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

Justin Wampach

Recent Posts

Buy-In is First Step in Moving to Physician On-Call Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Jun 04, 2019 @ 10:33 AM

Successful dealThe first step in the process of changing how you create, change and communicate physician on-call and shift schedules is getting others within your practice to agree that there is a problem and that there is a faster, better and more cost effective way of scheduling physicians and advanced practice providers.  Without buy-in you will begin to have problems on the first day of your implementation, regardless of what solution you choose.

Gaining buy-in is straight forward.  First you need to get your physicians and administrators to agree that there is a problem that is causing pain.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  It’s the same reason people come into your office to visit you as a doctor.  They have a problem or symptoms of a problem and it is causing them pain and its most likely getting worse.

Here are the most common pain points:

  1. The physician schedule creation process has become too complex to do manually within a reasonable amount of time.
  2. Proving fairness is difficult and takes too much time.
  3. The past few schedules haven’t been fair and people are complaining.
  4. It’s too hard or too much of a hassle to submit, manage and process all those vacation and day-off requests via email and post-it notes.
  5. The wrong doctor is getting called from the Hospital when they are not scheduled.
  6. People forget that they are on assignment and don’t show up or answer calls from the hospital.
  7. If the person who creates the schedule left the practice or got hit by a bus, the practice would be in a difficult position because there is no documented process or back-up plan.
  8. No one wants to take over the job as “scheduler”. It would be easier to give away a skunk.
  9. All of the work that goes into creation, changes and communication are too time consuming.
  10. The process is not transparent and some of the doctors are getting the short end of the stick.

You may also hear some of these (We would ignore them).  We call these “BS” reasons people don’t want to change because it’s not affecting them.  AKA:  It’s someone else’s problem, so who cares.

  1. It’s not so bad, seems fine.
  2. We’ve always done it this way and it’s fine.
  3. It’s not costing us anything today.
  4. We’re not going to spend money on one more thing.
  5. If you want it so bad you can pay for it yourself.
  6. The doctors will never use it.
  7. The doctors can’t learn one more thing.
  8. The doctors won’t change.

How do you gain buy-in?  According to a BizJournal article from Nov, 25, 2014, here are some tips.

“5 ways to get buy-in from your team when change is necessary

  1. Take stock of the situation. Is the change really necessary? ...
  2. Solicit feedback. Meet with your team, present your idea and ask for their input. ...
  3. Have all your ducks in a row. Before pitching an idea, call the key players in advance and gain their support. ...
  4. Engage emotions. ...
  5. Prepare to compromise.”

Once you have buy-in and have identified the pain that you are going to try and alleviate by making a small investment in physician on-call and shift scheduling software you are cleared to move on to the next step.  Check our my next blog post to see what step 2 is.

If you can’t get past this step, unfortunately the project isn’t going to go anywhere.  You cannot force someone to change if they are not willing or refuse to acknowledge the problem or pain that exists for them or others that are close to them.  As a physician you know this better than anyone.  If you can’t get past this, and you are the one doing the manual work, on your own time, one thing that you may consider is to stop doing the work.  Give it back.  Continuing to do this project manually, and conceding to the team even though it sucks, would be a form of enable-meant.  You’re too professional for that.  That enable-meant will not help the problem, be good for the practice or is a good business decision. 

Sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures.

EHR Integration with On-Call Software Can Reduce Patient Reschedules

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, May 22, 2019 @ 04:08 PM

Puzzle with missing piece in green colorCall Scheduler has a new initiative to try and help our customers reduce the number of patients that need to be rescheduled as a result when a physician or advanced practice provider makes a vacation or day off request.  We've integrated Call Scheduler with AthenHealth which enables our shared practitioners to get immediate feedback regarding the number of patients to be rescheduled instantly when they request a vacation or day off.  By making physicians aware of the number of reschedules Call Scheduler hopes to help its customers reduce the number of reschedules by encouraging providers to make their requests further in advance , decreasing physician cancellations, thus enhancing the patient experience.  AthenaHealth is a leading provider of electronic health records, medical billing and other services that work to deliver measurable results.

Ambulatory physicians, and private practice providers who create their physician office and on-call schedules with Call Scheduler can now communicate instantaneously with the AthenaNet patient scheduling system to provide immediate feedback to providers when requesting vacation and time off.  Medical clinics make every attempt to open the providers schedule as far in advance as they can to make it easier for patients to schedule follow-up appointments.  While this is good for the patients it forces providers to get their vacation and day off requests in much earlier than in the past. 

With todays manual systems, unless a physician asks a patient scheduler, they have no idea how their vacation or time off request will affect already scheduled patient appointments.  This integration is the first step in making progress toward fixing that problem. 

In addition to providing instant feedback to physicians, the Call Scheduler system will automatically communicate with AthenaNet to freeze and cancel booked appointments when a day-off or vacation request is approved saving the patient schedulers a tremendous amount of administrative time in manually closing physician schedules. 

According to Surgeon Dr. Matthew Byr in a Quora Answer Forum on 1-29-2017 "Employed docs (which is now the dominant model in most of America for new docs) usually have vacation specified in their contracts. 4–6 weeks a year is very common".  This large number of days (well deserved I might add)  coupled with other complex scheduling considerations has made managing time off and vacation requests very complicated for any sized group of physicians. 

Software like Call Scheduler has a dedicated set of features that both physicians and schedulers use to manage the large volume and details of each request.  Integrating into the EHR, it's even anticipated to save more time and automate more of the physician schedule creation and management process.

More information can be found on the AthenaHealth Marketplace. 

How On-Call Scheduling Was Done in the Old Days

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, May 02, 2019 @ 03:23 PM

Dr. Zook 1994

Aah, the good-old days.  I don't know if I have ever shared this story of how and why I got started in physician scheduling software.  It's kinda funny actually, not funny ha ha, but more funny peculiar.  Back in 1999 my family practice doctor called me up at home (I think) and told me that he heard I was doing something with the Internet and he had something that he wanted to run by me.  I recall him coming over to my office, which at the time was located about 1 block away from our location today (oh how far we've come, lol).  Dr. Patrick Zook, MD proceeded to explain to me about how doctors were scheduled.  He kept reminding me that this wasn't about patients, but what happened when a patient ended up in our local emergency room and a doctor was called for a consult and in those days to admit the patient.  I had really never given it much thought, I mean who would have.  At that time I was a 27 year old entrepreneur who was leading a small company that was building networks and websites.  Who cared about what happened in the hospital at 3:00 am.

Dr. Zook continued to explain that scheduling doctors wasn't as easy as it would be to schedule a restaurant employee or a retail worked.  He reminded me over and over that these people were physicians and therefore the schedule was like art, it was subjective.  It had to meet a ton of criteria and there were rules that had to be taken into consideration that each physician had in order to make the schedule not only fair and balanced, but reasonable enough that all of his partners wouldn't complain endlessly about his work.

Dr. Zook told me stories of him sitting at home a few entire weekends per year with little tiny pieces of paper and a long list of vacation and day-off requests that he needed to consider when putting a schedule together for the next 3 months.  He reminded me, "you can't schedule someone when they want a day off, or want vacation.  You can't schedule someone back-to-back or too close together or have all of their call days on a Monday or a Thursday".  There were also some days that were worse to be on-call than others,  for example Fridays, and Mondays we're horrible because there was more work on those days.  Remember this was before hospital based physicians existed.  Dr. Zook told me that he would spend hours putting together the perfect schedule on a dry-erase calendar and manually prepare a "tally report" counting all of the days that each physician was on duty and share that with this partners to show them that the schedule was fair.  He said it would take him 20-30 hours every 3 months, and it was unpaid time.  Not only was he not compensated, but it was a very thankless job.  Check out this former post How to Give Away A Skunk to learn more about just how popular it is to schedule doctors for on-call.

Many times when there was a discrepancy or a hole in the schedule that would mess up the tally fairness, he would just give that assignment to himself.  Dr. Zook was just that kink of guy.  He was always willing to take the worst or leftover shifts himself if it meant that there would be less conflict in his group.

Dr. Zook was certain that there had to be a computer program that could not only do this job faster but do it in a way that would promote transparency and fairness.  He looked all around in the mid 90's and found nothing.  So what does a busy physician do when he doesn't find a solution to his problem?  He engineers one himself.  In 1995 Medic-Ware was formed to solve this problem.  Their first product was a DOS version of Call Scheduler.  Dr. Zook would spend his recurring day-off each week traveling Minnesota showing off his new computer software.  

In 1999 Dr. Zook came to me to update the software so that it was Y2K compliant.  In 1999 we decided to jump from DOS directly to a web-based platform mainly because that's what my programmers knew at the time.  We didn't have any Windows people in our company we were all web developers.  About 9 months later we released the first version of Call Scheduler that was 100% web based and did not require anything to be installed.  All you needed was a web browser and an connection to the Internet.

You might not believe it if I told you today, 19 years later that I still talk to physicians every day who create schedules the "old way".  Paper has been replaced by Excel, but the wretched manual process is always the same.  They spend a ton of time, mostly on the weekends, while their partners are golfing or out on the lake (we live in MN, there are 10,000+) manually putting physicians in slots and counting up the assignments to try and make it fair.  It's absolutely crazy to me.  As you can probably tell, there is a much better solution, its relatively inexpensive and simple to use and saves 90% of your time. 

Today we have smart phone apps and a ton of features that Dr. Zook could have never imagined back in 1995 when he began engineering Call Scheduler.  I'm so honored that he choose me to call that day.  I am almost as passionate about fairly and accurately scheduling doctors as he is.

Dr. Zook retired in November 2019 after 40 years of practice as a Family Physician.  He is still actively involved in the company and is one of our biggest cheerleaders.  The best ideas come from smart people in desperate situations looking for solutions that don't yet exist.  

If you're still scheduling like Dr. Zook did in 1994, get with the program.  The program is Call Scheduler.  You'll never look back!

Schedule a Demo to Learn More About Call Scheduler

Should Docs Be Able to Approve Swap Requests in On Call Software?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Apr 01, 2019 @ 04:18 PM

ID-10062966There are few questions as contentious as “should a physician be able to approve their own swaps requests without the consent of a scheduler” when adopting physician on call scheduling software such as Call Scheduler?  I have been in meetings with medical staff where shouting matches have taken place between medical staff and administration.  Things can get ugly quick. Physicians think that because they are the doctors, they should have the right to have someone cover their shift whenever they need and want.  Administrators don’t want to be blamed for lack of coverage, burnout or having to spend additional dollars when someone goes over their coverage duty limits and now is owed prime pay.  My conclusion on this issue is that both sides have very valid points, but as long as certain conditions are meet, yes.

Physicians and Advanced Practice Providers who use on call software and who take call and other assignments should have the ability to trade or swap shifts under the following conditions:

  1. They find their own swap partner.
  2. The tally reports are not expected to be made fair by someone else due to the swap.
  3. When you swap you are swapping the entire assignment, not just part of the assigned time.
  4. By swapping you are not obligating another person or entity to have to spend additional dollars to comply with a previously negotiated contract agreement.
  5. Both parties must agree.
  6. There must be agreement documentation.
  7. Somehow the answering service and ED must be notified.

Administrators who have purchased physician scheduling software or are schedulers should agree to allowing providers to approve their own swaps if the following conditions are meet. 

  1. All providers must adhere to the same swap rules.
  2. The system will be used only for good.
  3. There will not be any gaps in coverage that cause a delay in patient care.
  4. The organization will not be bound to make a prime coverage or additional coverage payment if it is the result of a provider approved swap.
  5. Providers are not expecting a scheduler or administrator to balance out fairness tallies at the end of the year due to swaps that made them seemingly unfair.
  6. The scheduler is not expected to have to check or approve any swaps if this feature is enabled. The providers will be responsible for approval via email.

Swapping call duty has been around since about two weeks after being on-call was invented and some doctor forgot to check with his/her spouse and needed to make a quick change to avoid getting in trouble at home. 

The goal of Call Scheduler when adding this new feature to our physician scheduling software was to make the swap request and approval process easier for the providers and the schedulers. 

Scheduling tools specifically for departments,  clinics or medical groups.

How Easy Should it be to Set-up On Call Software?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 @ 02:34 PM

easy buttonI get asked this question all the time from prospective customers.  Why do some companies have to come onsite to set-up and configure their new on call scheduling software?  It’s a great question.  I’m not sure I have the perfect answer, other than to assume that it must be pretty complex to configure, right?

Set-up and configuration is always something to be considered when designing the initial user experience.  At Call Scheduler our software was conceived by a Doctor (Patrick, Zook, M.D.) who wanted to develop a tool for doctors to simplify the complex practice of creating a schedule for themselves and their partners.  Dr. Zook knew how much time he had to spend on getting up and running, and it was hours rather than days.

Dr. Zook as a practicing physician has always reminded us “non-medical folk” how fluid the field is.  The changes come fast and furious.  There are very few periods of stagnation when you’re running a clinic or medical group.  What I mean by that is there are always new physicians coming and old ones going. New services are being contemplated.   New locations are being opened.  Even new regulations being enforced.  Imagine how many changes that can result in, especially when you are talking about physician scheduling.  Imagine how expensive this could be if each time something changes within your organization, you needed to have “Engineers” come on-site and make changes.  Seems unnecessary.

If you think about software such as Salesforce.com, Constant Contact, BaseCamp, and other complex systems that offer a lot of customization.  Usually what you will experience as a new customer is an “onboarding” expert who will walk you through the set-up and configuration process over the phone using a tool such as Zoom or Gotomeeting.  All of the tools have the ability to be “self-configured” but more often than not, users feel more comfortable calling support to make major system changes.  This is the process that we use at Call Scheduler.

In the book “Tuned In” the authors would argue that requiring a lot of onsite or up-front work is such an antiquated method of set-up and is a sign of not understanding your customer’s business.  Whether you are training a doctor, or clinic manager, these people are so busy, it needs to be easy and intuitive.

So to answer the question, how easy should it be to set-up on call software?  Set-up should be an easy process.  Learning the software should be even easier.  The only part of the physician scheduling software on-boarding process that is complex is configuring “rules” and then running scenarios to see what the results look like.  But, not so complex that it can’t be done easily with a competent trainer who has a lot of scheduling experience on one end, and an eager new customer on the other end who either has the necessary information or knows where to go find it.

If you're looking for an easy to set-up and use on call software for scheduling physicians, then click the link below to schedule time to meet with one of Call Scheduler's experts.

Request a Consultation

Don't Buy More On Call Software Than You Need

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Mar 06, 2019 @ 09:21 AM

More Than Just a ScheduleChoosing which physician scheduling program to buy to create, change and communicate your physician schedule has never been easier.   Earlier, it was because there were very few programs available.  Today, ironically, it is because there are too many!  Physicians and administrators are very confused as to which program they should buy – sometimes, too much choice can be as bad as too little.

Common mistakes providers have made when purchasing on call software.

  1. Thinking they need too many bells and whistles:  Some practices want their software to do everything from scheduling to payroll. When we look at the features that most practices use every day its often the same set of tools.
  2. Trying to save a penny:  It’s a simple fact of life that investment reaps rich rewards. Why haggle over a few dollars and try to find the cheapest option?  Negotiating is great, but choosing quality, support and peace of mind is far more important than trying a save a few bucks. It’s easy to get a local company to make a simple Excel spreadsheet to maintain your call schedule. However, in the long run it makes more sense to invest a little more in good software – preferably from a company which is completely focused on the healthcare physician scheduling space. Medical practice is a complex domain, and a software engineer who doesn’t spend time understanding this cannot make a good product. This is why the early successful packages were created by doctors because they did have the right idea. However, they did not have the savvy to remain up-to-date with the latest technology.  Every doctor I know earns enough to invest in a good package which will enhance his practice. Choose your vendor carefully – after all, you want them to be your partners for life and for this, they need to make enough profit.
  3. Buying too much. The opposite of trying to save a penny is getting sold on a set of features that are way more than you need or are going to use. Countless practices are still creating physician on call schedules on paper or with Excel. If this is you, I can guarantee that you don't need things like artificial intelligence (AI) or payroll integration. In fact many of those products can cause you to loose focus on your goal, which is to automate what you are currently doing on paper.
  4. Thinking that one size fits all. This is one of the biggest traps that CIO's and other IT people tend to fall into. If they have 20 departments within their organization they buy the solution that has the most features and automation which may be great for 1 or 2 very large departments, while the others have tools they never will use. This causes everyone's budget to suffer. There are very few exceptions to this rule. The only people this is easier on is IT.

Here is a list of core physician scheduling software tools that you will use daily:

  • Day-off and vacation request tools
  • Tools to facilitate a swap between two providers
  • Scheduling rules
  • Auto scheduling tools such as an "engine" that randomly places people fairly based on rules
  • A "template scheduler" to repeat patterns and templates
  • Manual scheduling tools to place people exactly where you want them or to make changes
  • Tally reports to prove fairness
  • Online and mobile schedules to view the information and ditch the paper

If your practice is still creating physician on-call and shift schedules using paper, Excel or Google Calendar and you're thinking of upgrading to on call software to create and communicate your physician schedule, don't get sold into buying more than you need.

 Request a Consultation

Physician On-Call Information Management is All About Choice

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 @ 02:21 PM

 

ID-100134114

The goal of a blog post is to educate and inform your audience about a topic. My topic today is regarding making on-call information available to everyone in your hospital or clinic who needs it and delivering it in a form that best meets their needs. Our mantra is to have the “Right Provider in the Right Place at the Right Time” and we do this by providing our customers “one source-of-on-call truth”.

The more experience I gain in my position as an on-call information management evangelist, the more I have come to realize that accurate and up-to-date information is not the only thing that prevents the wrong provider from getting called. How we deliver that information to our users has become abundantly clear by studying our users and their habits regarding consuming information.

What we continue to learn is that in a busy hospital the more vehicles that we can use to deliver on-call information to consumers the better. Listed below are several important daily consumers of on-call information. Each person needs the information to be up-to-date and accurate. Each person

Department managers – this user may sit at a desk or be in meetings all day long. Their primary mode of communication may be email or text. The on-call information that they need to consume may be more of an overview of what is happening in their department or specialty clinic on that day or during that week. Where is everyone, who’s on vacation, etc.

Nurses – This user is more than likely one of the busiest users and consumers of on-call data. Many times throughout the day they are needing to connect with or consult with an on-call physician for any number of reasons. Many nursing users may not care much about what is going on next week or even who is on vacation today, what they need to know is who is covering this patient or who is on-call for a specific function, like Neurology. This user needs all their information on their phone or a mobile device and is most likely better served by searching for a specific role than a person. Once they find the correct person, they often need to be able to communicate with that person quickly and in a secure manner.

Emergency Room Doctors are a user very similar to nurses. They need access to role-based information quickly. Who is covering for Cardiology or who is my Interventionalist that I can call for a new patient with chest pains? Sometimes they are communicating with the consulting physician directly and other times they are requesting for that person to be summoned for a consult. This user is also a mobile user and does not want to go to a desktop computer or monitor somewhere to see this information. They need it on their phone.

Emergency Department front desk clerks- This user is typically sitting at a desktop station with access to multiple monitors and has a lot of information available at their fingertips. They need access to a merged daily view listing all specialties and who is on-call now along with who will be next. Protocol information will also be important to this user to be sure that they connect with the provider in his/her desired way. This user will also need access to phone numbers and secure messaging methods at their fingertips.

Telecom Operators- This user is almost identical to the ED front desk clerk. They are typically sitting at a desktop station with access to multiple monitors and has a lot of information available at their fingertips. They need access to a merged daily view listing all specialties and who is on-call now along with who will be next. Protocol information will also be important to this user to be sure that they connect with the provider in his/her desired way. This user will also need access to phone numbers and secure messaging methods at their fingertips.

Consulting Physicians will most likely prefer role-based information quickly. Who is their back-up covering for Cardiology or who are other specialists that they can consult when needed? Access to other providers within their practice or healthcare system will also be important for curb-side consults. This user is also a mobile user and does not want to go to a desktop computer or monitor somewhere to see this information. Secure text messaging from their phone will be most efficient.

Hospital Administration – This user may be both a mobile and desktop user wanting a complete view of all on-call staff at a glance. They may benefit from both a role-based view as well as a merged daily view to capture the information they need quickly. They most likely would be communicating with providers via the telecommunications center and a phone call versus sending a secure text message.

Medical Staff Office- This user is a desktop user that needs deep access to each department schedule to ensure that there is adequate cover for each specialty. Protocols are typically maintained by this office as well as personal cell phone numbers. This user will not be texting but communicating via the telephone or email.

As you can clearly see, accurate, up-to-the-minute on-call information is the first vital step for each of these users, quickly followed by a deep understanding of their workflows and where and how to present the information to them using the best tools. “One size fits all” does not work in today's busy hospital. A good on-call management system that creates one source-of-truth will be able to seamlessly distribute the information to each user group in the manor that best meets their needs.

Scheduling tools specific to hospitals,  emergency departments and medical staff offices.

Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Value in One Source of On-Call Truth

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Jan 21, 2019 @ 05:03 AM

shutterstock_11280997There are both a lot of people and places within a complex healthcare system that consume physician on-call information.  There is typically an on-call schedule everywhere from the Emergency Department to the providers refrigerator at home and many places in between.  How does a modern Hospital and specialty medical practice maintain information that is accurate and in sync with one another?  In many places and instances, they don’t.  They still use 3-ring binders, paper, manual data entry and rely on sticky notes to keep the information straight.  No wonder why Doctors are called incorrectly so often. 

Inaccurate and out of date on-call information leads to a delay in patient care, plain and simple.  Often a sick patient is waiting while people scramble to determine who to call and then how best to reach them.  Many calls are to the wrong physician who is not covering that service or there is just no response at all.  Calls to the wrong physician distract, bother and irritate busy hard-working physicians who are attempting to recover and prepare for the next day’s battle while balancing spending some quality time with family and friends.  Both sick patients and physicians deserve a better process than a three-ring-binder and sticky notes.  It feels like more money is spent laundering white coats than on physician scheduling and on-call information management.

How can you begin to make a change in your organization?  The first step in a on-call makeover at a Hospital or specialty clinic must start with an electronic, accurate and up-to-date physician schedule that is perceived as live and dynamic.  There also must be a centralized system in place, in which everyone has appropriate access to view, that can serve as one source of truth.  The most modern and least expensive way to do this is by using the Internet and banning the use of paper schedules.  You wouldn’t believe how much power and accuracy can be contained in a single website URL.

Accurate physician on-call schedule information is the byproduct of a modern rule-based physician scheduling system.  Every accurate and up-to-date on-call schedule has a ton of information that has been entered, evaluated and constructed to build a fair, even and balanced physician schedule.  Investing in schedule creation has many benefits for both medical practices and physicians.  Some include saving time, accuracy of day-off and vacation information, process improvement, back-up systems and up-to-date information just to name a few. 

The second step in your on-call makeover involves being able to quickly and accurately communicate with the physician now that it has been identified that she is on-call.  Secure Messaging systems, such as industry giant Tiger Connect, offer a large set of tools that make communicating and digesting on-call information simple. 

The value behind one source of on-call truth, is a better patient experience and outcome. Keep visiting my blog for more tips on revamping the on-call system at your clinic or hospital. 

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Concerned You Bought More Software Than You Need?  Now What?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 @ 04:16 PM

increase decreaseWhen making an investment into automated physician shift and on-call scheduling software it’s important that you consider your needs in addition to your budget.  It’s can be easy to over-buy especially when there are trained sales people that may be trying to convince you that your current and future needs are greater than they really are. 

I have made this mistake myself.  Several years ago, when our company started getting larger we needed a better customer resource management (CRM) system.  We ultimately choose Salesforce.com because of all the bells and whistles that it has.  As you may or may not know it is a very sizable annual investment that is based on the number of users.  Off and on we have used about 1/3 of the total features the system has to offer.  Granted as we grow we do implement more and more, but we today we use most of the basics.  We have overspent by a lot over the past several years by under utilizing the system, thinking that we need more features than we can consume.  Unfortunately, with Salesforce.com there are not a lot of good alternatives like there are in other industries, such as software for scheduling doctors.  Over the years I wish I would have had a solution available that would have been more “right-sized” that we could have downgraded to.

Another personal example is when we moved from using a basic version to an enterprise version of inbound marketing software Hubspot.  About a year after we signed up we thought we needed to do more and take more advantage of things like workflows and A/B testing.  We made the upgrade to Enterprise version only to find out that we already had a ton on our plate just managing what we had and getting everyone to use the existing tool set.  Thankfully Hubspot’s model allowed us to “right size” the solution and we were able to downgrade to something not only more affordable but was a better match to the features we used most often.

Bringing this back to scheduling physicians for on-call and shift assignments using automated software, in this industry there exists a large gap between way-too-few features, paired with outdated interfaces and very little support and way-too-many features, so many in fact that set-up and process development takes months.  That is the exact reason why Call Scheduler is focused on the “middle” and try to talk about buying the “right-sized” product.  Right sizing not only refers to features, but also monthly per provider price.  Since no-one in this market offers a downgrade path one of the only options available is to change your vendor.

Buying too much or investing in too large of a scheduling system is a legitimate concern for many administrators and physicians.  Spending too much money on a product that you are not fully utilizing is a waste of money that you are reminded of each month.  In today's environment of managed care, declining reimbursements, increasing costs of mandated tools such as EMR and cloud data storage, every penny is important.  Some claim that a collection of small purchases that were bigger than you needed in your operating budget can be the difference between profit and loss.

Most practice administrators pride themselves on pinching every penny twice.  This is how they can lead practices that provide excellent care, right sizing everything from the building to the staff count to the patient load, to give them the best chances of running a profitable practice.

Here are some common symptoms that you may be experiencing if you overbought:

  1. After 6 months, your using only basic features such as rule-based scheduling, vacation/time-off requests and tally reports
  2. Although you had good intentions to integrate into your payroll and time tracking system you have not, it seemed important at the time of the sale
  3. Your organization is not happy with their current EMR so integrating your scheduling software into your EMR is always put on hold by IT or administration
  4. Some of your doctors use secure messaging, but not everyone, so integration between the two systems could cause you to have to use two systems instead of one.
  5. Your finding some of the features more difficult to implement than you thought because they require organizational change, which you have found is difficult
  6. Your current vendor is releasing new features that you can’t even keep up with or see the need for
  7. Your doctors still call you about the schedule, some won’t even use the app
  8. Your doctors claim that they can’t learn one more thing so your nervous about trying to get them to use some of the new, cool stuff
  9. You have reverted to some or all your old paper, email and Excel process
  10. You just don’t have the time to be able to commit to the project, and feel as if your wasting money

What if you are having some feelings that you over bought?  If you are having any of these thoughts, now may be the time to reconsider your current vendor and solution.  You may want to check your agreement to see how much of your initial term you have left.  I am not suggesting abandoning everything and going all the way back to paper and Excel, although for some people that might be the best business decision for their practice.  More than likely right sizing your software and really focusing on the features that you need and will use almost daily may be worth considering. 

Free image from BlogPiks.com

To read more about Scheduling Physicians using Call Scheduler click here.

A Tale of Two Physicians (Richard and Jane)

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Aug 28, 2018 @ 04:23 PM
stickman doctorDr. Richard (Dick) stick woman doctor
Dr. Jane
Dr. Dick is a partner in a 15 physician Cardiology practice. Dr. Dick volunteered
to create the physician schedule for his partners. Because he is so busy he does
this at night and on the weekends. Dr. Dick spends about 32 hours per year to create 4 schedules (1 each quarter).
 
Dr. Dicks group doesn't have a formal scheduling process.  Although he has his "way" of doing it, nothing is documented.
 
When Dr. Dicks partners submit vacation and day-off requests they never know if
they were approved until the schedule comes out.
 
Dr. Dick uses email, Excel, sticky notes
and a dry erase board to create the
schedule.
 
Dr. Dick's wife and kids are always mad when he's "scheduling" because he is not spending time with them.
 
Dr. Dick's partners are always calling him and the front desk person to check and
see if they have the latest version of the schedule.
 
Dr. Dick's partners gripe about the results of the schedule, and never seem to appreciate the work he puts into it.
 
Dr. Dick is frustrated and wants to
stop doing the schedule.  No one wants
to take it over from him.
 
Dr. Jane is also a partner in a 15 physician Cardiology practice. Dr. Jane also volunteered to create the physician schedule for her partners. Dr. Jane is also so busy with her practice that she does her scheduling work at night and on the weekends.
 
Dr. Jane creates 4 schedules per year.  Dr. Jane uses software, specifically Call Scheduler.
 
All of Jane's partners submit vacation and day-off requests to her electronically.   She processes them quickly and the doctors know if their requests were approved or declined.
 
Dr. Jane's practice has 50+ custom rules to help Jane when she is using "scheduling assistant" to automatically place providers when she is creating the next schedule.
 
Her partners use the phone app and iCal to check their schedule, look up tally reports and request swaps, right from their phone.
 
Dr. Jane spends about about 3-5 hours per year creating her schedule.  She doesn't mind at all, because she uses Call Scheduler to schedule, change and communicate for her partners.
 
When and if Dr. Jane ever hands off the schedule to someone else, she knows that Call Scheduler will train her replacement for free.
 

Be like Jane!  Use software, specifically Call Scheduler.  Don't be a Dr. Richard (Dick)!

 

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