When a medical organization gets ready to make a change to their physician call scheduling system there are several early indicators to success that you should be on the look-out for.
- You're willing to make modifications to your current process. This is a "biggie". It is imperative that you come to the table with an open mind. Unless you are creating custom software specifically tailored to your groups needs, you will need to be somewhat flexible regarding the old way versus the new way. Have a discussion with your providers to gain a good understanding of the things that your group will and will not modify.
- You're willing to make some changes to your current rules. Similar to number 1, you need to have some bit of flexibility here unless you are prepared to have the software built for you. Remember this is very expensive. Most companies like ours work hard to deliver 80% of what most medical groups needs when it comes to creating, maintaining and publishing call scheduling software. It is not cost effective to develop the other 20%. Instead of looking at this as a limitation, look at it as an opportunity to standardize your practice with other practices. Also be aware that if you need to accommodate every rule that every doctor comes up with, you will be doing a lot of manual scheduling (not that there is anything wrong with that).
- You're willing to make some changes to your schedule length. There is a mathematical equation that helps us determine what the optimum length of a call schedule should be to get the best tallies. That equation is based on the number of providers you are scheduling, the number of jobs you are scheduling and the amount of vacations/days off that you allow. Be open to this. Most software will not be a good fit if you are trying to make weekly schedules and need fair tallies. Most of the scheduling limitations today stem from the schedulers available time or the large number of changes from the providers after the schedule is "final".
- You have identified your group’s top 3 needs. This is another "biggie". Take time to meet with your providers and understand what are the top 3 "deal breakers" or according the Urban Dictionary "an element in the making of a deal, essential to one of the parties. Without it, that very party would never consent". Clearly understand what the group cannot live without. I would caution you to limit your list to a few. When and if your top 3 needs have been meet, then go back and see what the next needs should be. The purpose of this is to understand what is important and focus your efforts there.
- You have established a budget or have funds available. Although most people I talk to say that they don't have a budget, they do have discretionary funds available to accomplish certain strategic initiatives. If you do not have this available you are probably not too serious about solving your problem. That's ok, let’s just be clear about where you are in the buying process so that you are not bombarded with "are you ready to buy yet" from your sales person. I would also encourage you to develop a budget to accomplish things that are important to the group’s success. This will allow the group to move forward quicker regarding decision making.
- You have time set aside to configure and learn a new program. If you are "up to your eyeballs in alligators", now may not be a good time to take on an additional project. This should be taken into consideration. Not having time or not making time can derail a new software project faster than anything else I have seen. If a real problem exists that needs to be solved, people will make time. If your boss is not giving you time to learn and implement, I would ask if this is really a priority project. Also keep in mind the type of time we are referring to is "uninterrupted time".
Key Takeaway: If you are not ready to change, don't. Take a careful look at the list above and be realistic about your answers. Not ready now does not mean not ready ever. Plan your change and your outcomes will be worth it.