Mobile Technology Fills Open Shifts

By  William Atkinson — July 06, 2011

MEW_Field_0811.jpgGrady Health System (GHS), Atlanta, Ga., has been in operation over 100 years, since 1892. The facility, staffed by about 5,000 employees, has 1,433 beds.

In addition to being one of the largest health systems in the nation, it is known as the best trauma center within 100 miles of metro Atlanta.

Beyond dealing with trauma, critical care, and intensive care, the facility’s emergency services include asthma, burn, sickle cell, and stroke care.

As such, having staff available 24/7 to treat emergencies is of vital importance to GHS. In fact, the facility prides itself on being able to say, “We have trained doctors and staff available, ready when you need us.”

And emergency services don’t stop there. “Because of our around-the-clock service and medical expertise, Grady houses Georgia’s Poison Center and 24-hour Rape Crisis and Advice Nurses line.”


The Challenge

Of course, GHS has always done a good job of scheduling the required number of staff with the necessary expertise in each area of the hospital. However, illnesses and other problems outside of work can end up causing some scheduled employees to miss their shifts unexpectedly.

Understanding this reality, GHS employed six people in its central staffing office. One of their responsibilities was to call employees to fill vacant shifts once they became aware of the vacancies.

“However, we had difficulty reaching employees to see if they could fill the open shifts,” reports Donald Thomas, assistant controller.

The central staffing office had to call its list of qualified employees one by one until it was able to locate someone who answered the phone and accepted the shift.

Not only was this process time-consuming, but GHS often ended up having to pay overtime to employees who were still working and remained on the job until employees who could cover subsequent shifts arrived at work.

“We needed an easier way to do this than to have staff calling all of the employees one by one,” adds Thomas.

GHS had been using integrated time/attendance and employee scheduling solutions from Kronos for over a decade. It asked Kronos for an application that could help with the open shift dilemma, which, for a long time, Kronos did not have. Eventually, though, Kronos was able to offer  GHS its Workforce Mobile Scheduler.


Worker Scheduling

Launched in January 2010, Kronos Workforce Mobile Scheduler is a comprehensive employee communication solution that allows enterprises to efficiently manage scheduling challenges by leveraging mobile technology.

Managers or scheduling department staff can send shift requests to employees via text (SMS), intelligent voice response (IVR), and e-mail, to any mobile phone, including the iPhone, BlackBerry phones, and Android phones. Employees can use their own familiar mobile technology to accept or decline shifts.

Workforce Mobile Scheduler is integrated with Kronos Workforce Scheduler, so shift requests automatically follow an organization’s defined business rules. This ensures that only appropriate workers are sent notifications of available shifts.

As a result, shifts can be filled with the right employees for the jobs, eliminating the need for managers, supervisors, or scheduling department staff to individually call multiple employees.

Since the requests go out at the same time, employees can access open shifts through their personal mobile devices with fair and easy access, eliminating favoritism. Once an employee accepts a shift, it is automatically assigned, and a second message notifies employees who received the first message that the shift has been filled. Meanwhile, the facility’s work schedule and the employee’s timecard are automatically updated in the Kronos scheduling application.


Tailoring the Solution

One technology that facilitates Workforce Mobile Scheduler is provided by Vortex Connect. Vortex Connect offers a full suite of workforce automation and task management solutions, using multiple mobile channels and native smartphone applications to enable staff communication.

“Vortex has a direct link into our server, connected to the Kronos application,” explains Thomas. Once a request is made through Kronos, it is connected via the network to the Vortex link. Vortex then sends that request out. The request comes back to Vortex, and Vortex uploads that information directly into the Kronos application.

“For us, though, it is all seamless,” explains Florina Viera-Corbett, operations analyst, Division 9, at GHS. “When the messages are sent out and come back, it looks as though it is all Kronos.”

GHS utilizes all three options (text, IVR, and e-mail) to reach employees, based on their individual preferences.
GHS provides all employees who participate in the technology with a form to complete and asks them which of the options they prefer.

“All of the employees receive an e-mail, and they have an option between text and phone,” explains Viera-Corbett. “Having the employees complete the sheet to explain how they want to receive the messages is very important.”

Employees, of course, know that they're charged for text messages. As a result, GHS made it clear to employees on the form that, if they selected this option, it was important for them to remember that they would be charged each time GHS sent out a shift request.


The Technology in Use

Currently, of the 5,000 employees employed by GHS, about 1,400 are involved in Workforce Mobile Scheduler.

The introduction of the technology has allowed GHS to reduce the number of employees that it has in its scheduling department. In addition, it has seen a reduction in overtime.

According to Thomas, GHS would like to begin using Workforce Mobile Scheduler to enhance how it communicates with employees in general, such as if it wants to send out a blast e-mail or some other form of communication to all of its employees. “In this way, employees could get hospital-related information immediately, instead of having to wait until they check their e-mail,” he explains.

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