By Elina Petrillo, Assistant Vice President, HR Technology at Northwell Health
Northwell Health is a nonprofit integrated healthcare network. With 70,000 employees at 27 hospitals and more than 700 outpatient facilities, it is New York State’s largest healthcare provider and private employer.
Few hospitals have experienced the urgency, desperation, and outright panic that gripped New York’s Northwell Health in the early months of 2020 as hospitals throughout all five New York City boroughs ramped up staffing levels to deal with a rapidly rising influx of critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, just prior to the outbreak, Northwell Health was in the process of deploying Oracle Cloud technology to assist with staff planning and recruitment. We had already embarked on a digital transformation of our HR practices. When COVID hit New York hard in February and March, our team pivoted to meet the need for additional workforce resources. We quickly realized we needed a better way to calculate staffing needs and manage our search for staff so we could maximize patient safety
At the beginning of the pandemic, we relied on spreadsheets for scheduling workers and planning for our workforce needs. Data was decentralized and managed by individual hospitals. We lacked a holistic view for the health system. Suddenly, certain hospitals were being overwhelmed with hundreds of patients. The power of a large health system is its ability to move resources from place to place to ensure there is adequate coverage in the hot spots. But in order to make those moves, you need to have reliable data about current and available nursing resources.
Data analysts at Northwell scrambled to extract employee scheduling data from the Kronos Time and Attendance system and combine it with patient census data from multiple hospitals. They used Excel spreadsheets to crunch the data and help administrators understand staffing shortages at each hospital and unit.
Creating Excel spreadsheets was a painful process. It was difficult and time-consuming to bring in data from multiple flat files. We developed a rigorous process of meeting with our chief nursing officer multiple times a day to review the data.
The situation became even more complicated as my team was asked to gather information about staffing resources from a variety of external sources. For example, Northwell contracted with an outside agency to bring in additional nurses and respiratory therapists to help manage the crisis. We also leveraged our partnership with Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, which supplied additional personnel. They tapped into a database of recently retired New York healthcare workers that were potentially available for redeployment. And they pulled in information about nurses and other clinical care resources as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rounded up temporary employees from other state agencies.
We had a significant spike in recruitment for staff specifically related to intensive care, ED, respiratory therapy, and environmental services. Because of the crisis, there was an imperative to expedite the onboarding and validation processes for the large influx of approximately 700 temporary employees.
As the healthcare crisis accelerated in New York and surrounding states, my team worked days, nights, and weekends to input data into Excel spreadsheets. We developed more than 100 data file feeds. In some cases, hospitals were submitting information manually. In other cases, interfaces with other hospital systems pulled in data about patient discharges and transfers. The data-input process alone required more than the equivalent of one FTE—approximately 50 hours each week—and other parts of the data ingestion cycle occupied two more.
We used Oracle Analytics to rationalize, synthesize, and display the data through an HR dashboard that helps chief nursing officers and HR leaders stay abreast of patient inflows, recruitment, and staffing. Old spreadsheets were converted into a format that can be directly consumed by Oracle Analytics Cloud coupled with a custom Kronos integration and propagated through digital charts, graphs, and maps.
Developing an analytics dashboard turned out to be a very easy process. We were able to complete it in less than one month. Now all file feeds are automated. There are no more spreadsheets and no need for people to be involved with data input.
The staffing dashboard helps Northwell’s clinical leaders interpret the data so they can make informed decisions about where augmented staff should be deployed to optimize patient care.
Single sign-on (SSO) enables users to log in seamlessly from multiple applications.
Oracle Analytics Cloud has helped us manage this healthcare crisis by streamlining data management activities. For example, it automates the process of pulling data from our scheduling platform and marrying staffing information with data about the number of patients at our hospitals. This helps us develop a holistic view of overall staffing needs.
The analytics dashboard not only provides a single source of truth for visualizing real-time staffing information, but the automation frees up multiple full-time employees from manual spreadsheet maintenance so they can be reallocated to more productive and valuable activities.
Looking ahead, we are working hard to create a culture of analytics at Northwell Health. COVID has accelerated the need to have real-time data displayed in a dashboard. Now we want to ensure that our clinical leaders trust the data and use analytics as a dependable source of information for supporting other business decisions. Oracle Analytics Cloud helps us establish that. In the near future, we plan to use Oracle Analytics Cloud for trending, predictions, benchmarking, and other types of automated analyses.
Northwell’s long-term goal is to create an enterprise-wide analytics system that will serve approximately 5,000 people throughout the organization. We want to provide our leaders with an easy way to get answers to questions about topics such as diversity practices for hiring, insights about talent, overtime trends, and mitigation strategies. We are also very interested in using the machine learning capabilities of Oracle Analytics Cloud for forecasting and prediction.
Oracle’s support for mobile devices will allow Northwell to extend secure access to employees via their smartphones and tablets. We purchased mobile licenses for employees so they can submit HR data in a timely fashion. Instead of using time clocks or logging into workstations, they can now use their mobile devices to log hours and submit requests for specific shifts.
Northwell measures the return on its investment in Oracle Analytics in multiple ways. First are the time savings: data preparation and ingestion processes that formerly required three full-time employees now require none. Since my team configured data pipelines into Oracle Analytics Cloud, the dashboards are populated automatically.
Second- is the more efficient HR administration and deployment of agency nurses. Sourcing staff from agencies was a critical part of our ability to mobilize our staffing resources throughout the crisis. This includes RNs, respiratory therapists (RTs), and other key roles plus a staffing agency partner of Northwell, and RNs through travel nursing agencies like Cross Country. Exactly how, when, and where to deploy the much-needed agency resources was a near-constant discussion between HR and operational leaders from nursing and other areas of the organization. The frequent conversations and text exchanges, paired with enhanced reporting and business intelligence, ensured that we deployed staff to the sites most in need.
More than 500 agency RNs have supported Northwell since March 13, providing much-needed clinical support in Northwell hospitals and a critical boost in morale to our team members.
Northwell's strategy is to use a real-time staffing dashboard to reduce the need for agency RNs.
The third ROI metric is more qualitative than quantitative. We have provided our leaders with a better experience for interacting with the data, and this means that they use it more.
Widespread utilization by Northwell’s administrators has a direct impact on patient outcomes as well. That’s where these administrative efforts make a genuine clinical difference. Previously, we were trying to understand how far we could stretch our staffing levels for functional nurses, and where we needed to augment nursing resources. Having dependable data that is easy to access has allowed us to provide the best possible care for our patients.
Enjoyed reading this blog? Leave feedback for us.