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

Physician On-Call Schedulers Resistant to Change

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

think-different-bubble-represents-change-now-and-revise-100303198.jpgWe often have physicians contact us who are very excited about making a change from manually creating the physician on-call schedule to using software to automate the process.  They like the features, they are supportive of our monthly per provider pricing model.  They think we’re a great fit, and then they talk to their counterpart who also helps with the schedule.  They don’t want to use software, they are happy with how things are today and see no need to change.  In fact, they see the change as some sort of a threat.   Although most doctors have fairly strong personalities, they are not ones for causing too much turmoil within the practice.  So often times the dreams of automatically having the schedule in their phone or being able to make a vacation request from their phone is squelched by a resistant employee who is afraid of change.  Is there any way to reduce or eliminate resistance on the front end or do we just have to deal with it as it comes up?

According to a recent article on The Balance.com website by Susan Heathfield, “resistance to change can be covert or overt, organized or individual.  Employees can realize that they don't like or want a change and resist publicly and verbally. Or, they can just feel uncomfortable and resist, sometimes unknowingly, through the actions they take, the words they use to describe the change and the stories and conversations they share in the workplace.”  In a medical practice or hospital “the more powerful the resisting employee, in terms of job title, position, and longevity, the more success he or she will have with their resistance.  Resistance to change appears in actions such as verbal criticism, nitpicking details, failure to adopt, snide comments, sarcastic remarks, missed meetings, failed commitments, endless arguments, lack of support verbally, and outright sabotage” says Healthfield.

Now that we can diagnose resistance based on some of the symptoms we just learned about, how do we move forward?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Embrace a culture of trust. Employees trust leaders and companies that are open, honest and transparent.  Everyone hates surprises, especially without one hell of a good reason.
  2. Share the vision. Be sure everyone understands what you are trying to accomplish, and for who’s direct and indirect benefit.  Tie decisions like this back to patient care.  Its ok to tell your team that “were buying this software to assist the physicians”, not everything has to benefit everyone.  See my previous post Who are you buying on-call software for?
  3. Ask for input. Be sure you are doing your best to rob from Peter to pay Paul.  It’s never a good idea to make someone else’s life better by making someone else’s worse.  Be sure you understand the implications of something new.  Get input from everyone, not just the people at the top.
  4. Create realistic expectations. Try not to paint too rosy of a picture of what utopia looks like.  Try to talk more about what the process looks like.  Nothing is perfect in the beginning, especially with software.  Sometimes it’s even a bit worse in the beginning because you are learning something new and having to get a work product completed.  Look to the big picture and go back to your original vision.
  5. What’s in it for them. If there is nothing to benefit the user who is resistant, you may not be able to achieve success.  Find a few things that will be better for everyone.  This gets back to the concept of not robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

If you are implementing a new physician oncall scheduling system in your practice or hospital with transparent communication and a high level of trust, you will gain a great advantage.  But remember you are dealing with humans who have emotions and responses that are amplified during times of change. 

The key takeaway is that there is a right way and a wrong way.  Although the right way takes a bit more time, energy and the use of kid-gloves, the alternative is resistance and even sabotage.  Spend the extra time, it will be worth it in the end.

PS, if you have experienced a failure in the past with integrating something like on-call scheduling software, be sure to look beyond the commercial vendor/partner features and capabilities, which is what your team will most often point to as reasons for failure.  Most vendor/partners want nothing more than for solutions to be successful.   The absolute last thing they want is a customer to leave and revert back to what was not working when you first meet.  They have invested a lot of money and time to create commercially viable solutions.  Sometimes you may need to look internally and ask yourself as an organization, why won't this work for us?  Why are we so different from others who it has worked for?  Did we sabotage the success of this ourselves?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On-Call Software Vendor or Partner, What’s the Difference?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 @ 02:25 PM

ID-100230129.jpgWhen searching for new solutions to complex problems within your hospital or medical practice are you looking for a vendor to sell you something to fix the problem or are you looking for a partner to help you fix the problem?  What’s the difference?

As a software company we work with a lot of other companies who assist us in finding solutions to complex problems that we encounter.  For example, they may be problems around building a new “rule” or “auto-scheduling engine” for scheduling our doctors.  Or it may be around user experience and user interface design.  We look outside the company for solutions because it is either not something that we are “experts” at or it is something that we are not going to do every day, so it makes sense to find temporary help.

Over the past 20 years in business I have learned a few things about the different types of organizations that you can work with to help you solve your problems.  What kind of probems specifically?  I have narrowed the types of organizations down to two, vendors and partners. 

Vendor

Partner

Wants to sell you something

Wants to help fix your problem

More concerned with their needs

More concerned with your wants

Wants to close the sale for his commission

Wants to close the sale to help you faster

Is concerned about today

Is concerned about you tomorrow and next year

Tells you what you want to hear

Tells you the truth, even if its not to his benefit

Is an advocate for his company

Is an advocate for you, his customer

Tells you a bunch of stuff

Askes you a lot of questions

Is willing to close the sale

Is willing to walk away from a sale

Doesn’t want to deliver bad news

Doesn’t want to, but will deliver bad news

Wants to succeed

Wants you to succeed

Considers you a prospect / customer

Considers you a prospect / partner

Talks a lot about his product and business

Talks a lot about people who he has helped

Will send your call to voicemail

Will answer with a smile

 

As I was talking about vendors and partners regarding this blog post, one of my colleagues gave me a great analogy, she said that a vendor will sell or give you a hammer.  A partner will also sell you a hammer but also show you how to use it to build the kind of house that works best for you.

I think that there are very real differences between a vendor and a partner.  I would encourage you to identify who the true partners are within your hospital or medical practice.  Thank them for the great partnership that you have created.  If they have helped you, don’t be afraid to help them.  I would also encourage you to identify the vendors within your organization.  Ask yourself why these people aren’t your partners.  Maybe it’s you and maybe its them.  Perhaps your organization doesn’t promote a culture of true partnerships.  Maybe you have a strong purchasing department that strips away all of the value that a true partnership brings to the table.  Either way, figure out how to change the relationship.  It is in your best interest to surround yourself with quality partners that want to help you succeed.  You need help, everyone needs help. 

All of the relationships at Call Scheduler by Adjuvant are partnerships.  We rely heavily on our partners to help us run and grow our dynamic fast paced physician scheduling business.  On the flip side, we are looking for hospitals and clinics that value partnerships and are looking to solve the oncall problem once and for all.  We want to work with people and organizations who appreciate how much we care and what value that provides. 

We want to follow the golden rule, do unto others as you would have done to yourself.

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Image courtsey of Patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Scheduling Physicians is EASY with SaaS

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 11:16 AM

ID-100259561.jpgOur point of view is that software specific to creating, changing and communicating a physician’s on-call and work schedule should be easy to buy, easy to set-up and easy to use.

What is the purpose of software?  According to blogger David Longstreet “the answer is obvious, the propose of software is to solve problems”.  What is the purpose of software as a service (SaaS)? First let’s define what SaaS is?  SaaS is a method of software delivery that allows data to be accessed from any device with an Internet connection and web browser. In this web-based model, software vendors host and maintain the servers, databases and code that constitute an application. This is a significant departure from the on premise software delivery model. The purpose of SaaS is to give users all of the features and functionality of software, without all of the expensive hardware and maintenance associated with operating software.

Call Scheduler is a SaaS based physician scheduling software system.  Check out a previous blog post "SaaS -vs- traditional software" to see some of the differences.  Or let’s look at some of the problems that our prospective customers have come to us to solve:

  1. It takes too much time to “create” the physician schedule
  2. It is too hard to remember all of the rules for all of the doctors when creating the schedule
  3. I can’t create more than a few weeks at a time due to its complexity
  4. Processing day-off and vacation requests is very time consuming
  5. Keeping track of how many vacation and day’s-off each physician has had or will have is very complex
  6. Managing the changes each day/week/month is time consuming
  7. Communicating the changes to the schedule is very time consuming
  8. People don’t keep up with the schedule changes and the wrong doctor gets called
  9. Keeping track of the number of assignments each physician has or will have during a certain period of time is a lot of work
  10. Manually entering your on-call assignments into your smart phone is time consuming
  11. Communicating who is covering “call” for our medical group to the hospital is time consuming
  12. Going back in time to see who was “on-call” last November 3rd is very time consuming
  13. Our schedule creation process in not documented. It lives in someone’s head. 

The SaaS delivery model is perfect for medical practices and doctors due to its low cost of entry and non-existent maintenance fees.  Physician scheduling software is also a perfect SaaS match because it solves many very complex problems, for very busy people, without large IT infrastructures.

Top Benefits of SaaS as it relates to scheduling physicians:

  1. Access to the software and it’s information should be easily accessible from any device with an Internet connection
  2. Low initial costs. No servers to buy or manage, no special computer systems or people to manage them.
  3. Low initial risk. No multi-year long term agreements, or huge up front investments
  4. Does not require on-site set-up and configuration, customers should be able to set-up and configure with minimal assistance.
  5. Free upgrades and improvements without having to download anything, just log-in
  6. User directed iterative software development. The application features are always expanding based on customer needs and wants.  Everyone benefits from everyone’s ideas.
  7. Multitenant software architectures can scale indefinitely to meet customer demand.
  8. APIs that let you integrate with existing Practice Management or EMR systems.

Key takeaway:  Just because you can access software via a web-browser does not mean it’s delivery model is SaaS.  The benefits of using the SaaS delivery model when scheduling physicians for both on-call and “work” are tremendous and should not be discounted.  The future is here.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Topics: oncall

On-Call Scheduling for Dr. Difficult

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 02:05 PM

ID-100325654.jpgAt what point does Dr. Difficult become Dr. Pain-in-the-ass for the person who is charged with creating, updating and communicating the physician call schedule?  I think if you ask any scheduler they would tell you the turning point is when they can no longer use standard tools to accomplish their scheduling task, because of this one doctor just has to have it their way.

I am writing this blog post today in support of schedulers who struggle dealing with difficult people who have the power and influence to make an already difficult task selfishly more difficult.   Also please check out a post titled "How to Handle Physician On-Call Scheduling Software Fairly"

During the sales process, in the early stages of “discovery”, I typically learn the trials and tribulations of the groups that I am speaking with.  I often hear about the organizations desire to create some sort of “standardization” around scheduling.  Most of the time they are coming to Call Scheduler because they have not been successful in doing this on their own.  After spending some time “pealing the onion back” I often learn that the major barrier to on-call scheduling standardization is one or two physicians who are unable or unwilling to accept what everyone else considers fair and equitable. 

Taking a standard process and modifying it for one or two people is what is commonly referred to as “feeding the dragon”.  This means that by complying with the “only for me requests” we are not only enabling this type of behavior, but it also has negative impacts on the other providers, staff members and the organization as a whole.  So how does the “only for me” behavior of one or two have negative impacts?  In my opinion it all comes down to time and energy.  Typically, small groups are able to find common ground for the good of the order.  Not everything has to, or is going to be perfect for everyone involved. 

Here are some examples of Dr. Difficult’s behavior:

  • Every time I see my name it has to be in green. I couldn’t possibly find my name on a sheet of paper or calendar if it’s not colored in green.
  • Everyone is supposed to use the electronic day-off request area to request time off, except its ok for Dr. Smith, he’s not computer savvy.
  • All providers do weekend call as Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Not Dr. Difficult, he will only do Saturday and Sunday.
  • All providers will do back-up the following week after they take call. Not Dr. Difficult, in fact he needs a day off the day before and after being on-call.
  • Difficult changes his vacation or day-off requests after the schedule has been “blessed” as final. Now the schedule has to be re-done.
  • Difficult calls you and says, I can’t work next Friday, you need to find a replacement.
  • All doctors agree to a 3-month schedule and will turn in day-off and vacation requests for the next three months. Not Dr. Difficult, he only knows his personal schedule one month at a time.
  • Difficult has a secretary or intermediary make requests for him so if it is not accurate he has someone to point the finger at. He is never wrong.
  • All requests from Dr. Difficult are last minute and considered a fire that requires immediate attention.
  • Difficult wants a new printed copy of the schedule each time a change is made and he would like to see what the change was highlighted. Everyone else can look on-line.
  • Difficult frequently says, “why am I doing your job for you”?
  • Nothing is ever Dr. Difficult fault or problem. Always someone else’s.

In the medical community I see a strong tendency to feed the dragon by allowing and accommodating individual requests at the expense of the group.  In my world of software, the typical savings and return on investment comes from creating a fair standard that everyone can live with.  What we often her happening is that in the end they can’t standardize on a process because it is only that way for everyone but Dr. Difficult.  Therefore, attempting to standardize becomes less of an automated process and increasingly more manual, in order to accommodate everyone.  In that case, the scheduler often times says, I may as well just do it the old way.  I guess everyone will just have to suffer.

Some remedies may include having a “white knight” or senior person that Dr. Difficult respects explain to them the ramifications of their unique demands, and the stress it puts on the rest of the group.  If Dr. Difficult isn’t a complete narcissist, which he often is, he may come around for the good of the order.

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Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Secure Texting-Get Ahold of the Wrong Doctor Faster

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 @ 11:57 AM

ID-100367140.jpgOver the past 5 years there has been a massive insurgence in the secure text messaging market, aka secure texting.  A lot of companies from telecommunications equipment manufacturers, stand-alone companies and even some scheduling companies have dipped a toe into this texting software arena.  Great news for physicians, right?  Everyone wants to ditch the pager.  They are old, out of date, and the replacement costs are often more expensive than a smart phone.  The concept is that everyone already has a smart phone, so why not securely send a text message to the on-call doctor?  It sounds good on the surface, right?  Well, that depends on the problem you are trying to solve.  If the problem you are trying to solve is “how do we contact and communicate with the correct on-call physician,” then perhaps secure messaging is only part of the problem.  In a previous post I asked the question should secure text be part of on-call management software?  

I would argue that adopting a secure messaging solution prior to correcting the “accurate on-call information” problem that exists in most hospitals, is premature.  What you have done is find a new way to contact the wrong doctor, faster.  Whoops.  Many hospitals are still managing on-call information via 3-ring binders and dry-erase boards.  With the volume of daily changes to physician schedules increasing, and the availability of physicians decreasing, schedule accuracy is a key dependent in this equation.

Let’s review the typical hospital on-call process:

  1. Physician schedule is created at clinic (quarterly)
  2. Physician schedule created by clinic is distributed to the hospital for ED specialty consult coverage (monthly)
  3. Hospital receives each specialty on-call schedule from all clinics, archives schedule (monthly)
  4. Hospital reviews each clinics on-call schedule and manually creates a “daily call roster” (daily)
  5. Hospital distributes “daily call roster” to ED and nursing units (daily)
  6. Physicians call hospital to make same-day on-call schedule changes (daily)
  7. Hospital manually updates the “daily call roster” for each change (daily)
  8. Hospital distributes updated “daily call roster” to ED and nursing units for each change (daily)
  9. ED physician needs consult and looks up “who is on-call” via “daily call roster” (daily)
  10. ED requests that telecom “page” or “text the on-call doctor” for xyz specialty (daily)
  11. Telecom “pages” or “texts” doctor who they think is on-call (daily)
  12. Doctor responds and accepts or declines the request for a consult (daily)

In this typical hospital on-call model you will note that the “messaging” or “activation” portion of this process is step # 11.  Now clearly messaging is a very important step in the on-call process, and it is a very worthy problem to solve.  My question is, when should this be solved?  Does it make sense to have a new, fancy system to communicate with doctors, when your current system to identify which doctor to communicate with is outdated?  To me, that is a classic example of  ”putting the cart before the horse.”

I think if you were to survey a group of doctors, most of them would tell you that how they are notified, is far less important than notifying the right physician.  No one wants to be paged or messaged incorrectly if they are not scheduled to be on-service.

Key Takeaway:  It’s possible that knowing who is on-call, and making sure that information is up-to-date and accurate is far more valuable to doctors than what technology is used to notify them.

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Image courtesy of Goldy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Physician Scheduling Standardization

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Apr 05, 2016 @ 01:27 PM

ID-100328777.jpgOver the past 10 years I have been confounded by the lack of physician scheduling standardization I see inside of corporate owned healthcare systems.  In most organizations each medical specialty or department, eg. cardiology, neurology, ear, nose, throat, etc. have a different process and system for creating, maintaining accuracy and communicating the physician schedule.  The lack of standardization in scheduling doctors has forced users to invent their own individual solutions to common problems that are being experienced by others within the same organization.  I believe this is referred to as “reinventing the wheel”.  Not only is this a contributing factor to physician dissatisfaction when it comes to “scheduling”, but it is just plain silly and inefficient.

What are standards?

Standards are a document that is established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for creating a physician schedule, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order.

Simple examples of current healthcare standardization:

  • All employees in the clinic, regardless of department answer the phone in the same way.
  • All patients “check-in or register” in the same day, regardless of department.
  • All of the exam rooms similar.
  • All patients are billed the same way
  • All payments are collected the same way, regardless of specialty
  • All of the staff (doctors, nurses, support) get paid on the same payroll cycle.
  • There a parking policy regarding where each type of staff is supposed to park.
  • Lab specimens collected the same way regardless of department.
  • Medical records are documented the same regardless if you are a patient of Cardiology or Internal Medicine.
  • Usernames and passwords follow a standard naming scheme to allow for consistency and ease-of-use when it comes time to provide end-user support.

Why are standards important?

Standards provide the following:

  • Adherence to standards helps ensure reliability.  As a result of reliability, users perceive standardized processes to be more dependable, and in turn raises user confidence.
  • Adherence to standards helps maintain fairness.  As a result of fairness users will feel as if their interests are protected and they are not being treated differently than their peers.
  • Economies of Scale. Standardization provides a solid foundation for basic business benefits such as economies of scale.  This is most beneficial in terms of receiving the best price and discount level for your organization.
  • Cross training. Standardization provides the ability for one person to be able to assist another in similar duties because everyone is using the same tools.
  • The ability for things to work together relies on products and services that comply with standards.

What are some economic benefits to standardization?

  • Short and long term cost savings. Companies actively involved in creating “scheduling standards” will reap short and long term cost-savings more than those that do not participate.
  • Competitive advantage. Organizations are motivated to participate in standardization because they gain an edge over non-participating companies in terms of insider-knowledge.  Easy access to accurate information is valuable.
  • Cost reduction. Standardization can lead to considerably lower scheduling costs.
  • Vendor/client relationship. Standards have a positive effect on the buying power of a healthcare system.
  • Strategic alliances. Standardization encourages cooperation between all parties in the “chain”.

 In most large clinics and care systems I have spoken with about the lack of physician scheduling standardization they tell me that it is next-to impossible to get everyone to agree.  They say to me” do you know how hard it would be to get Cardiology to schedule in the same way that Neurology does?”  So instead they allow the physicians or someone in the organization to invent a way of doing the work.   Regardless of the time it takes or the inefficiency of the process.  Oh and by-the-way, what gets invented is changed and modified by every new physician or administrator that comes into the practice.  If you ask a scheduler why something is done the way it is, you will often get the response, “not sure, we have always done it that way” or “Dr. Smith wants it done that way for him or herself”.    

Key Takeaway:  I will not discount how painful and difficult creating the physician scheduling standardization will be, but I will guarantee that the benefits to physicians, patients and the organization as a whole will far outweigh the pain it takes to get there.  After all, you’ve practically done it with everything else, this shouldn’t be different.

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Can't get enough?  Check out another great blog post about on-call "Why am I doing the schedulers job for her?"

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Topics: oncall

Who Are You Buying On-Call Software For?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 @ 02:22 PM

Who are you buying on-call software for imageWho’s life should be made easier by the transition from a manual paper based on-call scheduling system to software, the person who creates the schedule or the doctor who has to do the work?  I vote both, and even a few extra people, if you can afford it.

Long gone are the days where you need to choose between the doctor and the scheduler when evaluating features while looking at making the switch.  In fact, I think if you are investigating correctly and objectively you will think about all of the “users” and do your best to find solutions for all of their problems. 

Before you buy, it makes sense to not only know who your users are, but to truly understand their needs.  This is known as being “tuned in” to your audience.  In order to become “tuned in” there are a few things you need to do.

  1. The first step is to identify who your users are:  Specifically in terms of scheduling doctors for work and on call, here is a list of the users:
    1. The person who creates the schedule, also known as the “Scheduler”
    2. The person who has to work all of the assignments on the schedule, also known as the “Physician”
    3. The organization or group who needs to know “who is on call for …” is typically known as the “Hospital Emergency Department”
    4. Another organization who needs to know “who is on call for…” is the “Answering Service”     
    5. Another group of people who need to know where the physicians are and what they are doing is known as the “Office Staff”.
  2. The second step is to understand what they need from the software and why?

User

Need

Why

Scheduler

Auto Scheduling engine/rules

Automate the creation, save time

Scheduler

Tally reports

Prove fairness to providers

Scheduler

Process vacation/day off requests

Automate process, save time

Scheduler

Training / Support

To become proficient

Scheduler

Ability to make changes

Manage changes

Physician

Submit vacation/day off requests

Easier and more accessible

Physician

Reports

To show the schedule is fair

Physician

Smart phone integration

See when scheduled

Physician

Electronic swaps

Easier way to make a change

Hospital ED

Electronic schedule

Eliminate data entry

Hospital ED

Change editor

Manage Changes / EMTALA

Hospital ED

Combined daily call roster

Share accurate on call information

Answering Service

Electronic Information

Reduce errors

Office Staff

Daily provider schedule

To know where all the Doctors are

 

  1. The next step is to prioritize your users.  Although this might not be a fun meeting or conversation because some people may feel less valuable or less important than others, it still needs to happen.  What is the pecking order in your organization, who needs to be serviced first, second, third and last?  In many clinics and or departments within a hospital would prioritize the physicians first, followed by the scheduler, then the hospital, then the office staff, and lastly the answering service.  If you skip this step, you will be trying to solve everyone's problem and most likely will solve no one’s problem.

  2. Now that you have identified your users, what is important to each of them and where they fall in the pecking order, you are now ready to begin compiling a list of your needs.  You are also at the point where you need to understand how your needs effect the cost of the product you are looking at.  For example, if you are a small clinic that is physician owned, and one of the physicians is also the schedule creator and you have a small budget. You are going to have to make some tough choices and perhaps not meet the needs of the hospital, or your clinic staff or the answering service’s needs, because your needs supersede the available budget, so therefore you need to adjust who needs the software.

Getting back to the theme of this blog post, of “Who’s are you buying the software for” as you can see is a tricky question to answer.  It is also a question that takes some research and time to understand and in order to be able to answer intelligently.  Of course the global answer is that you are trying to solve everyone’s problems, but is that really realistic?  Do you really have the money to make that happen?  If not, hopefully this post will shed some light on how to get better tuned in to your users and how to evaluate and make the final decision.

Key Takeaway:  Oncall software is not going to solve everyone’s problems, by trying to do so, you may not end up solving anyone’s problems.  For more information about researching or purchasing on call software you may be interested in this blog post:  The 10 Golden Rules of  Buying On Call Software.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does On-Call Software Set-Up Require On-Site Set-Up?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Jan 22, 2016 @ 12:20 PM

does on-call software require engineersWe get asked this question all the time from prospective customers.  Why does your competition have “people” come onsite to set-up and configure their physician 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?

I have been in the software development business for almost 20 years.  Set-up and configuration is always something to be considered when designing the initial 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 someone 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 Webex 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.

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of our competitor’s software was designed and built by engineers, therefore requires someone at that “level” to configure and most likely make changes in the future.  In the book “tuned in” the authors would argue that requiring such an antiquated method of set-up is a sign of not understanding your customer’s business.  Whether you are training a doctor, or clinic manager, these people are so busy, I find it hard to imagine that this process is easy or convenient for them.

So to answer the question, should on-call software require onsite set-up and configuration for clinics? my though is no.  Set-up should be an easy process.  Learning the software should be even easier.  The only part of the physician scheduling software onboarding 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.

To learn more about Call Scheduler click the button below to request a demo.

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Do You Need A Relationship With Your On-Call Software Vendor?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 @ 02:59 PM

on-call softwareEver thought about what it means to have good relationship between the medical practice and the vendor/partner?  As a vendor I think about this all the time.  Most often when something has happened where it is apparent to me that we did not have a good relationship.  This is especially frustrating in the situation where a customer has been using our on-call software for years, new other departments want to buy physician scheduling software and we are not asked to participate in the bid process, but our current customer says how much they love using us.  What happened to the relationship?

Smart people have told me that people only buy form those who they trust and have a relationship with.  Is this really true?  Do you think that physicians, administrators or administrative assistants really want to have a relationship with their physician on-call scheduling partner?  I hope for yes, but my gut tells me, probably not!  I think it’s because everyone’s busy and they can’t imagine getting any benefit or value from a relationship.

Or maybe it’s so difficult to form a good relationship because physician scheduling software is an on-line service.  Companies like us most likely will never meet, you may or may not have seen my picture on LinkedIn and we have not spent enough time together for us to build trust. 

As a business owner I try to form small relationships with vendors all the time, most often so that if something goes south they will help us fix it so that our customers are not affected.  That’s where I see the most value.  I also try and listen to them and use their experience to gain knowledge.  In a previous post I did, The 10 Golden Rules of Buying On-Call Software illistrates how vendors can use their experience to help.

If you are a clinic or medical group and your vendor partners do these 10 things, you should want to make a strong relationship with them:

  1. Have taken the time to research and learn your business
  2. Understand what is important to you
  3. Understand why you purchased goods or services from them and why that’s important to your business
  4. Return your phone calls the same day or next day
  5. Return your email the same day or next day
  6. Act like trusted advisors and do things in the best interest of the relationship
  7. Are reasonable in their requests and responses
  8. Are fair
  9. Don’t expect unreasonable things, like miracles
  10. Don’t try to take advantage of the situation

If you are someone who is selling to clinics or medical groups and you want to build relationships with your customers, you should strongly consider doing the following:

  1. Take the time to research and understand their business
  2. Understand what is important to them
  3. Understand why they wanted you as a customer
  4. Return their phone calls the same day or next day
  5. Return their email the same day or next day
  6. Act like trusted partner and do things in the best interest of the relationship
  7. Be reasonable in your requests and responses
  8. Be fair
  9. Don’t expect unreasonable things, like miracles
  10. Don’t try to take advantage of the situation

When its Sunday night, 11:00pm and you need help from a vendor/partner that you buy stuff from have you created  the type of relationship in which they will get up and help you?  Do you both are about each other’s success.  If the answer is yes, congratulations.  If the answer is no, you might want to reconsider how you treat your vendor partners. 

Key Takeaway:  Do unto others as you would have done on to you!

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Image courtesy of Cooldesigns at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top Physician Scheduling Software Features

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Oct 16, 2015 @ 12:38 PM

Whats important in choosing on-call softwareWhat are the most important features in the physician on-call and work scheduling software bucket?  It depends who you are and what role you play in creating, making changes and communicating the schedule.  The main roles that we encounter are (a) the physician who gets scheduled (b) the person who creates the schedule (c) the person or organization who views and has to take action based on what is on the schedule.  Let’s look at each role individually and see what’s important to each of them.

The Physician:  Love it or hate it, this is the most important person that needs to be considered when purchasing scheduling software.  The physician is the person who is woken-up at 3:00am when the ED calls and is asked to come in for a consult.  This is also the person who sacrifices nights, weekends, holidays, birthdays, concerts, baseball games and a host of other things to be available for consultation.  Don't make the same mistakes others have made when choosing software.

The top features for physicians are:

  1. An electronic process to request vacations and day’s off
  2. A way to view tally reports for each job worked
  3. A way to view tally reports for days off and vacation
  4. A way to view the schedule on your laptop, or desktop
  5. A way to view the schedule within the calendar on your phone (not via an app)
  6. A way to request a shift swap

 The Top Features for a scheduler:

  1. Tools to collect and manage vacation and day-off requests
  2. Easy manual scheduling tool to “pre-enter” things like Holidays, or other non-random assignments
  3. The ability to self-configure rules
  4. The ability to use an auto-scheduling engine on some or all jobs
  5. Tally reports by job
  6. Tally reports for vacation and days off
  7. A way to check provider availability on a certain day or for a certain job
  8. An easy way to make changes to the schedule

 Top Features for staff, answering service, ED or Telecom

  1. Schedule availability via the Internet/Intranet (with or without login)
  2. The ability to easily make changes
  3. The ability to communicate changes back to the “scheduler” at the clinic
  4. The ability to merge and view multiple schedules in a daily or monthly view

Key Takeaway:  Remember when reviewing and buying software to schedule physicians for on-call and work, you need to take into consideration all of these people and their needs.  Each user has a different set of needs, but it all is for the physician to be sure that hospitals have the right provider in the right place, at the right time.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net