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

Purchasing on-call software: advise from the trenches

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Apr 06, 2012 @ 10:12 AM

focusWhere should the focus be?

Here are the top 6 things that you should focus on when comparing on-call software.

1.  Almost everyone that I work with gets caught up in "how the software works" especially when you are talking about rules.  This is an area of endless analysis paralysis.  Why?  Because you have no idea what the results of scheduling software will be until you enter your data into the system and try to create a schedule.  Period.  Although we have a large amount of Cardiology groups, there are some that we are not a good fit for.  Why?  Because, when the customer (and our trainer) evaluated the first few schedules, the customer was not satisfied with the results.  Let me be clear, THIS DOES NOT MATTER. 

2.  Do not focus on features, instead focus on results.  Know what your desired results are and drive towards them.  Sit down with your stakeholders and have a realistic brainstorming meeting about what you are trying to accomplish.  Use a whiteboard to write them all down.  When you are finished, use the old SWAT consulting method, colored dots.  Give each person a few dots and have them pick their top 3 and place their dots next to them.  When you are finished  you should have a list of your top 3 needs. 

3.  Be realistic regarding your needs.  The top three areas where people are unrealistic when it comes to call scheduling software are (a) how many rules we can have that limit or exclude, and (b) how long to run the schedule to achieve fair tallies.  (c) how many people can be off at one time.  Our trainers hear this over and over and over.  Without sounding like a smart-aleck you need to understand simple math.  The smaller the number of providers that you have, the fewer rules that you can have if you want to have someone available.  The same is true regarding vacations.  It is very similar when it comes to fair tallies, the number of providers, the number of jobs and the number of days that you are scheduling all have to "play nice" or you will not achieve fairness.  

4.  Try before you buy.  If you agree with my first item, all of the individual features of the software are not relevant; you will agree that the results are.  If that is true, this is where most of your time should be spent, trying out the software.  I personally think a trial should be between 60-120 days.  This will give your group enough time to set-up, configure, create, publish, modify, evaluate and make a decision.  Oh and by the way,  there is a cost to try out good software.  Just like your business, a software company has to pay its trainers, sales people and usually has to pay to develop the software before they can get their first client.  What I mean by this is that they are running a business, they are professionals, and professionals get paid for their work. 

5.  How much risk are you willing to assume if this project is a bomb?  Considering the large amount of uncertainty when it comes to the results of scheduling software, and considering that the results are subjective, I would highly recommend limiting your risk as much as you can.  How do you limit your risk?  Well in the case of buying software, find a vendor who uses a monthly, pay-as-you-go model.  For many of our new clients who begin using our software their biggest financial risk is only one month of service.  You can't get any less risk than that. 

6.  The best businesses are the ones with the best people.  Make sure that when you are selecting your new call scheduling software partner that you choose one with great training and support.  I promise you that this will make all of the difference in the world.  Most of you know the old saying, "there's more than one way to skin a cat", the same is true with software, there are several ways to achieve your desired results.  Your biggest advocate will be the trainer.

To read the complete article "Where should the focus be" you can download our whitepaper on our website.

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