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Leave Management By The Numbers: Investigating Healthcare Leave Trends

leave manager looking at healthcare leave data

The Presagia team is thrilled to once again have the honor of contributing a column to each issue of this year's @Work Magazine, a publication by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). If you haven't had a chance to check out this excellent resource, we highly recommend that you do! DMEC provides best practice resources for our complex industry and @Work is one of many excellent resources that we always stay on top of! 

Our 2021 column, Leave Management By The Numbers, dives right into — you guessed it — the numbers! This year we're taking a look at which leave reports provide meaningful insight for different employers, sharing the trends they identified, as well as their efficiency gains. 

As we did with last year's Absence & Accommodation Technology series, we've created this blog series to share each of our 2021 columns with you! Here's our May article, which discusses how a large healthcare employer, LHC Group, invested in their in-house leave program allowing them to report on leave metrics and productivity for their first full year of data. 

Investigating Healthcare Leave Trends

Managing leaves at a large healthcare employer is challenging. A 24/7 workforce, many locations, physically demanding jobs, and burnout from compassion fatigue and stress lead to notoriously high leave numbers. LHC Group provides in-home healthcare services for 350 hospitals, along with hospice, home and community-based services, and facility-based care, spanning 36 states with over 30,000 employees.

LHC invested in their in-house leave program to take a data-driven approach that allows them to report on leave metrics and their case management efficiency. This article reviews their approach to gathering and assessing the first full year of data.

With a geographically dispersed workforce, it’s important for LHC to monitor leaves by various parts of their organization, including location. This is impossible for employers still relying on legacy spreadsheets and home-grown databases to track leave data as they result in siloed data. The current generation of leave management software overcomes this by centralizing all leave data in a single database and providing reporting capabilities that include location filters to drill into the details.

Investigating state trends, LHC found that its top 10 out of 36 states made up 68% of total missed hours. With 60% of employees working in the top 10 states, this wasn’t deemed problematic, but it was something to keep an eye on. If it becomes an issue in the future, they will take a three-step approach to: 1) see if the high-volume states have laws that increase leave entitlements; 2) review types of leave, such as workers’ compensation, which tend to be longer; and 3) explore management’s role.

Investigating facility trends, the top 10 of 455 facilities made up 26% of LHC’s total missed hours while encompassing 19% of employees. The top five facilities accounted for 16% of lost hours across 12% of employees. This information helps LHC identify facilities that may be overburdened (especially during a pandemic) and need more resources. They continue to monitor leave volumes trends in jurisdictions that implemented COVID-19 leave laws. Providing additional time to employees there could lead to staffing shortages that need to be addressed.

Since no signs of risky leave trends materialized in specific states or facilities, LHC turned its attention to reviewing leave process efficiency — starting with employee utilization of online self-service tools to make leave requests. They found that 17% of new requests came through self-service tools. Assuming that an in-person or telephone leave request takes an average of five minutes to process, those self-service requests saved LHC over 2,600 minutes. This time can be reallocated to higher-value case management activities, such as return-to-work planning, ensuring all tasks are completed, and calling employees who require additional support. Going forward, LHC wants 50% of requests made online and will implement strategies to get there, such as better educating employees on the request process.

Next, the task turned to creating a baseline of the leave team’s productivity for future comparison. The team processed 3,084 leave cases, averaging 616 cases per case manager. They also sent 15,524 letters and completed 47,227 tasks, including determining eligibility and entitlement, reviewing medical certifications, and initiating the return-to-work process.

LHC is taking a phased approach to address these findings. As with many leave teams, they have to juggle many priorities and decided to first focus their time and efforts on process efficiency. Their goal is to create a solid foundation that allows them to process cases efficiently while providing excellent customer service to their employees. Looking to the future, they want to proactively address lost time by analyzing their leave volumes to find the driving causes and implement strategies to control them.

About Presagia

Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.

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