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How to Recognize a Healthcare Staffing Shortage

October 30, 2018 BY Brittany Morin-Mezzadri, Healthcare Staffing Specialist

How to Recognize a Healthcare Staffing Shortage

Updated June 2019

Quality performance is a strong indicator of whether a hospital needs additional staff. If a hospital continually misses the mark on patient satisfaction, it could be due to staffing shortages. Here are the top indicators healthcare staffing firms use to determine the need for clinicians.

Which hospitals contract with staffing firms?

Will a healthcare facility need new staff members in the near future?

What are the specific needs of this hospital compared to similar facilities?

These are just a few questions healthcare staffing firms must answer in order to place a permanent or locum tenens provider. 

Working with an outside staffing firm is one way for healthcare facilities to reduce wait times, increase available services, lower physician burnout rates, and improve performance in other areas. We've compiled the key metrics staffing firms use to stay competitive in their industry by predicting employment demand at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Top 4 Indicators of Healthcare Staffing Need

1. Quality Scores

Quality performance is a strong indicator of whether a hospital needs additional staff. If a hospital continually misses the mark on patient satisfaction, it could be due to staffing shortages. HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores are vital to staffing firms' assessment of target hospitals. One of the most popular uses is analyzing the responses to "patients who reported they 'Always' received help as soon as they wanted." Staffing agencies target hospitals that perform below the state or regional average for this measure in particular, as those facilities are likely to be in need of additional clinicians.

2. Diagnosis and Procedure Trends

Recruiters at staffing firms are often looking to place physicians quickly. Firms can analyze CMS and commercial medical claims logs at several key points in the placement process. First, recruiters can use claims data to screen for qualified clinicians, ensuring that candidates have performed specific procedures and can operate under certain specialties. This allows candidates to bypass the time-consuming process of contacting former places of employment for credentialing. If a candidate is not right for placement, staffing firms can use Definitive Healthcare's Physicians database to search for similarly qualified clinicians based on their procedure history.

3. Bed Utilization Rate

Bed utilization rate is one of many clinical metrics staffing firms use to analyze and compare facilities to determine the need for additional care providers. Firms can examine hospitals and other facilities with utilization rates much higher or lower than the national average. Facilities with abnormally high bed utilization rates are likely very busy and run the risk of increased physician burnout and turnover. If a facility has a below-average bed utilization rate, the facility could benefit from hiring additional clinicians to treat more patients in a shorter amount of time, potentially drawing in more patients and improving bed utilization.

4. Industry News

Staying abreast of healthcare industry news is vital for staffing firms to understand market trends and anticipate whether there will be a need for permanent or locum tenens providers and where they are likely to be needed most. Bankruptcies and facility closings are a valuable resource for recruiters, as closures indicate clinicians that will be seeking new employment opportunities. Similarly, new facility openings and construction indicate that there will soon be a need for additional staffing. For staffing firms looking to place locum tenens providers, there are three types of news to keep an eye on: labor issues, technology implementations, and mergers & acquisitions. Temporary staff members can help maintain regular operations while full-time staff undergo training for new software & technology implementations, as well as during periods of onboarding and restructuring during a facility merger or acquisition.


Fig 1 Interactive Staffing and Recruiting Analytics dashboard from Definitive Healthcare. Image features a map of hospitals, color-coded by ratio of contract labor spending to bed utilization (left) and a list of the most overworked facilities by workload index (right).

Looking for more information on how to streamline recruiting and physician placement? Sign up for a free trial to access Definitive Healthcare's interactive Staffing and Recruiting Analytics dashboard. Identify the most overworked facilities by location and sort by affiliated physicians, predicted need for locum tenens providers, average bed utilization rates, and other filters.

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