healthcaretechoutlook

Walking the Talk on Workforce Partnerships in the Healthcare Industry

By Jeanette Sanchez, CIO, AMN Healthcare

Jeanette Sanchez, CIO, AMN Healthcare

One of the dominant trends in healthcare today–both for providers and vendors–is mergers and acquisitions. In a challenging environment, this strategy can provide greater revenue opportunities and cost savings through reduced technology redundancies and process inefficiencies. Historically, workforce tech typically has a build vs. buy mentality–usually opting for home-grown or highly customized solutions designed for their specific needs versus an off-the-shelf solution generically designed for “business” but not specifically for healthcare workforce management. This reality can make consolidation of IT difficult, and can lead many organizations to opt for keeping disparate, piecemeal systems in lieu of the tackling the heavy lifting of consolidating fragmented systems.

“The best run companies take an outside-in perspective, i.e., how can we make things better for our clients and clinicians”

With healthcare and healthcare vendors, there are an incredible number of technology concerns and sensitive issues, including security, HIPPA, PHI and interoperability, among scores of others. These issues can compound the challenges of consolidating a number of homegrown and emerging commercial solutions, but they also make the need for a strategic approach to IT of utmost importance.

AMN Healthcare is the leader in healthcare staffing and workforce solutions to hospitals, health systems and healthcare facilities across the nation. We have been expanding our services to clients through strategic acquisitions of companies and through organic development. One of the keys to our successful acquisitions is the foundation we are building through consolidation of front-office and back-office systems, with a focus on how we create a positive and efficient clinical experience by transforming aging and disparate systems. One way this is manifesting is the collection of timesheets. It is still a common practice in the healthcare staffing industry to have actual paper timesheets faxed to a central office where checks are processed. AMN is in the process of moving all of its brands to an all-digital platform, making the process easier and timelier. This means fewer hands are touching the process, which means less chance for error and faster payments to staff. This also equates to less admin time for the provider organizations we serve, in addition to providing an attractive incentive, helping us recruit and retain the highest quality healthcare professionals.

The best run companies take an outside-in perspective, i.e., how can we make things better for our clients and clinicians. This is something I always keep in the forefront as I think about current projects and those on the horizon.

The majority of our employees are on the move, whether they are clinicians, relationship managers, or business development and the AMN leadership team. Our people need to have the capability to do their jobs from wherever their lives and work take them. This makes the necessity of a safe, secure and user-friendly mobile strategy of vital importance. To facilitate this, we have adopted a suite of collaborative tools. We have moved our mail service to the cloud with Microsoft 365 and have implemented Box to provide our teams with anytime-anywhere access to work on projects and to collaborate with their teams. In fact, everything outside of ERP business systems exists in the cloud and is accessible via the employee portal, which we call Connections, with the added ease of single signon.

The backbone of our workforce technologies, ERP and integration platform is our private cloud in our data centers, which we are in the midst of an aggressive move to consolidate. As we grow organically and through acquisition, it is necessary that we have the highest security and scalability to help us both stay connected and online but also give us the ability to easily integrate new workforce technologies. This allows us to take advantage of opportunities to quickly pivot to provide better digital services to our clients and clinicians.

Interoperability is a big opportunity for us, as it is for the organizations we serve. And like provider organizations, we had the same hurdles early on. The healthcare industry has been immersed in consolidation and massive electronic health record system implementations. The next generation of opportunities in healthcare will be through large scale system and data interoperability. There are big untapped efficiencies that can be gained in interoperability, much like at supply chain-based organizations where data exchanges are more mainstream.

AMN is one of the pioneers in cloud-based workforce technologies in healthcare, and as a result we’ve been able to provide our clients with a better experience. This approach has ensured that we create efficiency and cost-savings opportunities both for our business and for provider organizations. This is an area where we always will be working to improve our service. I do not believe a forward-thinking organization is ever done when it comes to developing ways to provide a better end-user experience.

These efforts extend beyond what might be thought of as traditional tech­nology issues. The outside-in perspective that we have at AMN extends beyond our clients to include ensuring our clini­cians are both happy with us and their assignments, but also that they have ac­cess to ever-increasing opportunities. To do this, we put a lot of energy into our matching and credentialing processes. This involves both keeping credentials current as well as providing opportuni­ties for clinicians to enhance their cre­dentials in order to open up more oppor­tunities. One of the ways we provide this is through a credential profile that clini­cians can manage and access from their smartphones.

The catch with providing a positive mobile experience is ensuring a secure experience. To do this, we’ve contracted with MobileIron for BYOD security. This gives us the assurance that our informa­tion is containerized and can be wiped clean in instances of loss. Additionally, with BYOD, AMN has rights to the de­vice. We view mobile accessibility as a benefit, but one that comes with a lot of responsibilities–and a high cost to us. Currently, 65 percent of the AMN work­force has signed up for BYOD. This is a number that I believe will grow as staff want more flexibility and the continuum of healthcare extends beyond tradition­al settings all the way into the patient’s home. We know that our strong relation­ships with our healthcare clients compels our strategies to be innovative, process lean and digitized to create best-in-class patient, clinician and client outcomes.

Scalability and adaptability are two of the keys to being able to complete an acquisition with as much ease as possible. At the end of 2014, we acquired three companies, two of which were technology companies, Avantas and Medefis. Because of the groundwork we had already completed, these were some of the smoothest integrations to date–and our employee survey scores speak to that.

At the end of the day, a healthcare provider has to evaluate whether a company like AMN has earned the right to be its partner. Talking about efficiencies, interoperability and strategic planning is easy. But if we’re not walking the talk, then how can we be expected to provide benefit to our clients? We’re putting our own house in order so that our clients know they can trust us and partner with us to solve their workforce challenges and deliver the best healthcare outcomes to their patients.