable under normal circumstances.

Pre-admission screening and annual reviews

With the waivers, SNFs will be able to admit patients who have not yet had their Level 1 or Level 2 admissions screenings. Instead, facilities will have up to 30 days after admitting patients to perform the required screenings.

Resident transfers

To allow facilities to create cohorts to care for residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, CMS is waiving several transfer requirements, as long as a facility has agreed to receive a resident from another facility. Cohort agreements can allow for the transfer of residents with COVID-19 to allow stricken residents to be isolated in one facility, or residents who test negative for the illness can be transferred to other facilities to protect them from a COVID-19 outbreak within their current facility.

Blanket waivers automatically go into effect, so facilities do not need to submit applications when they take advantage of the waived requirements.

With these waivers, facilities must continue to track infections and infection control measures. Find out how ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH can help your staff track all of the necessary data.

 

Source:

Director, CMS Quality Safety & Oversight Group, April 24, 2020,  memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors. https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-28-nh.pdf

 

ABILITY and design®, ABILITY® and ABILITY INFECTIONWATCH® are trademarks of ABILITY Network, Inc.