4 Takeaways from the ANA Staffing Conference

by | Nov 10, 2014

I had the privilege of attending the ANA Staffing Conference in New Orleans this past week. It was only the second time this conference has been held and my first time to be able participate. There were somewhere around 500 attendees at the Hyatt Regency, which was a nicely sized location for the event. I could probably write an entire blog with four takeaways on the New Orleans food scene, but we’ll save that for another day.

After a day and a half of conference sessions, talking with attendees at the Axsium booth, and participating in a panel session with thought leaders from five software vendors, here are my big four takeaways from the show:

1.    Nurse Staffing Is A Big Deal

Like I said above, FIVE HUNDRED ATTENDEES were there to talk about staffing. If you follow this blog, you know I am very passionate about the topic and point to this being the “operational heartbeat of the hospital” and the place where clinical care is put in motion. There are a lot of people who not only agree, they live this every single day.

This was incredibly energizing for me personally. While the national media likes to talk about flashy medical trends or complain about the cost of healthcare, the reality is that the business of hospitals starts with and revolves around staff deployment. Providing quality patient care while managing labor costs? These opposing forces are the real heart of healthcare, and every staffer at every hospital deals with variations of the same set of pain points.

2.    Software Vendors Think Differently From Each Other

I spent a good amount of time interacting with our software vendor partners at the conference to better understand how their products are evolving. This is important to me because when I turn around talk with hospitals about the scheduling vendor landscape, they want to understand from me the points of differentiation between staffing solutions more than the product functionality itself.

What I came away with is that there is more than one way to peel an orange. Each of the software vendors come at the “problem” of scheduling and staffing with a different perspective and background. That leads them to devise solutions that address those problems in different ways from each other. For example, Cerner leverages their clinical suite foundation where Avantas builds on their staffing office roots and business acumen in their respective scheduling products. I could go on about Kronos, Infor, and the others.

This is one of the values that an independent third party like Axsium bring to the table. When hospitals and health systems look at implementing a scheduling solution, there is much more to consider than the flashy functionality of a sales demo. We bring intimate knowledge of the complete vendor landscape to advise our clients and assist them in picking the vendor that best fits their organization’s culture.

3.    Acuity Is A Hot Button Item…Unfortunately

Let me explain. I had plenty of conversations with attendees who were interested in what acuity could do to help them with staffing. There was more than one who was getting ready for an acuity vendor selection. And almost all of the software vendors had some kind of acuity solution that they touted and integrated with their solution. So “acuity” as a topic was certainly hot!

But here is why I say that was unfortunate. In those same conversations, I heard about scheduling and staffing pain points the hospitals experienced. Those issues were the same ones that I often hear about and talk about. Only the problem was that the staffers were looking at acuity like it was some kind of silver bullet that would magically solve their core staffing problems.

Here is the thing: Acuity is a staffing ENHANCER. If you already have good staffing processes and are looking to tighten up your labor usage and control costs without compromising patient care, acuity is for you. But if you are struggling with fundamental process issues and your scheduling and staffing is a mess, acuity is just more noise. It doesn’t solve those problems. Process improvements solve core issues. Adding technology on broken processes creates new expensive broken processes.

For those hospitals who are ready to improve their good staffing processes by introducing acuity measures, there are some really good software solutions out there. And they are all different from each other!

4.    New Conference Growing Pains

Obviously, with this being only the second time ANA has hosted this particular conference, there were some growing pains and opportunities for improvement in the future. That in itself doesn’t warrant a takeaway on this list.

What impressed me was the conference leadership team who very engaged with the attendees and with us as sponsoring vendors in how the show was going and making improvements in the future. I was very surprised (in a good way) at the care that Nick Blencowe took with the conference. I came away with every reason to believe that the next time ANA hosts this conference it will be significantly better in terms of logistics and overall organization.

And that makes me already looking forward to the next conference. Hope to see you there!


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