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

10 Mistakes Doctors Have Made When Buying Physician Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, May 04, 2012 @ 09:51 AM

mistakesChoosing which program to buy to create, maintain and publish your call schedule has never been easy.   Earlier, it was because there were very few programs available.  Today, ironically, it is because there are too many!  Doctors are very confused as to which program they should buy – sometimes, too much choice can be as bad as too little.

Doctors have some special character traits which software producers need to be aware of.

  • To be able to treat a patient and be confident that your decision is right requires tremendous self confidence, which means doctors often have a big ego. Many take the approach that they are always right - even in a field like computer technology.
  • Doctors have a tremendous thirst to learn. Years of med school training allows you to pick up knowledge quickly and most doctors who want to buy software are quite knowledgeable about computers. However, sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous , and often what doctors know about computers and software leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Doctors are pressed for time, and hence their decisions are based on the fact that “anything that does not gel with me is going to hamper me”. Rather than try to improve their workflow with the help of computers, they’d rather stick to their old dysfunctional habits, even if this hampers their efficiency.

Doctors who wish to enhance their practice and provide better care and service to their patients and themselves by using physician scheduling software are on the right track. Unfortunately, they don’t always go about it the right way. 

10 mistakes doctors have made when purchasing call scheduling software.

  1. Wanting too many bells and whistles:  Some doctors want their software to do everything for them. Sometimes putting too many things in your software tends to delay its deployment and make it too complicated to use. Often, some doctors will end up not buying any program at all, because it does not have everything which they want – which means they deprive themselves of a great opportunity of improving their efficiency in 80% of their practice.  For example, in EMR software some doctors want the entire drug database of 15000 drugs in their software.  Now you know you will never use even 1/100th of these. There are enough online resources to give you these details when you do require this esoteric information. Why load this redundant data in your software and make it slow by cramming it with stuff you will never use? It’s much more sensible to have a small efficient intelligent drug database which you can grow over time. Stick to the basics - your aim is to improve your practice - not to solve the world healthcare crises.

  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. Thinking someone else understand your business:  A lot of doctors tend to put too much trust in what their software vendor is doing for them. They feel he is the expert, and knows what he is doing. If a custom built package is being made, unless you provide the vendor with adequate knowledge on your processes, templates, wants and need, the program will never do what you want it to. Remember the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out”.  I know doctors who just give a brief outline of what they want and leave it at that. Now the vendor is left scratching his head because he does not really understand what is required of him. He muddles through – but what he produces is not what the doctor wanted, which means a lot of time, money and energy are wasted – and the cycle needs to be repeated again. If you want a custom built solution, you need to be very closely involved. You cannot delegate this. You need to provide all the information required personally. More importantly, you need to review and ask for updates from time to time. Often, the project gets needlessly delayed because the doctor realizes that this was not what he wanted only after the complete package is delivered to him.  Do you really have time for this?  If you are a full time physician, probably not.
View Mistakes #4 through #10

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

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