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

How Big of a Scheduling Tool do I Need?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 @ 08:00 AM

long-handle-shovel-400x300A few weeks ago, over the 4th of July my family and I decided it was time to do some sprucing up to my mom’s flower garden at my parents’ lake home in Minnesota.  My parents’ home also knows as the “cabin” does not have a shortage of gardening tools to use for any projects, in fact it’s the opposite.  There is an abundance of different tools, the trick is choosing one that is the right size.

What we were attempting to do is dig-a-hole.  There are several tools that are appropriate for this type of job.  There are gardening hand tools that everyone is familiar with, there are many types and sizes of shovels.  There is also a large variety of power digging tools, and we can’t forget the oldest tool that most of us have, our hands.  Which one of these is the best for the job?  Well, it depends.  To make an informed decision we should know a little more about the hole we need to dig.  If it were the “old days”, and we needed to dig a small or medium hole only once or twice a year, the best answer may have been to use our hands.  If we needed to dig a bigger hole quarterly or monthly it probably makes sense to buy a shovel.  If you need to dig massive holes each day, and you need to do a lot of them, you may want to consider getting a tractor with a backhoe.  The last thing you should probably consider is your budget.  It doesn’t cost us anything, but our time, talent and sweat, to use our hands.  It is very affordable to use and buy a shovel.  Most of us would never consider buying a tractor with a backhoe due to the investment and learning curve regarding how to operate the machine.  For the clear majority of us, a shovel is a good tool to use to dig a hole.  It still requires work (sweat equity), but is very reasonable in price, readily available, and gets the job done over and over.  Using this analogy, it seems reasonable to conclude that using your hands to dig a hole is ridiculous in 2018.  Using a tractor with a backhoe is also ridiculous unless your needs are significant.  Although a shovel isn’t sexy, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that a tractor does, it does get the job done, and is a hell of a lot easier to use to dig a hole than your hands and most everyone can afford one. 

In my professional world as the President of a physician scheduling software company I can use a similar analogy to draw a parallel between digging holes and scheduling physicians.  Almost all our prospective customers come to us because it is so difficult to schedule physicians fairly and accurately by hand or using Excel.  This would be the same as using your hands to dig a hole.   These prospects need help but struggle to decide which tool is best for them.  As you can imagine, in the physician on-call and shift scheduling market place there are many great tools available.  Some are hand tools, some are shovels and some are tractors with backhoes.  As a “scheduler” or practice administrator you need to decide how big your project is and what is the bests size tool to meet your needs.  Remember your decision isn’t forever. 

Common sense tells you that you probably don’t need a tractor with a backhoe to dig some holes a few times per year.  The best tool for that project would be a shovel.  The same goes for scheduling software, if you are manually scheduling or using Excel today for a small or medium specialty medical practice, the likelihood that you need an overly sophisticated scheduling tool to do what you need to do today is unlikely.  As evidenced by the fact that you can accomplish what you need to by hand, but it would be GREAT if you could do it in a fraction of the time.  Lastly, consider the amount of time you need to spend on the “buying process” for a shovel as opposed to buying a tractor with a backhoe. 

As you begin to prepare to dig your next hole, aka creating your next physician schedule, don’t fall for the shiny new tractor with a lot of bells and whistles that you probably will never use, and costs way more than you want to pay.  Go buy a quality shovel and never have to dig by hand again.