Amy's blog about training

Paper On-Call Schedulers? How Quaint.

Posted by Amy Engebretson on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

Paper on call calendars bleed away your most valuable resource - time!

Changes tizzie flickr2Are you trapped in status quo by myths regarding using Paper on-call schedules?
Does maintaining the status quo seem easier than adopting change because of the perceived infinite flexibility of a paper system?

Regardless of whom is actually creating the on-call schedule, what are the myths regarding using Paper as a medium of creating and communicating the on-call schedule for your physicians?

Myth: Paper is cheap.  Consider the cost of storing archives in a binder, re-sending updates, looking for lost copies, deciphering "code" or handwriting before calling someone.

Consider the cost of hand tallies done over-and-over by the schedule creator, as well as the cost of each individual Provider hand-tallying their own schedule to be sure they are "fair". Plus the resulting heated discussion in the event of a miss-count.

On-line, on-call schedules are safely stored on secure servers, where they are easily retrieved using a variety of devices, including laptops and SmartPhones... without administrative hassle. Assignment tallies are automatically updated and can be retrieved by Providers at will; tallies are not available only to an administrator.

Myth: Paper is the quickest and easiest way to make a change request. Consider that incoming change requests may be lost or miss-understood, especially if handwritten. Changes must be manually completed by staff, and then re-communicated to everyone without fail. The change slip may be incomplete or even simply forgotten and never entered, then what?

Submitting Provider Requests for changes to the schedule is easy using an on-line interface. They are automatically tracked when submitted by the Provider, and automatically posted for all to view and use if approved by the Scheduler. Requests are automatically time-stamped when submitted and processed requests are archived should a disagreement occur. No more lost Provider request slips or email! No more he-said, she-said.

Myth: Paper ensures only authorized changes. We can easily tell if something has been changed.
Really? Changes that are made locally, and then faxed/emailed around, may not show the changed information clearly, or may not be received in a timely fashion by everyone!

On line call schedules are automatically updated and, should a local user choose to print, printed copies are time stamped. Schedulers can add notes for clarification which are easily read, since they are not handwritten.

Myth: Lost schedules or using a local copy of the schedule is an unavoidable part of a busy practice. Missing or using backup, old schedules are entirely avoidable when on-call schedules are hosted in a central location on-line. Physicians and staff who have complete, accurate information provide better care for patients since there are fewer mistakes calling the wrong On Call Physician.

Since less time is spent hunting down or verifying schedule information, the workflow process is streamlined for everyone, so the Providers can spend their time doing what they do best… caring for patients.

Myth: On-line schedules are not as secure as paper schedules. With on-line on call schedules, risks of traditional sharing such as using an incorrect email or fax are eliminated.

On call schedules are hosted, not located on any individual laptop, so no worries if an individual's device is lost. In fact, no software is installed on any individual laptop either, so there is nothing to re-download.

Several levels of access are provided, depending on the user’s authorization, so view-only schedules can easily be used. A MicroSite can be used to further tailor what approved information is shared.

Myth: Portability is expensive or an illusion. The schedule must be “in their pocket”. Paper calendars are not useful for Physicians working both at home and/or other offices across town unless Providers put a stale printed copy in their pocket.

Electronic on-call schedules can be “in their pocket” via an iCalendar subscription link in their SmartPhone. Subscription links automatically update, so they can be always current. Providers can also view the schedules on their iPad or laptop, or even put the iCal link into their Google calendar.

Physician offices and homes already have what is needed to access calendars on the go... an internet connection and appropriate access. No apps to buy, no special software add-ons to purchase. Most Providers are already tech-savvy enough to use the on call schedules as soon as they are made available.

Myth: Paper is flexible; it's easy to come up with new scenarios to try. If Providers are unhappy with the current on call schedule rules, it's easy to just sketch out a new set and lay it out.

On call scheduling software can quickly generate a "hypothetical" scenario for review in minutes. Multiple layouts (month-views and year-views), colorization to evaluate spread between weekend assignments and cross-job assignments, as well as interactive tallies for various date-ranges make the process more accurate than “eyeballing” a paper result. Often several scheduling scenarios can be tried in the space of time needed to sketch in a month or two on paper.

Key takeaway: Are paper on call schedules draining time away from your busy Schedulers, Providers and other staff? Myths regarding Paper schedule implementation could be holding you back from saving time and money.

Topics: call schedule improvement, automated doctor scheduling software