Get industry news, client announcements, product release info, and HWL Insights directly in your inbox!

How to Lower Costs While Improving Fill Rates

Nurses walking down a hallway, talking to each other

The healthcare industry's staffing woes have been ongoing for decades, despite being exacerbated over the past few years. In 2017, the majority of the nursing workforce was at retirement age, with similar trends observed among physicians. Coupled with burnout and increased strain that became all too common during the pandemic, organizations big and small started to shift their hiring practices. More emphasis was put on contingent labor, which, while convenient, tends to be more expensive. Despite increased costs, it quickly became one of the top solutions to meet the demand for nurses to fill vacancies in hospitals nationwide. In fact, it is estimated,

"the hours worked by travel nurses as a percentage of total hours worked by nurses in hospitals grew from less than 4% in January 2019 to over 23% in January 2022, according to data from Syntellis Performance Solutions. . .contract labor as a share of total labor expenses rose 178.6% from 2019 to 2022."

The truth is the reliance on contingent staff has become ubiquitous throughout the industry and is slated to continue. Maintaining a steady, dedicated workforce is one of the main aspects of improving a facility's fill rate to accommodate patients and ensure quality of care stays consistent.

But can you have your cake and eat it too? HWL helps healthcare organizations contain contingent labor costs when they need it most. Here we'll go over how to improve fill rates while lowering staffing costs.


Enlist the Help of a Managed Service Program (MSP)

MSPs have proven crucial in optimizing both core and contingent employee management. They are able to streamline the complexities involved with recruiting top talent so that many moving parts become manageable in one centralized system. This, in turn, results in significant time and money saved. For instance, Hartford Healthcare approached HWL stating that physician recruitment had been successfully centralized, but locums were still contracted at the facility level — meaning no standard procedure was in place, leading to differing methodologies, costly recruitment, and increased stress levels.

HWL's MSP was able to give valuable insights into how other health systems recruited successfully and at cost-effective rates. The result? Hartford, an HWL client, was able to formulate a universal process, set of rates, and contract through approved vendors that were contracted through the MSP. This saved countless hours of back-and-forth negotiating rates and contracts with locum agencies and provided real-time, instant visibility into usage and spend within each department. This made it easier to fill positions in a timely manner so that patient outcomes didn't suffer all while contingent staffing costs were reduced for the long term.


Find a Vendor Management Systems (VMS) to Complement Your MSP

Managing vendors is a tricky process that takes time, effort, and precision. But it's not uncommon to need a last-minute replacement or supplementary staff in case of staff illness, leave, or unexpected influxes of patients. 

Consider this situation: your nurse manager is faced with a temporary vacancy and does whatever they can to fill the position quickly. However, with staffing shortages plaguing the industry, qualified talent is scarce. This is when desperation kicks in and they feel they have no time for contract negotiations with an agency, meaning they agree to inflated contract costs in the interest of filling the replacement efficiently. This situation has been experienced by every healthcare facility at some point and is the exact reason why Lahey Health started to look into HWL's VMS capabilities. These include:

  • Custom workflows
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Device agnosticism
  • Real-time data dashboards that allow for precise decision making
  • Custom and ad-hoc reports
  • Vendor-neutral model
  • Complex rate plan management
  • Online credentials management
  • Electronic timekeeping

By automating the entire process and providing enhanced visibility into internal procedures, Lahey Health centralized all contract staffing including nursing, allied health, non-clinical, and IT. Through comprehensive market-rate analyses and vendor evaluations, opportunities for cost reduction arose immediately. Moreover, HWL identified that the managers were over-using ‘rapid response’ agencies and unnecessarily paying higher rates. Our VMS now allowed them to quickly source candidates using a variety of agencies, creating competition and cutting costs to save over $1.5M in less than one year.

Or take the case of Acadia Healthcare, which utilized HWL's VMS to achieve a 99% fill rate on orders since the program launched and decreased locum spending by over 50% while simultaneously improving the quality of locum staff. The bottom line is if you are looking to improve fill rates and reduce staffing costs, a VMS is probably your first stop.


HWL Is Your One-Stop Shop For Reducing Costs and Improving Fill Rates

Between our Internal Resource Pool system that reduces dependency on contingent staff, our VMS that has proven time and time again to cut spending while maintaining integrity of care, and an MSP that standardizes the recruiting process through market data and key efficiencies, HWL is your number one resource for improving fill rates and reducing spend.

The first step toward better processes is knowing what you are up against and where inefficiencies exist. Get in touch to learn how we can help you today!

September 25, 2023/By Jeff Niles
Share this entry

Author: Jeff Niles

Jeff is Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Healthcare Workforce Logistics and has been in healthcare contingent workforce management for over 15 years. Jeff has led sales, implementation, and client services to some of the largest and most influential healthcare providers with technology and solutions installed in over 3,000 hospitals in 50 states and the UK. Jeff is inspired to work with transformational leaders that have a vision to achieve the highest levels of efficiency, transparency, compliance, quality and cost savings. Contact Jeff at jniles@hwlmsp.com OR 630-913-6629
Find me on:
Please feel free to keep the discussion going in the comments section below.

More HWL Insights in your Inbox!