How Often Should Staffing Benchmarks be Updated?
That depends. Hospitals are tightening staffing practices as Third Party Payers continue to squeeze payments and competition makes price transparency even more important. However, the most critically important reason to update your benchmarks may not be because of the very real changes taking place among your peers, but rather because of what is happening in your hospital.
Consider this real-world example.
Hospital “X” is a suburban community hospital with an average daily census of about 85. Two years ago, the hospital adopted a benchmark-based staffing standard of 8.62 worked hours per patient day for one of its Med/Surg nursing units, a number it has since used in budgeting. The unit was running an ADC of about 15 at the time the standard was adopted.
That nursing unit’s ADC increased to 18 in the current year. Applying the old staffing standard, unit staffing was pegged at 26.66 FTEs (worked). However, a re-check of the benchmark using the current census shows that the 43-member peer group’s benchmarked standard has dropped to 24.84 worked hours per patient day. Had the hospital adjusted its staffing standard for this unit to the new benchmark, it could have potentially saved an annualized $150,151.67 in salary, wages and benefit costs. Conversely, had things gone the other way and the unit census dropped from 18 to 15, the unit could have been operating short of the standard by about 2.0 FTEs.
Bottom Line: If utilization in your larger departments is stable and your bottom line is good, there’s probably no need to rush. On the other hand, if utilization has changed materially in either direction, particularly in larger departments, you should definitely take a look.