If at First You Don't Succeed ...

June 24, 2011
The Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) in Houston is a Texas-size public healthcare system operation. It employs thousands in two hospitals, 12

The Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) in Houston is a Texas-size public healthcare system operation. It employs thousands in two hospitals, 12 community health centers, a dental center and multiple office-based and mobile clinics and serves more than 300,000 people. Staff scheduling was complicated, but remained manual despite two prior attempts to automate.

The first try was in 2000, when the organization purchased ActiveStaffer from api Software, Hartford, Wis. "I don't think the district was ready for it," remarks HCHD project manager Bob Hobson. There was little education and no consensus on the activity code tables, among other things, he says. The second time, HCHD hired a consultant, but that didn't stick either. It took a third try.

HCHD stayed with api for several reasons, one of which was budgetary. But that wasn't the only reason. The organization used — and liked — other api products and accepted much of the responsibility for the earlier implementation failures. HCHD was determined to succeed this time.

The third installation effort came with a top-down administrative mandate. Overtime had ballooned and the budget was under siege. Presented as a major nursing project, it was led by a multidisciplinary, cross-organizational team which included Hobson, IT analyst Sharon Driesch, director of payroll Dee Stripling, nurse staffing officers Pamela Russell and Pat Palmer, and nursing chief of staff Lonnie Crawford. The goal was to integrate ActiveStaffer and utilize the set of api solutions to actively monitor staffing levels and trigger rules-based alerts.

"IT can install the thing, but management to (achieve) the expected objective is not really IT. That's the next layer that has to occur," notes Hobson. "We've found when installing this system that it's not just installing ActiveStaffer, it's managing the integration of ActiveStaffer and managing the managers to use ActiveStaffer to achieve optimum benefits."

Author Information:Charlene Marietti Bonita Shelar CCS-P is payment services manager, MaternOhio Management Services.

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