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October 30, 2023

7 Questions with the CEO of Kevala

Max Pinch
Kevala news

It’s one of the most exciting times here at Kevala with the release of our employee scheduling platform. We decided to sit down with our co-founder and CEO, Todd Owens to get some insight into the release and the Kevala team.

Can you introduce yourself and what you’re doing with Kevala?

My name is Todd Owens, I'm the CEO and one of the Co-founders of Kevala. And we are trying our hardest to disrupt the way that Labor is managed in senior living and post-acute care.

Can you give us a brief statement to announce Kevala's scheduling solution?

Yeah, so now is a really exciting time for Kevala. We've always been on the journey to build a single scheduling tool that can bring together all of the labor pools that make up the shift.

We're excited to announce the availability of our internal staff scheduling tool. This really is the final puzzle piece to being able to connect all pools of labor. This now allows schedulers to be able to complete the schedule within a single interface and behind a single login.

It gives Executive Directors and Senior Administrators the ability to have full visibility of their workforce for the first time. They can now see their fill rate, scheduled hours compared vs. budgeted hours, and labor costs at the most detailed level.

If healthcare is going to be affordable and accessible, it needs to be a viable business for the operators.

We aim to improve the experiences of our nurses and employees, and at the same time, help our administrators run the business more effectively. Like getting maximum utilization out of internal staff, reducing staff over time, and identifying where there is underutilized staff. If you're not getting them the schedules and the shifts that they want and need, they're a flight risk.

When it's necessary to use a staffing agency, to do that in a controlled fashion where that open shift can be marketed and those agencies can compete for the work. For too long agencies have had no real checks and balances and no tools to make them more efficient. By working with them, and giving them the tools to operate efficiently, they are more than happy to compete on cost and quality. It’s a win-win for everyone on the platform.

Kevala is the software and scheduling layer that helps bring together all of these critical stakeholders in healthcare staffing.

Why are you building this software for this industry? Why should people care?

Healthcare is the largest workforce in the world. And yet if you look at the software companies and the solution providers that address it, there aren't any that specialize in healthcare.

When you look deeper into the workflows and the actual experiences of the boots on the ground, the nurses, and the administrators, there's a lot of room for improvement.

So it made sense to us. The founders of Kevala and our team that if we could bring together a more comprehensive, modern, easy-to-use system that addresses the unique challenges of healthcare. We would have an opportunity to be a durable, long-lasting company.

So that's why we're here.

Healthcare is unique because of the regulated nature of it. These are credentialed employees and those credentials have to be monitored before you can build the schedule.

Our solution takes care of that.

It’s an industry that has a heavy reliance on the contingent workforce and supplemental staffing. The schedule needs to work well for that.

And quite frankly, if there was a workforce that is leaning heavily into the gig economy, healthcare would be leading the pack. There's a huge number of nurses who pick up shifts one at a time and want that flexibility and choice to work on their terms. So it's why Kevala and many in the industry believe that it’s critical to make this flexibility part of our workforce strategy by embracing that segment of the workforce and providing them with the work they want.

If healthcare doesn't do that, I think they run the risk of losing more staff to the industries that do. The industry truly is life and death and people are at the core of it. Sixty percent of the cost structure of healthcare is labor, and let's face it, the nursing staff is the cornerstone of care delivery in this country and globally.

So it's time for both the operators and the software systems that they utilize to be focused on the wants, the needs, and the desires of the frontline. That's how we've designed our software. It’s true north for us and I think it's mission critical if healthcare is going to have a bright future.

Can you speak a little to Kevala's mission of creating a better workplace environment for healthcare workers?

Ultimately, it boils down to the folks delivering the care, that’s the cornerstone of healthcare. But there are several things that we can do far better.

For one, it's time to eliminate all of the distractions. Scheduling, credential management, and communication consume hours each week for both schedulers and employees. They need user-friendly software to focus on what they love, caregiving.

Another thing is flexibility.

For too long nurses and frontline staff have been expected to bear the brunt of the staffing crisis and pick up those extra shifts. Yes, they're getting overtime, and they're making more money, but they're also burning out and frankly, moving away from the industry.

It's really important that we not burn them out, meaning we need to think differently about how we schedule and tap new sources of labor. Shifts need to be kept full while still providing more flexibility for the nurses. If they want to take Friday off and go cheer on their son or daughter at a sporting event, they should be able to do that.

Many professions give folks that flexibility, especially these newer generations coming through the workforce. It's expected. There's nobody in the workforce right now that doesn't want flexibility and unfortunately, I think Healthcare is notorious for having the least amount of flexibility.

That requires a restructuring of the strategy, tools, software, and techniques used to manage a more complicated environment like healthcare. We're proud of Kevala for getting right into the middle of that restructuring and truly trying to provide a solution.

Can you speak a little bit about the development of the new scheduling software and what the team at Kevala is doing?

In 2020 when we were founded, all we had was a very clear understanding of the problem we were trying to solve. We had some great early adopters that we were able to work with to design and start building our software.

I think anybody at Kevala would probably agree that this company looks dramatically different every month, and that’s not just the team and the work environment but also the product.

The amount of progress that has been made over the last three months is mind-blowing. A year ago we were a labor marketplace with our clients on one side of the marketplace and nurses on the other side of the marketplace. Three or four months later, we were allowing our clients to be able to invite agencies into the system and schedule. Now their entire supplemental workforce is in one place.

Then three months later, we created the ability for our clients to be able to invite internal employees and offer those same shifts to internal staff before they go to agency. This is really important for the continuity of care and the cost structure of care.

Now, just three to six months after that, we're running full scheduling across internal staff, external staff, and also this new and emerging segment, the internal float pool. 

What are internal float pools and how do they play into staffing strategy?

So a “float pool” is a big trend we find ourselves in at the right place and the right time.

Staffing agencies offer a ton of value. It is a gig workforce. It allows you to plug holes, it allows you to keep shifts full, and it allows you to keep your staff fully utilized.

It is the stopgap.

What's interesting is that thanks to our agency's background and labor market expertise, we are well-equipped with both the software and the know-how to effectively manage a workforce that doesn't have to follow a fixed daily schedule.

This is really about open shifts and publishing them out to that staff based on sophisticated matching criteria. To be able to book the best person into that shift and allow that nurse to pick and choose which shifts they want to take. That's great that agencies have been doing it, but there's been an over-reliance on agencies over the last two or three years. Staffing agencies weren't built to be 40 or 50% of the workforce, they were built to be 15 to 20% of the workforce.

So what's happening now is organizations and healthcare operators of all shapes and sizes are recognizing that they can recruit and employ an internal float team. They will not be assigned to any particular clinic but instead will pick up shifts on their own time to fill those positions.

Effectively they've created an internal staffing agency instead of having to pay external agencies for that service. I think it’s a great example of the modernization and change in how healthcare is managing its workforce.

There's no system out there that can do scheduling, vendor management, and unlock an internal gig workforce. At Kevala, we're going to step up and optimize the workforce completely.

What does complete workforce optimization look like?

So workforce optimization is the Holy Grail. It is easy to say and really hard to do.

Now that we've connected all of the various labor pools and we've got this great software that end users love, we have the foundation set to do more with optimization.

Today, we've already started that journey. Our system makes it very easy to make sure that you're avoiding unnecessary overtime or undertime. It makes it very easy to choose the best talent for the shift, regardless of what labor pool they come from. It is rich with analytics through the dashboard where now you can see what your workforce is made of, and what you spent last week or last month across your internal and external labor.

In the coming quarters, we're going to be announcing a lot of really interesting features that help clients find the staff needed to deliver the quality of care and always remain compliant.

There's still a lot of intuition. Looking at what you did last week and saying, did we feel understaffed? Did we feel overstaffed? Then apply it to this week.

The reality is in healthcare, the demand side and census are constantly changing. Even in senior living, it changes. And as it changes you need to be able to adapt the schedule. That should be aided by software.

It's a numbers game, it's an algorithm, and it's rules-based.

One thing I think our world has learned is that when there's a highly repeatable activity that is rules-based and doesn’t require a lot of judgment, humans should define the rules and let technology do the dirty work of making it happen.

So as time goes on here over the next couple quarters, we're going to be introducing a lot more features that will include integration all the way back to the medical record system. We’re excited to keep moving forward and bring the industry a real solution. 

Ready to experience the future of healthcare labor management firsthand? Schedule a demo with Kevala today and see how our innovative solutions can transform your workforce. Click here to get started for free!

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