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As you strategize to make the coming year better (and more profitable) than the last, you’ll be tasked with finding new ways to get more done while cutting costs—again

If you haven’t noticed, regulatory requirements, an aging workforce and the costs of maintaining healthcare facilities have all increased, and continue to rise. So has your need for specialty skills to fulfill evolving compliance mandates and facility service needs.
Saving money while checking all the boxes you’re responsible for is a tall order, but doable. Here’s how to do it by optimizing your full-time employees (FTEs).
The savings that can cost you double
Often, when healthcare leaders set out to cut facilities costs, they cut those costs that are easiest to control: in-house labor, or salaries.
The short-term savings from eliminating FTEs come at a high, long-term cost, however: Work still must be done, but with fewer staff to do it, facilities are pressed to outsource services. Soon enough, they’re handcuffed to external service contracts that cost far more than what it would cost to hire, train and develop a skilled worker in-house.
Consider, for example, investing in a highly technical FTE at $80,000/year. This is someone who’s easily accessible on-site to make crucial repairs with minimal downtime and patient diversion. Someone who knows your processes, priorities and systems. Someone familiar with the needs and quirks of internal customers, and whose loyalty lies with your organization.
Without that FTE, you could easily pay $160,000/year on a service contract for the same work—except with added downtime, varying contractor availability and limited knowledge of your organization.
The compliance puzzle piece
In the past, CMS regulatory surveys focused on the clinical side. But the next time your facility undergoes a survey, auditors will take a much harder look at your facility’s infrastructure and physical environment.
With the recent adoption of the 2012 version of the Life Safety Code™ NFPA 101-2012 by CMS, NFPA 99 -  2012 was also adopted. This code ensures that all the proper systems for hospitals are in place and maintained. The Joint Commission (TJC) employs life safety engineers to perform these surveys, and with their extensive knowledge of these codes, requirements and hospital facility operations, it is important that your facility is kept up to date with these requirements.
This shift, plus the fact that the environment of care tends to be the most heavily cited portion of TJC code, will require specialty skills—professionals trained in the physical environment—to pinpoint issues and solutions that would otherwise elude an untrained eye.
Add to that the compressed timeline for correcting violations (just 60 days, as opposed to months or years in the past), and facilities will have no choice but to self-identify and remediate issues early and often to avoid crippling costs.
What does “optimizing” means in relation to FTEs?
Put simply, an optimized workforce means you have exactly the skills, tools and systems you need, when and where you need them, and in perfect alignment with business and clinical objectives across the organization—no more, no less. It also means you’re working toward self-sufficiency, reducing or eliminating your reliance on external service contracts.
That’s only possible when workforce and facilities program decisions are based on data—not hunches or personal preferences. Access to that data requires you to track and monitor all elements that touch your facilities—from technology assets to service contracts, performance, downtime, cost of parts, repairs and more.
Without that data in hand, you can borrow some of ours: A study we conducted revealed that common functions healthcare facilities outsource or plan to outsource include HVAC (68%), building automation (42%), and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (57%). These are all skilled trades where technology is a dominant trend.
With higher tech adoption by millennial workers, your opportunity is great to manage those functions in-house, efficiently and cost-effectively, plus strengthen the data and evidence-based insights you’ll be able to glean from your facilities. Those insights, in turn, will enable data-driven decisions, so you can more easily identify, avoid and eliminate waste wherever it’s hiding in your facilities.
Where do I find the money to optimize my FTEs?
One hospital we worked with had cut their facilities staff down to a skeleton crew in an effort to save money. The following year, they were short on manpower and resources, and still had to find new ways to cut more money.
By adding staff back to their department and moving some expenses around, the facility not only added those needed skills back into their organization, but ultimately ended up saving money due to the elimination of the costly external contracts. There’s no need to sacrifice staff if you know where to look for hidden or wasteful expenses, starting with external contracts.
As you consider next steps for your organization, we invite you to download our complimentary guide, Tools for the In-House Model. We trust you’ll come away with solid ideas for making 2017 a high-ROI year.