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Originally Published in VoiceFriend Newsletter, April 2014

Julie Harris, Sr. Director of Clinical Services at Merrimack Health Group, was struggling with a common healthcare problem. One of her communities was experiencing staff call outs and the resulting overtime expenses. Julie's challenge was not unique.

A New York State Government Accountability Office (NYSGAO) review of overtime costs at their New York City Acute Care, Skilled Nursing, Home Health Care Agencies and Community-Based Clinics, found an overtime situation that was out of control (Click here to view report). The excessive overtime included nine nurses earning between $47K and $64K in overtime pay for the year and a nurses aide that earned $54K in overtime - a 159% increase over base pay.

The New York review found that unscheduled overtime was caused primarily by unanticipated employee absences or to meet special work needs or emergencies. One of its recommendations to address the overtime challenge was to: encourage facilities to maximize the use of part-time and temporary staff before using full-time staff when assigning overtime.

VoiceFriend supports the NYSGAO's recommendations, but believes they missed a key contributor to overtime expenses - namely, the coverage for open shifts process. Staff schedulers are under great pressure to fill open shifts. A VoiceFriend study indicated that the typical call out takes 2-3 hours to fill. This is time that most staff schedulers do not have and thus they often give the open shift to a full time employee who they know will take the shift - even if overtime costs will be incurred.

As an alternative approach, utilizing an automated messaging solution that sends voice, email and text to per diem, part time and then full time staff, the time it takes to fill an open shift drops from 2-3 hours to 5-10 minutes. And overtime is reduced by up to 25%.

Julie Harris selected VoiceFriend for her staff messaging needs. Says Julie, "We were up and running with a 30 minute kick off meeting and 1 hour of training. Sending call out messages only takes a few clicks of the mouse. Using VoiceFriend, we reduced overtime by 10% in the first month of use."

While your community may not have the overtime challenges that New York City had, most communities spend too much money on overtime. An automated messaging solution is proven to save both time and money.

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Staff Productivity and Cost Containment