A nurse reviews the schedule on her healthcare tablet
By Rikki Jennings | May 08, 2023

Why the Best First Step in the “Retailization of Healthcare” is Implementing a More Efficient Scheduling Solution

Nurses need to be at patients’ bedsides delivering care today, not at computers trying to figure out who’s available to work tomorrow. This can help.

As consumers, we have all become used to the convenience and rapid service that retailers provide through e-commerce. But as patients, we don’t always experience the same convenience when we need urgent care – or any care. That’s why many healthcare facilities are looking to retail best practices to help their operations meet the increasing demand for quick and easy service. 

Many of the healthcare leaders I speak to via customer advisory boards and site visits say they’re embracing the “retailization of healthcare” to offer more localized services in distributed care settings – which often results in less capital-intensive care delivery systems. And they aren’t the only ones. (You may even be heading in this direction.)

But before you or any other healthcare leader can make the necessary operational changes to create a retail-like healthcare model, there must be organized clinical staff in place ready to provide more personalized care. Many healthcare providers still rely on manual or homegrown scheduling systems that are time consuming to use, which drains away resources that could be focused on patient-facing responsibilities. In fact, some reports indicate that a nurse manager spends 60% of their day managing schedules and staff. That indicates that not much has changed since 2018, when Zebra surveyed more than 300 nurses about their daily workloads and found nearly 60% of all nurse managers were spending more than one day of their work week managing the schedule. That is too much time spent scheduling staff and too little time dedicated to providing patient care.

When healthcare administrators invest in a modern scheduling solution akin to what’s used in retail stores, they are helping both charge nurses and floor nurses  stay more focused on patient health and reducing the time nurse managers have to audit and adjust schedules. They are also creating a better overall experience for patients and nurses, as nurses can be more attentive and available. They are no longer distracted by admin tasks or burned out from trying to cover down for colleagues during understaffed shifts. The process to ensure the right people are on the clock becomes more automated, and the specialized skills and experience of each nurse can be factored in scheduling to ensure balanced distribution across each department or floor. 

Taking the First Step

It’s hard for your nurses to schedule the right staff members and assign them to the right patients to provide the right type of personalized care when they are being forced to work within the confines of cumbersome and time-consuming employee scheduling processes. It’s even more complicated when they’re using outdated systems that can’t factor in employee availability and work preferences and nearly impossible if they’re having to manually figure out whose skills are best suited for each role, patient or department. Sometimes, they can’t even tell if the nurses they’re trying to schedule are even available in a balanced measure 24/7/365. 

If you want to meet your operational and patient satisfaction targets this year (or anytime in the future), you must empower nurse managers to make quick, system-recommended changes to fill potentially open shifts when staff request time-off – and they must be able to see such recommendations. And they certainly need a way to confirm all staffing decisions and scheduling actions are compliant with union rules, labor laws and organizational policies. 

This level of support, though achievable through collaborative scheduling efforts, is only sustainable if such collaboration is being driven by artificial intelligence (AI). 

Some people say technology complicates things. In this case, software that automates many actions a nurse manager would otherwise be required to handle is the only way to truly simplify things – and by “things” I mean the entire care workflow, from total staff scheduling to individual patient care.

The Human Impact of AI-Based Scheduling Software

When the goal is to improve patient experiences, it is crucial that the correct number of caregivers with the proper credentials are available to provide this higher level of care. With the right scheduling software platform, nursing staff (and, really, any of your staff) can access their personal schedules as well as team/shift schedules on mobile devices, enabling them to swap shifts and have input on their schedule. This approach helps engage staff in scheduling decisions that impact them in many different ways while helping to mitigate the impact of callouts and reduce attrition.

When you give your team members more visibility into their work schedules, you are giving them the ability to be a part of how, when and where they provide their best healthcare services. A healthy and satisfied work environment translates to the patient. So why not help improve employee satisfaction while simultaneously giving patients an efficient environment they can trust? 

Next Steps

As more hospitals join in on the “retailization of healthcare”, it is time for administrators to consider the best first step – finding a more efficient scheduling solution for the staff most desperately needed to be available at the point of care. If you’d like to learn more about how AI-powered workforce management software can help your hospital or entire healthcare system, reach out to one of our healthcare solution advisors or check out more information on how the technology works in this brochure or on our website.

Healthcare, Automation,
Rikki Jennings, BSN, RN, CPN
Rikki Jennings, BSN, RN, CPN

Rikki Jennings, BSN, RN, CPN is currently the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) at Zebra Technologies where she is responsible for combining her knowledge of patient care, informatics concepts, and change management to effectively address the information and knowledge needs of healthcare professionals and patients to promote safe, effective, and efficient use of IT in clinical settings.  She also serves as the strategic liaison for health IT efforts representing nursing and clinician needs.

Early in her nursing career, Rikki recognized a disconnect between purchased technologies and the understanding of their intended value at the bedside by her fellow clinicians and pursued Nursing Informatics. She is passionate about the utilization of technology to support safer, more effective care models. Over the past several years, her work in the healthcare IT industry has provided her an in-depth knowledge of the workflows and utilization of clinical technologies including clinical communication systems, bedside technology solutions, and data analytics tools in hospitals across the country.  In 2019, Rikki was recognized in Crain’s Chicago Business’ Notable Women in Healthcare list. Rikki holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Iowa.

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