Staff sizing can be tricky under the best of circumstances.
The problem is especially acute in healthcare where a staffing miscalculation can result in either a bloated, inefficient medical practice or a practice that lacks the personnel to give its patients the care they deserve.
These days, not even the healthcare industry is immune to layoffs. Tight budgets and rising patient demands have created an environment where everyone is reevaluating how many staff members they really need to get by. Since every practice is different, you can't take a formulaic approach to resizing. Instead, you'll have to rely on a few, common sense assessment tools to guide the process.
- Visual observation. The most obvious way to assess your staffing needs is to visually observe office workflows. If certain employees always seem to be looking for something to do, it could be a sign that you're overstaffed. However, you will need to conduct further research to make sure that the position (not the employee) is the problem.
- Industry benchmarks. It's not uncommon for healthcare industry organizations to compile and publicize medical practice staffing benchmarks. For example, it's generally accepted that one insurance biller can handle 10,000 claims per year. It may also be a good idea to talk with colleagues and compile your own benchmarks based on trends in your area.
- Evaluate workflows. When you evaluate your staffing requirements, you'll want to spend some time studying office workflows. Key staff positions are usually the ones that are most hectic because they are chokepoints for the flow of work. The caveat is that you have to prioritize function over the quantity of work performed. Although a specific position may appear idle during low volume down times, it could be essential during peak work periods.
- Backlogs and overtime. Your practice's backlog and overtime requirements can reveal important information about your current staff size. Excessive backlogs and OT hours may be a sign that you are already understaffed.
- Layoff criteria. If your practice has to lay off some of its staff, it's important to communicate the criteria for layoffs well in advance. Years of service, worker skills and the nature of the position are all legitimate factors that can be included in your practice's layoff policy.