Behavioral Health Staff Productivity and Utilization: Is Overproduction a Good Thing?

By July 13, 2020

You recognize the value of data to drive innovation  within your agency, but you aren’t sure where to begin. The data has yet to expose your current state of business and guide future decision-making opportunities. You may be asking yourself, “how do I analyze the data I have?” or “what data should I be looking at to begin with?”. In this blog, we are going to take a deep dive into data as it pertains to your staff – arguably the most important asset at your agency. Specifically, how has COVID-19 impacted staff productivity and utilization and how does this affect the future sustainability of your agency?

How Has COVID-19 Impacted Staff Productivity & Utilization?

What data should you monitor when analyzing the effects of COVID-19 on staff productivity and utilization? Examining the three metrics below will help ensure the time and productivity of your providers are optimized, to ultimately safeguard against increased employee turnover.

  1. Progress Notes Submitted by Staff: Monitor the number of completed progress notes by staff to expose potential burnout, gaps in staffing, or availability to allocate staff to suffering programs.
  2. Billable Hours by Staff: Evaluate the schedule of your staff to understand how much time is being spent on billable hours of service in a day or week.
  3. Time Utilization by Staff: Validate your staff is spending time most effectively across clients and programs.

Implications of Data on the Future Retention of Your Team

Now that we know what metrics to monitor, what trends should we be looking for? What questions should we ask ourselves? The answers to these questions are ultimately where the value of data is found. Data transitions from numbers to a story formed about the health of your staff.

Progress Notes Submitted by Staff: What changes do you observe in the number of progress notes submitted by staff member when comparing date ranges of January – March to April – June? Have completed progress notes increased? Decreased? How has an increase or decrease in number of full-time and part-time staff effected this number? For instance, if your staff size has increased in the past 3 months, you should see an increase in completed progress notes. Ultimately, analyzing progress notes should reveal two key areas that drive future decisions for your agency:

  1. Through comparative analysis are you able to verify consistency between the number of completed progress notes with the revenue trends of your agency in regard to total services being provided as a result of COVID-19?
  2. Will an influx in services needed sustain or drop off post-pandemic? Will your agency be able to sustain the current number of progress notes being submitted over the long-term? What implications does this have on your future staffing needs? If there is contradiction in the number of completed progress notes you forecast with the number of staff needed to complete those notes, will your staff become burnt out? Or will your staff be under-utilized?

Billable Hours by Staff: If a remote clinician is now providing ten billable hours of service in a day as opposed to six billable hours of service (which you are able to validate through an increase in created claims volume) and doing concurrent documentation, it is evident that staff member has become more productive working from home during quarantine. But, as a result, will this staff member become over-worked? Knowing what your data says about the productivity of staff can have huge implications on retention. How can you encourage providers to block off time in their schedules to eat and take needed breaks between virtual sessions? It is vital to set new expectations with staff. Production data can help guide you in the best ways to support your staff and what new expectations may be appropriate.

Time Utilization by Staff: Based on your providers’ schedules, are providers making the most of their time? Are each of your team members currently utilizing 50% of their schedule capacity? 115%? How does the increase in demand for specific service types dictate how you allocate your staffing resources to match this demand? It is up to you to ensure schedules are being maximized by each staff member and reallocated as necessary for both the health of your agency and the health of each staff member.

Another consideration is travel time. You are likely seeing a decrease in travel time if you have seen virtual services increase. With a decrease in travel time, should come an increase in services provided by staff. If comparative analysis between January – March and April – June reveals less time in the car, are you seeing an increase in progress notes? If not, are you seeing an increase in the quality of completed progress notes? Or are you seeing a quicker turnaround time of progress notes submitted? All of these will help you to understand the past and current state of that employee’s productivity and how it relates to their overall engagement?

Bottom Line Impact: Engaged Staff Leads to Sustainable Services for Clients

Ultimately, each agency must read the story their specific data is telling through looking at key metrics and asking the correct questions. From this data, it is imperative to understand the implications it has on optimizing the time and productivity of your providers, while increasing engagement of staff.  If your team becomes disengaged due to burn out and overproduction, turnover will skyrocket. If your agency experiences high turnover, the individuals you serve may experience negative effects in the quality of services provided. If the individuals you serve are not benefiting from the services provided to them, those individuals may begin to no-show or transition to a new provider altogether. Without increased and quality billable services being provided to these clients, the future ability of your agency to help additional clients may be compromised.

Join us next week as we continue to explore the effects data has on key areas of your agency!