SmartLinx Solutions, LLC: Mark B. Tomzak, Chief Executive Officer

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Mark-Tomzak-thumbSmartLinx Solutions is a unique player in the healthcare market. With clients in 49 states, the company has grown rapidly since its founding in 2000.

Specializing in labor management software for long-term healthcare facilities, the seed of its products was planted in the mid-1990s when two of the company’s founders were owners and operators of long-term care facilities in the New York City area. Each of them was bothered by the difficulty in managing their labor expenses, which accounted for 60 to 70 percent of their overall budgets.

Together, they developed an application called Staff Scheduling that would become SmartLinx’s flagship product. Staff Scheduling enabled an organization to manage overtime, shift assignments, and other operational matters across the entire facility, tracking where the spending was and where the expenses were going.

Since then, SmartLinx has expanded its labor management suite to include the applications Time & Attendance, Employee Self Service, Payroll, Human Resources, and Corporate Planning and Control, along with manufacturing biometric time clocks.

Mark B. Tomzak, chief executive officer, joined the company in 2007 and firmly believes that SmartLinx is positioned to help long-term care facilities in the era of healthcare reform. After all, the reimbursement cuts aren’t anything new, he pointed out. Long-term care actually has a history of recurring cuts.

“When your top line is getting cut to make sure that your company is still viable and in business, you have to look somewhere and you have to look towards your bottom line, and we’ve been able to help people manage that labor expense and literally eliminate any unnecessary labor expense so they can strive and thrive as a business,” he said. “So with negatives from one side, we’ve been able to offer a positive solution from the other.”

Making labor management healthcare-specific

There are many labor-management tools out there. Every industry in which people punch in and punch out based on scheduled shifts needs them, from the light industry to gas stations to Target, Tomzak said. “The interesting thing about healthcare is there’s no consistent shift-start time that is mandated on an ongoing basis. Those are variable.”

In other words, your labor management software must be built to accommodate how your people do work. Furthermore, there are certain nuances for which the software must account, such as unions, agencies, pay policies, conditional shift differentials for bonus work, etc.

“Unless your application is built for this specific market, it really doesn’t work very well for this market,” Tomzak said. “There are a lot of labor management tools out there and software programs, but there’s only a handful that really service this industry based on the logic, the knowledge, and the workflow that’s needed.”

Many software programs, he added, struggle to focus on what the client needs, rather than what is attractive to the client. In the technology age, he said, people want their programs to be cool, and software programmers feel the need to oblige.

SmartLinx, however, wants to make sure the cool things are providing a value and a function. Just because a person thinks an application is cool doesn’t mean they’ll ever use it, he said. One simply has to look at the many untouched apps on their smartphones to understand this.

SmartLinx’s clients need to have software that is vital to their success, especially since many of its clients are enterprise clients, servicing anywhere from 10 to 100 sites across multiple states.

“We want to make sure that at all levels of that organization–whether it be the CEO or the president or the owner to the mid-level regional VP directors to the specific centers to the specific employee–everybody has the information they need to make the right decision,” Tomzak said.

Value must be provided to the users themselves because they’re the ones driving data into the system, and he said their clients appreciate the ability to access all levels. They also appreciate the texting element of the software.

If overtime goes above six percent in a certain area, for example, the system will send out a text, calling attention to the problem. In fact, fixing problems before they occur is a chief function of SmartLinx’s software. Open shifts will prompt a system text to be sent out, offering it to the first person who texts back.

“It takes the manual effort of trying to fill things out and builds efficiencies within the application itself,” he said.

Working alongside EHR

SmartLinx’s labor management suite does not compete with an organization’s EHR either; instead, the company seeks to partner with the clinical and financial software companies behind most EHR platforms.

Tomzak said SmartLinx interfaces with every single clinical and financial vendor within long-term care, incorporating all of the information relevant to labor management from the EHR into its software.

“I’m a true believer of one-place data entry and whether it be in somebody else’s application as a system of record or whether it be in our application, if it’s needed somewhere else, I don’t want people to manually do that in one, two, three, or four spots,” he said.

EHRs have information that is important to schedule against, and those products run on basically the same principles as SmartLinx’s products.

“With that integration, it’s a natural thing,” Tomzak said. “Because they want to better serve their clients and we want to better serve our clients, by working together we’re doing that.”

It’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking that has given SmartLinx 99.9 percent client retention, and Tomzak said the company is poised to be the dominant player in long-term healthcare over the next few years.

“Our goal is to continue to ask: What are the things out there that maybe people are using that they’re trying to retrofit from other verticals? We want to put that together, while understanding our client’s workflow, understanding our client’s outcomes and objectives, and really building our applications for how they would do work.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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