Concerro and Hospitals: How Job-Bidding Software Enables Savings

“Healthcare is such a mess,” sighs Graham Barnes, the CEO of San Diego-based Concerro. “It was supposed to be recession-proof. It wasn’t. But we can save them a lot of money, as we have a great story also in this economy.”

Concerro was founded in 2002 as BidShift, a software developer that specializes in Web 2.0 workforce management for healthcare organizations that have been grappling for years with the aggravation and costs stemming from a nationwide nursing shortage. The company developed Web-based software for hospitals that essentially provides an online auction service that helps hospitals fill their open nursing shifts by enabling existing staff nurses to bid for shifts and even pay levels. Healthcare organizations save money by cutting down on the use of temporary hires and by spending less on incentives needed to encourage existing staff to work difficult shifts.

Barnes took on the CEO’s job in November 2007, and changed the company’s name five months later to Concerro, latin for “to bridge or connect.” After announcing an upgrade in its software-as-a-service platform last month, Barnes now says he is using advanced software to lead healthcare providers out of the mess in workforce management.

Graham Barnes

Graham Barnes

“The biggest expense in hospitals is labor. The biggest expense in labor are nurses. The nurses don’t really always want to work in hospitals, which is heavy-duty. The big idea was to to create an online shopping list for nurses, where they can choose from the shifts they want. The hospital gets motivated nurses and the nurse gets to choose—it is a complete win-win,” explains Barnes.

Concerro is not a hiring agency for nurses, and instead provides its software-as-a-service to 200 U.S. hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare providers.  The nurses do not pay Concerro—the hospitals pay Concerro to provide the Web-based service. “Hospitals pay for getting efficiency,” says Barnes. He says Concerro now has 50 employees, and the company’s revenue totaled $12 million in 2008, an increase of 1,365 percent since 2004.

Barnes, who was born near Liverpool, England, is the former founder and CEO of NextWeb, a Northern California company that was acquired by Covad Communications in 2008. He says Concerro has received approximately $10 million in venture funding, and that Kaiser Permanente has been Concerro’s biggest investor.

The software-enabled revolution in workforce management that Concerro has helped bring about in healthcare also has benefitted Concerro itself. The company previously had enabled hospitals to give award “ShiftPoints,” reward points that could be redeemed for gift cards, to nurses in challenging tasks. Barnes says Concerro also adopted the program for its own employees, and now gives monthly motivational reward points—which are called “Concerros.”

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