Uab smart squar: Revolutionizing Healthcare Workforce Management

uab smart squar: In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, efficient workforce management is paramount to ensuring optimal patient care and operational excellence. The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has embraced innovative solutions to tackle this challenge, one of the most significant being the implementation of Smart Square. This advanced scheduling and workforce management tool has become a cornerstone in UAB’s strategy to streamline operations, enhance employee satisfaction, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Understanding Smart Square

Smart Square is a comprehensive workforce management solution designed specifically for the healthcare sector. Developed by Avantas, this tool integrates advanced analytics, real-time data, and user-friendly interfaces to create a seamless scheduling experience. Smart Square addresses the unique complexities of healthcare staffing, offering features such as predictive analytics, automated scheduling, and real-time reporting.

For a large and diverse institution like UAB, which encompasses numerous hospitals, clinics, and specialized care units, the implementation of Smart Square represents a significant leap forward in managing its extensive workforce. The tool not only simplifies the scheduling process but also ensures that the right staff is in the right place at the right time, thus enhancing overall efficiency.

Key Features of Smart Square

  1. Predictive Analytics: Predictive analytics is at the heart of Smart Square’s functionality. By analyzing historical data and current trends, the tool can forecast staffing needs with remarkable accuracy. This foresight allows UAB to proactively address potential staffing shortages or surpluses, ensuring that patient care is never compromised due to inadequate staffing levels.
  2. Automated Scheduling: Manual scheduling can be a tedious and error-prone process. Smart Square automates this task, reducing administrative burden and minimizing the risk of human error. Staff preferences, qualifications, and availability are taken into account, creating balanced schedules that meet both organizational needs and employee satisfaction.
  3. Real-Time Reporting: Smart Square provides real-time insights into staffing levels, allowing managers to make informed decisions on the fly. This feature is particularly valuable in the dynamic healthcare environment, where patient volumes and acuity levels can change rapidly. Real-time reporting ensures that UAB can respond promptly to these changes, maintaining optimal staffing levels at all times.
  4. Employee Self-Service: One of the standout features of Smart Square is its employee self-service portal. Staff members can view their schedules, request shifts, and manage their availability through an intuitive interface. This empowerment leads to greater job satisfaction and engagement, as employees have more control over their work-life balance.
  5. Compliance Management: Healthcare organizations must adhere to numerous regulations and labor laws. Smart Square helps UAB stay compliant by tracking work hours, ensuring that staff do not exceed allowable limits, and maintaining accurate records for auditing purposes. This feature mitigates the risk of legal issues and ensures that UAB remains in good standing with regulatory bodies.

The Impact of Smart Square at UAB

The implementation of Smart Square at UAB has brought about transformative changes in various aspects of workforce management. Here are some of the key impacts:

  1. Enhanced Patient Care: By ensuring optimal staffing levels at all times, Smart Square directly contributes to improved patient care. Adequate staffing means that patients receive timely attention, and healthcare providers are not overburdened, reducing the likelihood of errors and improving overall patient satisfaction.
  2. Operational Efficiency: The automation and predictive capabilities of Smart Square have significantly streamlined scheduling processes at UAB. This efficiency translates into cost savings, as the institution can better manage overtime and reduce the need for expensive agency staff. Additionally, the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions ensures that UAB operates smoothly even during peak times or unexpected surges in patient volumes.
  3. Employee Satisfaction: Empowering employees with self-service options and creating schedules that respect their preferences and availability has led to higher job satisfaction and reduced turnover rates. Happy, engaged employees are more likely to deliver high-quality care, creating a positive feedback loop that benefits both staff and patients.
  4. Data-Driven Decision Making: The real-time reporting and analytics provided by Smart Square enable UAB to make data-driven decisions. Whether it’s reallocating staff to different units, planning for future staffing needs, or identifying areas for improvement, the insights gained from Smart Square are invaluable in strategic planning and operational management.
  5. Regulatory Compliance: Maintaining compliance with labor laws and healthcare regulations is a critical aspect of healthcare management. Smart Square’s compliance management features ensure that UAB adheres to these requirements, reducing the risk of legal issues and associated costs.

Challenges and Solutions

While the benefits of Smart Square are clear, the implementation of such a comprehensive tool is not without challenges. UAB encountered several obstacles during the adoption phase, but proactive strategies helped overcome them.

  1. Change Management: Transitioning from traditional scheduling methods to an automated system required a cultural shift within UAB. To address this, comprehensive training programs were conducted, and a dedicated support team was established to assist staff during the transition. Regular feedback sessions and iterative improvements based on user input ensured a smoother adoption process.
  2. Data Integration: Integrating Smart Square with UAB’s existing systems was a complex task. Ensuring seamless data flow between various platforms required meticulous planning and collaboration between IT teams and Avantas. The successful integration has resulted in a unified system that provides comprehensive insights into workforce management.
  3. Customization Needs: UAB’s diverse range of departments and units meant that a one-size-fits-all approach would not be effective. Customizing Smart Square to meet the unique needs of different units was crucial. Avantas worked closely with UAB to tailor the tool’s functionalities, ensuring that it met the specific requirements of each department.

Future Prospects

The success of Smart Square at UAB sets a precedent for other healthcare institutions looking to modernize their workforce management practices. As technology continues to evolve, the potential for further enhancements in predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will only increase.

For UAB, the journey with Smart Square is far from over. Continuous improvement and adaptation are key to maintaining the benefits achieved so far. Future updates and features will likely focus on enhancing predictive capabilities, integrating more advanced AI tools, and further improving user experience.

A competitive edge

MSHA students have been a crucial part of process-improvement initiatives in the emergency department, helped UAB expand its telemedicine program to more rural hospitals in Alabama and laid the groundwork for a pioneering partnership with ride-hailing company Uber to transport patients. “ [UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany, Ph.D., who developed the initial idea for the program with Health Administration department chair Christy Lemak, Ph.D.] tells us that executives in the Health System depend on the students now to help support their work,” Landry said. “When they start a new project, they plan on MSHA student support right from the beginning.”

Working in the learning placeIn this series, UAB Reporter explores campus internship programs — in areas of strategic interest — through the eyes of the students, staff and faculty who make them successful.

When UAB Health System Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Grimes began developing a program to encourage students in Birmingham high schools to consider careers in health professions, she had support from MSHA student Jordan Clark. “Working on a program like this was just an outstanding experience,

Clark said. “To affect people’s lives so early on in my career gave me the confidence to take on more than I expected I could handle.” Being paired with Grimes was a transformative experience as well, Clark added. “I did my law degree in Jamaica before transitioning into health care,” he said, “and Ms. Grimes got her law degree after originally training as a nurse. She had great insight on how a leader operates in a health care organization and on the transferrable skills I could bring from my legal training. Being connected to a leader who can train and mentor and help guide you along the path is something that sets the UAB MSHA program apart.

The paid positions are a welcome bonus for students, Landry added. But the experience they offer is invaluable. “In their third years, the students are required to do an administrative residency or fellowship in which they compete with students from across the country,” she said. “The workforce program gives them a real advantage. They have things to talk about with prospective employers, and they already have a good idea of what area they want to specialize in. And they have success everywhere, from California to New York.”

MSHA students and faculty explain what sets the program apart in this video.

Clark concurs from Florida, where he is now completing his fellowship at top-ranked Tampa General Hospital. His experience with Grimes led directly to an opportunity in the UAB Health System’s Performance Excellence group, where he worked on a host of projects to optimize process and operations and  — just as important, he says — built relationships with leaders from across the medical center. “My big-picture dream is to be a chief operating officer,” he said. “To reach that goal, I need to learn from the best, be mentored by the best and be trained by the best. That’s why I came to UAB.”

Bradley Tipper worked on UAB telemedicine efforts, experience he was able to put to use during his summer internship at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

UAB was an obvious choice

Bradley Tipper, who is starting his second year in the MSHA program this fall, had worked in health care policy for a Virginia-based economic research center and a nonprofit hospital in Georgia before he decided to apply for health administration master’s programs. “I have been interested in health care administration for a long time, and I wanted to get in on the ground floor,” he said. “UAB was an obvious choice. It’s the No. 1 program in the country, and the student workforce program was really a big factor in my prioritizing UAB. I only applied to UAB and am grateful to be a part of Class 54.

Tipper spent the past year working with Eric Wallace, M.D., medical director for UAB eMedicine, the health system’s telemedicine initiative. “From my previous experience in health policy, one of the areas our group focused on was innovative care-delivery models, and telemedicine is a huge piece of figuring out that puzzle,” Tipper said. His main project involved designing an improved data-collection system for the UAB eMedicine team, particularly for telestroke services. As of this past spring, UAB eMedicine has telestroke partnerships with four rural hospitals affiliated with the UAB Health System. “I was working on collecting better data from the clinicians and the telemedicine carts they were using,” Tipper said. “And then taking that data to create a dashboard that could be used by those clinicians and administrators to evaluate and improve outcomes.” The assignment “provided me a great experience and insight into what UAB is doing to improve rural care through telehealth,” he said.

Tipper was able to apply that experience directly in his internship this summer with Intermountain Healthcare, a 24-hospital not-for-profit system with facilities in Utah and Idaho. “They have established a virtual hospital that offers more than 40 clinical services via telehealth and has more than 500 caregivers who cover everything from urgent care to mental health counseling and newborn services,” Tipper said. “I’ve been particularly focusing on telehospitalist services that provide nighttime coverage for rural facilities, looking at readmission rates, among other things, to see if the newly implemented program is improving health outcomes by treating them sooner and closer to home, which will also hopefully will improve long-term health outcomes for the community.”

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Priority deadline for registration in UAB’s Master of Health Administration program is Dec. 1. After that date, applications are considered on a space-available basis. Learn more here

In on the ground floor

Nigel Brown was recruited to UAB in 2015 to establish a department of performance excellence in the UAB Health System. “We’re an internal department of improvement consultants and partners for the Health System and UAB Hospital,” explained Brown, who is executive director of Transformation & Performance Excellence and holds a master’s degree in health care quality and safety from UAB in addition to his Process Improvement Master Blackbelt. Soon after he arrived, a colleague told Brown about the resource available in the MSHA students. “I immediately recruited some of these students to help get the department started,” Brown said. “They have a passion for learning and understanding that has been extremely valuable.”

Nigel Brown (teaching an MSHA course, above) has repeatedly hired students to participate in projects for his performance excellence department in UAB Health System and UAB Hospital.

In return, Brown offers students hands-on experience in a range of critical projects, from enhancing the ambulatory triage process and patient discharge efficiency at UAB Hospital to conducting SWOT analyses that informed the department of cardiology’s strategic plan. “The students do root cause analysis, process mapping sessions, time-and-motion studies and more,” Brown said. “They also started a system to interview and onboard future MSHA students and incorporate them in the workflow.

Treated as full-time employees

When they go out, they are treated as full-time employees, not students,” Brown emphasized. “They may be presenting to a roomful of clinicians at a department’s Grand Rounds or to a group of executives. In a matter of three-and-a-half years, we’ve worked with more than a dozen students on well over 25 projects.

In today’s ever-shifting health care environment, “new things are being implemented all the time — new reimbursement models, for instance,” Tipper said. “Our professors do a great job of giving us that information in the classroom. And getting to see first hand how these changes affect day-to-day operations at a top-tier academic medical center like UAB is important to our educational experience. It was really exciting for me to know I could work part-time throughout the week for UAB Hospital and learn from the health care leaders who are working tirelessly to improve the health care system every day.

Many of the MSHA students are offered positions in their second years as well, where they can continue to make a difference, Landry noted. “We often have second-year students leading projects that they started as first-year students,” she said. “This program has really been transformational for our students, but one of the best outcomes is to see how they can add value to UAB’s patient care mission.”

How it works

Before MSHA students arrive on campus in August for their first year of the three-year program, they complete an online survey listing their interests, what they hope to get out of their Workforce jobs, and their personal definitions of success. They also hear from current students about the work they have been doing and rank their preferred job roles. “That goes to our Workforce supervisors, who then pick their top student candidates and we match them,” Landry said. “Typically, it works out that both students and supervisors get one of their top choices.

Before they start work, students also get extensive training in industry standard software such as Excel and Tableau and work on their presentation skills. “Then they start their jobs Oct. 1 and work through the end of April,” Landry said.


The adoption of Smart Square at UAB represents a significant advancement in healthcare workforce management. This innovative tool has not only streamlined scheduling processes but also enhanced patient care, operational efficiency, and employee satisfaction. By leveraging the power of predictive analytics and real-time data, UAB has set a new standard in workforce management within the healthcare sector.

As UAB continues to refine and expand its use of Smart Square, the institution exemplifies how embracing technological solutions can lead to transformative improvements in healthcare delivery. The journey of UAB and Smart Square is a testament to the power of innovation in addressing the complex challenges of modern healthcare, paving the way for a more efficient, effective, and patient-centered future.

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