Physician On-Call Scheduling and On-Call Management Blog
by Justin Wampach

Free On-Call Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 @ 09:36 AM

Medical Groups should be providing valuable tools for physicians to use, for free, to create maintain and communicate their on-call and work schedules.  Physicians should have access to free tools to use to do their job. Free to the physicians, not free to the medical group. In some professions, it is acceptable to expect the resource to provide his/her own tools to be able to complete the job. Think the building industry or mechanics.

Is Free Scheduling Software Too Good to be True? 

Free On-Call Scheduling Software

If I could go back in time and be sitting in some of the early meetings at the large pharmaceutical companies when they had the brain-child idea of buying their way into the physician’s office using free drug samples, I would definitely have had something to say. This model has plagued the non-pharmaceutical medical industry for more than 40 plus years as medical offices have an expectation of being able to try something for nothing before they buy it or even consider it.

In 2010, Adjuvant, the maker of Call Scheduler spent money to customize a way for doctors to come to our website and request a free-30-day-trial of our Call Scheduler Lite product. We thought this would work because many doctors are not available to speak with our sales team during the day, they're too busy seeing patients. We thought it would be great to give them a self-serve method that they could do when it was convenient for them. The free trial was for our product to help them create, maintain, and publish a call schedule for their partners. In addition to our investment to automate the set-up process, we also needed to create many do-it-yourself videos so that the doctors would know how to set-up the system and be able it use it. 

We had a large number of doctors sign-up for the free trial.  Out of the total group of doctors that signed-up for the service, the large majority of them never completed the set-up part where you enter the doctors' names. Not one of the free trials turned into a sale. Why? I’m not sure.  I have some thoughts though.

  1. No money was invested (easy come easy go).
  2. Realized there was work involved, perhaps the volume seemed overwhelming.
  3. Realized that they did not have all of the necessary information to set-up the system.
  4. They thought that our set-up interface sucked and therefore moved on.
  5. They really didn’t have a problem.

On-Call Scheduling Make Better Tools

Many of the physicians who look at our Call Scheduler demos and or that call into the office are still creating the work and on-call schedule for their partners on their own time, and by hand without any tools other than perhaps Excel. That is so important I am going to say it again, most of the Physicians that I speak with (several hundred each year) still have to create the call and work schedule for all the partners on their own time, and without any tools. This averages about 40 hours per year, of nights and weekends.

In many industries outside of medicine, this concept would have ended 20 years ago.

For example in the technology/software industry if you don’t provide time and tools for your most valuable employees, or if you expect them to perform duties that are time-consuming, and difficult, and on top of it, have people gripe about the results, they would pack up and go somewhere else. Technology people are so valuable and in such demand they will simply leave. I have learned over the past 10+ years that most physicians are very mild mannered people. They are not looking to rock the boat, nor are they looking to make a big deal out of something that others find trivial. The physicians who fit this profile are typically the ones who get talked into doing the on-call schedule for their partners.

I think that a few items are at play when we talk about doing work for free without the proper tools.  First, medical groups are very cost conscious organizations about certain things.  Like all good businesses it is important to make investments in the places that show a financial return.  For example, an MRI machine has a large cost, but also has a large return.  The individual physicians are expensive to employ, but also have a large return on investment.  Tools and services are often seen as a burden, and are considered optional.  The second item at play is that many groups have certain doctors doing scut work, like the on-call schedule, because they will do it and not push back. 

The Ultimate Buy-In

Or if they do push back, they can be easily bullied into taking on the added responsibility, for free, without any tools.  In my opinion, both of these things are pretty sad. I say that because it is a very black and white way of looking at the world, and unfortunately there are many shades of gray. For example, when you’re looking at a return on investment sometimes it can be easy to forget about the “soft” benefits and only look at the “hard” benefits. An example of a soft benefit would be physician satisfaction or work/life balance. Everyone wants to see a hard dollar return on everything that is not considered essential to whoever makes the decisions.

Funny story, a new service was being offered in my community, Oopie Poopie Scoopy service. It was a guy who came around each week to clean up dog waste.  At first I thought who in the world would ever use this or spend money on something like this. Until I became a pet owner of a 75lb Husky /German Sheppard mix. Let me tell you, it was the best $40 per month that I had ever spent. Once I had the crappy job (pun intended) and my mind changed, quickly! 

Sometimes it is important to look at things from someone else’s perspective. I hear physicians tell me all of the time “my partners won’t pay for software, they don’t think we need it and it will not benefit everyone, only me, the person who creates the schedule”.  Obviously, they are wrong, on-call scheduling software benefits all of the physicians, the staff, and even patients in the end. Each person will benefit in a different way, some will be greater than others, but everyone still benefits.   

 

I have said it before and I will say it again, if you are a physician in a practice that is doing the call schedule for free, on your own time, without any tools, STOP.  Politely go back to your partners or practice administrator and say, no thank you. The same way you would if they asked you to clean the toilets without rubber gloves. I am willing to bet my last pair of clean socks that either you or the next person will get at the very least some software to help them out.  

See Call Scheduler in action and experience the time and headache you'll save. Request Live Demo

  

Topics: scheduling software, on call schedule, free scheduling software

The On Call Schedule Calendar is More Than a Calendar

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Jun 08, 2018 @ 07:41 AM

When I began my career at Adjuvant, I needed to find my passion for the industry. How the hell do you find passion for creating, maintaining, and publishing call schedules? I will be honest, it took me awhile.

Why an On Call Schedule Calendar Company Emerged

More Than Just a Schedule

I was constantly asking myself the question, why on-call, why physician scheduling, why work with doctors in the first place? That is a good question, most of them are almost impossible to get ahold of, very close with their money, and are not the quickest decision makers.

Still looking for passion, I first centered around creating good software, after all, we are a software company, right? I also developed a passion for running a good business, after all, I am a businessman, right?

And then I started talking to not only current customers of ours but more importantly new prospects who were sharing stories about why they were calling us.

The Importance of Managing a Doctor On Call Schedule

Would you believe me if I told you that the physician on-call schedule is one of the most important schedules with the clinic and the hospital? Here's why;

  1. How can you schedule staff and patients until you know where the Doctor is or is not?
  2. Why would you need support services like x-ray and lab if there is not a Doctor available to see patients?
  3. Who is needed most in the Emergency Department at every hospital in the US?
  4. Who is needed the most during a complicated delivery or procedure?

Inside of every square in an on-call calendar, there is a person's name. That name represents a trained medical doctor who will drop everything and come and help you when they are called.  Some of them will be so busy with calls that they will sleep at the hospital until they are relieved. This is the person who is going to help my family member when they show up at 3:00 am in the morning at my local hospital with chest pains or after a car accident.

On-call doctors and professionals are unsung heroes and deserve to be treated that way. This is where I found my passion. I realized that our company doesn't just make software or try to convince doctors to become more efficient with their time, our software makes sure that when you need them the most, the doctor is there, no matter what day or time.  We help professionals save lives. 

On Call Calendar is More Than Just a Calendar

I am certain that there have been instances, especially with our OB/Gyn clients when the information in our system allowed for a process to be expedited. This is when the difference between 1 and 5 minutes could be the difference between life and death. We helped!

The on-call schedule is more than just a calendar, it is some of the most valuable and useful information that a hospital and clinic have. If you are the person that creates, maintains, and publishes doctors' call schedules, please remember how important your job is.

If you are a physician who is taking call assignments, please know that we take our job and yours very seriously and will continue to do whatever we can to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time. Oh, and by the way, thank you. 

I can't say that enough. 

Call Scheduler can save you time, money, and scheduling headaches. See how we  did this for 7 Day Clinic of ND. Download Case Study

 

Topics: software for scheduling physicians, physician scheduling, on-call software, physician scheduling software, doctor scheduling software, on call schedule, call scheduling

How Much Does On-Call Cost your Hospital Today?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, May 23, 2018 @ 10:54 AM

One of the most important steps in getting your new on-call management system project approved and budgeted by hospital administration is to be sure you have a credible cost-benefit analysis that you can use to show why the benefits of your project outweigh the costs and by how much. Without a strong analytical document, it is going to be difficult to convince anyone that you have done your homework.  

Current Costs & A Poor Experience 

How Much Does On-Call Cost your Hospital Today?

What most people tend to forget when creating cost/benefit documents is what it’s costing them today to achieve bad results. This may sound minor, but in fact, may be one of the most important sections of this document. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations do not fully recognize how much money they are currently spending to be unhappy.

This number is imperative so that you have something to compare your investment number to. For example, if on-call costs for your hospital $25,000 per year and you are getting bad results, then wouldn’t it be great if you could spend $15,000 annually and get better results that everyone is happy with? The answer is yes.

But imagine how it would look if you forgot to mention today's cost and instead you just asked to spend $15,000 to make the system better. People need to have something to compare numbers to. This isn't a new topic, I have written about cost justification in the past.

A Cost-Benefit Analysis Outline:

  • Executive Summary

    • One paragraph description of the overview of the project

    • Recommendation (based on the cost-benefit analysis presented below the following project is recommended)

    • Supporting reasons

    • Financial costs outweigh the returns

    • Tangible versus intangible benefits

  • General Information

  • Purpose  

The purpose of the cost benefit analysis is to determine whether implementing a new on-call management system is the best option for your organization to pursue at this time:

  • Overview: what problem is trying to be solved and by whom
  • Description of the problem
  • Overview of the challenges associated with the problem
  • What you are spending today
  • Total costs today to get results you are not happy with
  • Description of Alternatives Considered

  • Cost of a New On-Call Management System

    • Benefits: cost reductions, recurring benefit, hard and soft cost considerations
  • Summary

The outline above should give you a good start at making your case to management. Don’t get too worried if it takes a few attempts. Remember for every project they approve, there are probably five - 10 that are rejected. It’s all about priorities and need.

What You Will Learn From Preparing a Cost-Benefit Analysis:

  1. Clear understanding of the problem
  2. Picture of the market and how others have solved similar problems
  3. Research regarding what it currently costs today to get bad results
  4. Alternative ways to solve the problem
  5. How to build your case

Call Scheduler can be tailored to your needs, let us explain how! Request Consultation

 

Topics: call scheduling software, call scheduling

How to Convince Your Partners to Try New Call Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, May 14, 2018 @ 08:29 AM

A New Day

When was the last time you tried something new? What convinced you to try it? Was it a co-worker, family member, or good friend? And were you glad for the experience whether you enjoyed it or not? Studies actually suggest that trying new things improves our overall happiness and well being and can lead to improved mental health.

How to Convince Your Partners to Try New Call Scheduling SoftwareWe often try new things easily in our personal life — a new food, a new activity, or a new book. But trying new things in the workplace can present more of a challenge. We may fear trying a new technique or system could fail, and leave us worse off than before. Or we may feel like we don't have the time to learn anything new at work with schedules packed full of meetings, appointments, and obligations. However, just like in our personal lives, we can benefit from trying new things in the workplace leading to improvements in our satisfaction with our jobs and helping us do our jobs better. 

New Practices in Medicine

In medical clinics, doctors often work to convince their partners and colleagues to try new things whether it is a new drug, treatment, or approach to treating patients. Doctors may also try to convince their partners to incorporate new software into a practice. Software can enhance a medical practice by streamlining different processes from documenting patient contacts to improving the physician schedule and on-call schedule. If you're ready to try new software but your partners aren't quite there, try these tips to convince other doctors in your practice to try something new.

Educate

We may decide not to try something new simply because we don't know anything about it. Giving your partners information about new software will help them feel more comfortable with the unknown and familiarize themselves with something new. Studies have shown that people actually fear unknown outcomes more than they do negative outcomes. Education takes away the unknown factor of new software and can help raise your partners' comfort level.

Testimonials 

We are all more likely to try something new if someone we know and trust has already tried it and had a positive outcome. Gather positive testimonials from trusted physicians you know either personally or by reputation to share with your colleagues. Many medical clinics have implemented physician scheduling software and the company you're considering can provide you with testimonials or you may know physicians in your specialty or geographic region who have stories to share.
 

Eliminate the Risk

What have you got to lose? You've heard that one before.

When the answer is truly nothing, then it's easier to try something new. Physician scheduling software usually comes with a 90-day risk-free trial period. During this time, the software company provides education and training to the clinic employees, support as new software is implemented and a guarantee that if the software doesn't work for the clinic, the practice owes nothing. By eliminating the risk, you give the partners in your clinic more of a reason to try new software.

Trying new things in the workplace brings about all kinds of benefits. You can save time, money and streamline difficult and complicated systems like the physician schedule. When you're ready to make a change but your partners aren't, remember these tips to encourage others to try new things.

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Topics: software for scheduling physicians, physician scheduling, on-call software, adopting on-call software, call scheduling

Passing Physician Schedule Creation from Doc to Doc; Good or Bad Idea?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 @ 11:20 AM

potato-10050678According to the Cambridge English Dictionary “a situation or subject that people disagree strongly about and that no one wants to deal with is called a hot potato.”  I can’t think of a worse idea than passing the physician on-call and shift schedule creation from doctor to doctor each year or two.  The reason I think it’s such a bad idea is that it doesn’t solve the problem, in fact it will make it significantly worse, here’s why:

  • No consistency. Each new physician who takes over the task more than likely is going to think that the person before him/her was not doing it correctly.  Therefore, they are going to try and develop a new process or do it their way.  Here’s the kicker, since they don’t have any “scheduling” experience, it’s probably going to stink or be worse than it was before. 
  • No long-term ownership. Why would you invest time and energy in fixing something that you are only going to do/have for a short time?  More than likely you would not.  This is one of the reasons it doesn’t get better. 
  • No reason to develop a long-term process/solution: This is most often die to the lack of ownership.  It’s no one’s job to make it better.
  • Making it 10 times harder than it needs to be: This is referred to as over complexifying.  With all due respect to physicians, many tend to be so intelligent that they attempt to make the process a lot more complex than it needs to be.  This often is another reason that there is not consistency year over year because one person’s idea of greatness is another person’s idea of craziness.
  • The value of time: In many studies, including the "Medscape National Physician Burnout and Depression Report of 2018" burnout continues to be a pervasive issue among physicians.  Knowing this, why would you burden a doctor who is already burdened with an administrative task that is known to cause frustration, anger, and unhappiness, and then on top of it ask them to do it on their free time?    

Passing the physician on-call and shift schedule creation from doctor to doctor does not work.  It makes a bad problem worse.  The goal becomes to survive “your term” and “pass the hot potato” to the next sucker.  A great alternative to this way of thinking is to solve the problem once and for all.  Buy or create a physician schedule system that manages the creation and daily change process, while making the tasks that stink easier for the scheduler and allow this to be done by an administrative assistant under the watchful eye of a practice administrator or physician.  By doing this you will find so many unknown benefits, here’s a few just off the top of my head.

  • Automatically syncing schedules with doctor’s phones
  • Everyone has instant access to accurate/live information
  • Doctors can request time off and make swaps from an app on their phone
  • Tally and fairness reports can be run in a second
  • Complex scheduling rules can be automated
  • Limits can be honored
  • Written, documented process that can be replicated
  • Electronic back-ups

Key Takeaway:  systems solve problems, passing the hot potato from one doctor to another does not, in fact, it makes things worse.  Take the time and spend the money to solve the problem once and for all.  To learn more about purchasing physician scheduling software check out my last post "7 Tips for Getting your Physician Scheduling Software Approved".

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Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 Tips for Getting your Physician Software Purchase Approved

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Apr 05, 2018 @ 02:52 PM

Tips for purchasing physician on-call scheduling softwareNot everyone has experience buying software, especially if you’re in a clinic or medical practice.  Therefore, “schedulers” and even physicians don’t have a good understanding of how to get the job done in a reasonable period of time.  This leads to frustration and often just giving-up and settling for the old way.   This can lead to dissatisfaction which leads to finding other more satisfying work.  Because of this we have created a cheat-sheet so to speak with 7 simple to understand concepts that are necessary if you want to be successful in your journey to buy physician on-call and shift scheduling software, and have it approved within your lifetime.

7 Tips to Getting Physician Software Approved for Purchase Without it Taking Forever:

  1. Create a strike force. Form a small group of people who will be creating, updating or viewing physician schedule information.  This should obviously include a physician or two, whoever gets to make schedule changes, someone from IT and the practice administrator.  This group needs to agree that a problem exists and that it must be solved.  If this is not the case, you may not need to read further.
  2. Establish your goals for transitioning from paper or Excel to rule based physician on-call and shift scheduling software. I would encourage you to limit your goals to 3.  Any more than 3 will be difficult to accomplish.  Once you have your goals, then rate them in order of importance.  For example: (1) Allowing the doctors to easily view schedule info from their phones.  (2) Automated way to collect and process vacation and day’s off for the physicians.  (3) Automation tools to reduce the time to create a schedule by ½. 
  3. Rate it. If you are not the practice administrator, meet with your administrator and determine where this problem rates in comparison to all the other problems that are trying to be solved within the practice.  As yourself, how big is this fire?  Who does it effect?  What is the cost of this problem?  What happens if we just leave it alone, will it go away and resolve itself?
  4. Talk about money. I would not wait until you begin collecting estimates to have the cost discussion with the people in your organization who control the purse strings.  You may want to consider truly understanding what you are spending today to get the results you are not happy with.  That will be a starting point when comparing cost to value.  Whatever you do, do not out yourself if the box of saying “that’s too expensive”.  The only time things are too expensive is if they don’t work and provide the value you were promised.  If when you are investigating this step you find that money is a hurdle to moving forward, then stop.  You are wasting your time and others.
  5. Define success criteria. Everyone knows what a project will look like when it explodes or isn’t successful.  Spend time thinking about your goals and what it will look like when they are achieved.  The reason you need to do this step is that when not done correctly, success becomes a moving target.  Moving targets are the toughest targets to hit.  Putting yourself in this position is a rookie mistake.  Make sure you clearly understand what success looks like and how you will measure it, and how you will know it has been achieved.
  6. Tie it back to the organization. Each year your practice will have goals and objectives that it is trying to meet.  Often, they are centered around quality patient care, physician satisfaction, community involvement and so on.  Do the goals of your project align to the organizations goals for the year?  They should, not artificially, but, actually.   For example, regarding physician on-call and shift scheduling software directly tie back to better quality patient care and physician satisfaction.   Take the time to understand what your organization is trying to accomplish and ask yourself if your project can help make the goals a reality.
  7. Use your strike-force. You will be amazed at how helpful the members of your strike-force can be, especially if they are physicians or people who have influence over the decision maker.  Please remember that many decision makers have 5 or 10 projects in review and only 1 or 2 may get funded.  It is to your projects benefit to have multiple people advocating for the new solution.  The more influential the better.  Use your strike force as a secret lobbying group.

You may also be interested in a previous post "10 Reasons Not to Purchase [Physician ] Call Scheduling Software".  

Key Takeaway:  If you want the process to go smooth and quickly, you need to do your foot work on the front end.  Make sure you are organized and can answer questions like “why are we doing this?”, “what’s the value to the organization?”.   The more compelling the answer, the faster your software will be funded.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Hidden Value in Physician Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 03:41 PM

ID-100369787As it turns out soliciting, collecting, processing, accepting and notifying physicians about vacations and other day-off types is a lot of work. Who knew? Apparently, schedulers have always known this fact. Consider this, a group of 10 physicians who each can take four weeks off each year will generate anywhere from 40-200+ vacation and day-off requests in a given year.

Most of the people we speak with have an outdated process and are still processing these manually. Some use email, some are still back in the Post-It note days and some still rely on a blank calendar. Although sticky notes, emails and sign-up can still work, it certainly is not streamlined nor designed to benefit the busy physician or the busy scheduler. It has worked because no one found a better way plus it was a good fit for the budget. (Meaning it was free). According to physicians it also sends the message the practice doesn’t place much, if any value, on how easy or difficult it is for you to take your well-deserved time-off.

This seems a bit short-sighted considering a few factors.

First the people you are making work harder are the very ones who generate most of the revenue.

Secondly, if – and when - it gets messed up, it often requires the clinic to reschedule patients to accommodate the physicians request. It seems a bit short sighted, and many would refer to this as penny-wise and pound foolish.

We find many practices struggle so much with physician vacations and time-off requests they forego the process entirely and just create the schedule without talking day-off information into account. This initially makes it easier on the scheduler, until the physicians start bringing in their summer time-off requests and then the scheduler is expected to re-do the schedule.

If you are considering moving away from a manual physician scheduling process to using software such as Call Scheduler, you may be surprised at what a hidden-gem the “provider request area” will be for not only you as the “scheduler”, but also for physicians. Giving the right people the right tools when they need them and making it simple is the key to success when it comes to software. Listed below are some of the features both Physicians and Schedulers love about using software.

What Physicians Love About Requesting Vacation and Time Off online:

  • Available from App on smartphone, or laptop or tablet computer
  • Can submit time-off requests 24/7/365
  • Simple interface to request one day or two weeks (whatever they want)
  • Simple ability to choose the correct request type
  • Ability to see where they are already scheduled
  • Feedback if there is a conflict or if they are already scheduled
  • Ability to edit and retract a request without asking for help
  • Feedback when a request is submitted, accepted or declined

What Schedulers Love About Time-Off Request Systems for Physicians:

  • Notification when a request is submitted (no more missing emails)
  • The ability to open and close the request area
  • Easy interface to view all “pending” requests
  • The ability to have rules limit how many people can be off on a certain day
  • The ability to limit how many vacation or other day-off types a person can request
  • The ability to limit what type of requests people can make
  • The ability to sort requests
  • The ability to view an archive of past requests and see what action was taken
  • Multi-step approval processes
  • Custom messages based on rules back to the physicians

Key Takeaway: Most people switch from paper/Excel to Physician Scheduling Software to save time “creating” the doctors’ work and on-call schedule. When we follow-up with new customers after a few months, they tell us the Provider Request Area is really a hidden gem.

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Image courtesy of Pansa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Considering an On-Call Scheduling Software Pilot? Which Specialty?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Feb 19, 2018 @ 11:43 AM

 

ID-100282976

We speak with practice administrators and IT professionals all the time who are interested in conducting a pilot or trial of physician on-call scheduling software within their organization. What helps sell a project better to management than a trial or proof of concept?  Great idea in theory, but what many don’t know is which specialty calendar/department to use as the test case. Sometimes they will often pick the most difficult specialty or the group that is screaming the loudest at that time. Or sometimes they will pick a department who has the primary user who is unwilling or unable to participate in the process. How should a practice decide who to use in a trial? What goes into a trial? What we have found is that the person leading the pilot can and is often more important than which specialty itself is choosen.

Here are some characteristics that may be helpful when selecting candidates. Obviously, there are not hard and fast rules in this process, but make no mistake, the department/specialty as well as who from that specialty you choose to do the work will have a tremendous amount of impact on the success or failure of the project.  If you would like more information about selecting vendors check out a previous blog post "11 Traits that your Physician Scheduling Vendor Should Have".

Characteristics of someone that would be a good candidate for a trial:

  • Excited about trying something new and or thinking about the problem in a new way
  • Clearly understands the current manual / paper process and how to schedule physicians
  • Does not have to ask someone else’s permission or how-to when it comes to process
  • Understands technology and software
  • Understands that software is an iterative process
  • Has clear and reasonable goals regarding what outcomes it is expecting
  • Willing to complete training / onboarding
  • Is not trying to mimic current paper/manual process with software
  • Is willing to do the homework or necessary data entry in-order-to evaluate results
  • Understands that there several people who need to receive value from this type of software within an organization and everyone’s will be different
  • IS willing to commit to goals and success criteria for the trial so that it is not a moving target for your vendor partners

Characteristics of someone that would not be a good candidate for a trail:

  • Schedules but cancels many training sessions
  • When in a training session, not present (texting, answering emails)
  • Trying to mimic current manual process
  • Unwilling to do homework, data entry
  • Unwilling to run scenarios (thinks it should be perfect the first time)
  • Doesn’t understand the difference between rules and preferences
  • Doesn’t understand the difference between a user not knowing how to do something and the software application not being able to do something
  • Unreasonable expectations based on what a blank sheet of paper can do
  • Is more concerned with counting clicks than results

Characteristics of a Group / Department NOT to Choose:

  • Not a group with the most difficult, eat-your-face-off calendar that no one has been able to figure out in years. 50 doctors and 100 jobs
  • Not the simplest schedule either with 5 doctors and 1 job
  • Not a group or department that is in the process of merging or in some way changing
  • Not a group with a new scheduler
  • Not a group with a scheduler who is just handed a paper schedule by a doctor and then they just enter it into software (doesn’t actually create the schedule)
  • Not a group where the doctors can’t agree on what “fair” looks like
  • Not a group who has a scheduler who knows it all and is not interested in changing
  • Not a group where the scheduler is using the scheduling software as a “secret weapon”
  • Not a group where the scheduler will not let other users (doctors) use certain features
  • Not a group where the users are unwilling to recognize how the entire enterprise level projects fits together

Tip: I know it may be counter intuitive but remember that vendor/partners also have a rigorous selection criterion for giving a potential customer a trials and pilot. If the vendor gets a department schedule that is next to impossible to automate or schedulers who are unwilling to participate in the process, it can be disastrous.  If both the vendor and the department work hard to select the right people and get the work done together, the proof-of-concept should be a win/win every time. 

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does One Physician Scheduling Software Solution Meet Everyone’s Needs?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Nov 06, 2017 @ 03:03 PM

ID-100158316.jpgA trend that we in the physician work and on-call scheduling software space continue to see grow is the enterprise wide adoption of physician scheduling software by healthcare systems. Organizations go through an extensive vetting process to try and find a vendor with the best feature set at the lowest price and attempt to make that vendor a “standard” or a “preference” within the organization. I suspect that standardizing solutions makes it much easier on the IT Department in terms of contracting, negotiations and end support. I wonder if the users who create schedules for the physicians benefit from this type of “standard” adoption? My gut answer would probably be, sometimes.

Why Standardize: My best guess is that standardization does not originate at the department level. I don’t think that individual departments have that much concern for how things are being done in other departments. Not that they don’t care, but more because they have so much to focus on in their own area that there isn’t much time to concentrate on other areas. Therefore, I think this does come from IT or even purchasing to make the purchasing process easier for others down the road.

The technical argument for standardization is pretty cut and dry. A health care system can benefit from standardizing the “physician schedule creation process”, the “physician schedule change process”, the “daily call roster creation process” and the “availability of on-call information”. They can achieve this by choosing one vendor to provide on-call creation and on-call management software. The organization can create and enforce new “standards” that ultimately can help support the mission of the organization. As long as each department or specialty has the same needs and does things the same way, its more than likely a great idea. The big question is “do individual practices they have the same physician scheduling needs and “create, maintain and communicate” it the same way”?

Standardization Pros:

  • Every department gets a bucket of tools to use to assist them in the creation of the physician schedule. Some of the tools are intended to reduce the time it takes to manually schedule physicians.
  • Often the solution will be paid with IT’s budget.
  • Often better negotiated pricing and terms (volume discount)
  • Reduction in the manual “data entry” process needed to create daily on-call rosters.
  • Increased accuracy in the on-call information that is available to end users

Standardization Cons:

  • Some specialty groups are much more complex to schedule than others. Who do you buy the software for? The most complex group or the least complex group? Or perhaps somewhere in the middle? In my opinion standardization ultimately will give some groups way more tools than they need, and it will give others not enough. This is the classic “3-Bears” scenario.
  • Some groups may already have a vendor relationship that they are already happy with. They don’t want or need to change. They do not see any personal value in changing.
  • The cost could be higher by forcing small groups to use certain software that has more features than they need and is therefore more expensive.

Both pro and con lists have merit. I would not discount the largest and most poignant con of all, listed as number one. How do you overcome the three-bears scenario? I think it’s great that a Health Care System would choose a single vendor for a solution such as physician scheduling to attempt to standardize the process and tools.

Key Takeaway: Not everyone is the same. Specialty groups have unique needs, unique rules, unique processes, unique ways of paying and accounting for time worked. Maybe in the best interest of creating a great physician schedule, we should make it easier on the “schedulers” and “physicians” who must create and then work those schedules as opposed to those who buy and manage technology.

If standardization isn't your issue, but convincing your physicians that scheduling software will benefit them, you may enjoy this blog post "How to Get Physician Buy-In for Scheduling Software Adoption".

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How to Get Physician Buy-In for Scheduling Software Adoption

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 @ 09:41 AM

ID-10062966.jpgSpecifically, how to get your doctors to use an electronic vacation and day-off request system;

“My Doctors won’t do it that way.” “My doctors are so busy they can’t learn one more thing”. “My doctors just want to do it the old way”. If you are in healthcare and are a practice manager, clinic manager or in a leadership position, how many times have you heard the statements above? My guess would be almost every time you try to do something new. How is it that some physicians are open to change and trying new things, while others are not? I have a sneaking suspicion its all about the approach.

When trying to move a new initiative forward and gain physician buy-in, be it a new clinical documentation initiative or trying to  adopt a new electronic vacation and day-off request system, some of the basic techniques still apply.

  • First and foremost, there must be a compelling purpose. Why are you wanting to do what you are proposing? Who will it help? Who will it hurt? Who cares? These answers need to be carefully considered. If your answers are not strategically aligned around your organizations long and short-term goals, then you may want to reconsider what you are trying to do. Be sure that the problem that you are solving is real and effects more than just you. The “purpose” you are identifying is needed in gaining support and buy-in. In our specific example, you need to clearly illustrate how moving from sending request emails to the scheduler to using the "new system" is meant to benefit the doctors. How? By reducing errors in translating request emails. It was designed to make it easier to submit requests by making the system available on the physicians computer or via an app on their phone. Clearly show them what is in it for them.  You may find this previous blog post helpful "Who are you Buying On-Call Software for"? if you need some help identifying what is in it for the physicians.
  • Find your “white knight”. Never tackle a large initiative alone. You need to find at least one person, of influence, that can help be a pollinator of your proposed idea.
    In our specific example, find a doctor that most everyone respects. Do not pick the person who everyone already thinks is weird or the “techie” doctor. Just pick someone who understands why the practice needs to move away from a paper based vacation request system and sees the value as a physician in being able to do it him/herself when it is convenient for them. If you have to sell them on the “why” pick someone else who just "get’s it" without any convincing.
  • Let the "white knight" pollinate. Just like a bee, your pollinator will fly around and talk with several others about the project. Show them how things work, dispel myths, and answer questions. In our example it would be ideal to download the app onto your physician pollinators phone. Be sure they are fully trained on requesting vacations and days-off on-line. Have them submit all their requests using the “new way” and give honest feedback to his/her partners about their experience. You want the pollinator to be able to compare and contrast his/her new experience to someone who is doing it the old way.
  • Track where everyone is at. If you have a larger organization you can use Excel to track who is supporting your initiative and who is not. This is not done to punish, but more to see if your new process is making a difference. If you have 20 physicians and you have everyone on board except 2, then you may choose to move forward despite the laggards. In our example you need to clearly understand who is on board and who is not. Go through this list with your "white knight" and see if you can strategize on how to convert the stubborn ones.
  • Remember The Pareto Principle. 80/20 might be good enough. Physician adoption can sometimes be slow. You may have to settle for 80% of your providers adopting a new way of doing something. When the 80% are happy and seeing the benefits of the new process or initiative, it is easier to mandate that the others now must join-in. In our example you may not get everyone on board right away. 100% participation may require some attrition, meaning the stubborn older providers to retire. The younger physicians are going to expect to participate electronically, for some its all they know.  
  • Stand by your decision and enforce new policies. Everything is going to be harder and messier in the beginning of implementation. Nothing will work perfect, there will be glitches, people may even be termporarly inconvenienced. All of this is part of change. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to give-in or give-up too early. If this happens often you can have a whiplash type of effect where there is too much change back and forth and people are confused as to which they should follow, the old way or the new way.  This also can taint your next project, so be careful.  Unless it is a disaster, claw your way to success. You will be happy you did. In our example please remember not to give up too soon. Take the time to work with those who are struggling. Resist the temptation to give up. Remember what your alternative is, going back to emails and sticky notes on your chair.

Key Takeaway: Anything worth having is going to take some time to learn and adjust to. If physicians clearly understand what is in it for them, they have some best practice examples to follow, and they are given ample time to convert and adjust, you will most likely be just fine, as long as you take the correct approach.  Although making a transition from an email day-off or vacation request from the physicians to an electronic systm will make everyone's life so much easier, it will be worth the transition.

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