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

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The on call schedule is more than just a calendar


passionWhen I began my career at Adjuvant several years ago I needed to find my passion for the industry.  How the hell do you find passion for creating, maintaining and publishing call schedules?  I will be honest, it took me a while.

I was constantly asking myself the question, why on-call, why physician scheduling, why work with doctors in the first place?  That is a good question, most of them are almost impossible to get ahold of, very close with their money, and are not the quickest decision makers.

Still looking for passion, I first centered  around creating good software, after all we are a software company, right?  I also developed passion for running a good business, after all I am a business man, right? And then I started talking to not only current customers of ours, but more importantly new prospects who were sharing stories about "why" they were calling us.

Would you believe me if I told you that the physician oncall schedule is one of the most important schedules with the clinic and the hospital. Here's why;

  1. How can you schedule staff and patients until you know where the Doctor is or is not?
  2. Why would you need support services like xray and lab if there is not a Doctor available to see patients?
  3. Who is needed most in the Emergency Department at every hospital in the US?
  4. Who is needed the most during a complicated delivery or procedure?

Inside of every square in an on-call calendar there is a persons name.  That name represents a trained medical doctor who will drop everything and come and help you when they are called.  Some of them will be so busy with calls that they will sleep at the hospital until they are releaved. This is the person that is going to help my family member when they show up at 3:00 in the morning at my local hospital with chest pains or after a car accident.

On-call doctors and professionals are unsung heros and deserve to be treated that way.  This is where I found my passion.  I realized that our company dosen't just make software or try to convince doctors to become more efficient with thier time, our software makes sure that when you need them the most, the doctor is there, no matter what day or time.  We help professionals save lives. 

I am certain that there have been instances, especially with our OB/Gyn clients when the information in our system allowed for a process to be expidited.  This is when the difference between 1 and 5 minutes could be the difference between life and death.  We helped!

The on-call schedule is more than just a calendar, it is some of the most valuable and useful information that a hospital and clinic have.  If you are the person that creates, maintains and publishes doctors call schedules, please remember how important your job is.  If you are a physician who is taking call assignments, please know that we take our job and yours very seriously and will continue to do whatever we can to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time.  Ooh and by-the-way, Thank you!


Think Pareto Principal when looking at oncall scheduling software


ParetoDoes everything have to be perfect?  When is good enough, good enough?  The Pareto Principle, or 80-20 rule as it's also known, is based on the observation that, in life, the minority of causes, inputs or efforts produce the majority of effects, results, or rewards.

In 1906 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, discovered that 20% of the Italian population owned 80% of the nation’s wealth. Further studies revealed that The Pareto Principle, as it became known, affects us all in every aspect of life.

This has real value in every aspect of your life and work. If you can identify which efforts get the best results, you can apply your time and focus far more effectively.

In other words, you do more of what actually matters, as the time management matrix explains.

For example…

  • 20% of your tasks produce 80% of your results.
  • 20% of a meeting gives you 80% of the information.
  • 20% of your contribution produces 80% of the recognition you get.
  • 20% of clients create 80% of your sales.
  • 20% of the clothes in your wardrobe are worn 80% of the time!

Focus on the vital few.  Think about it in terms of productivity.  If someone offered you a tool today and told you that it would solve 80% of your problems wouldn’t you be excited?  I sure as hell would.  I have found in my 15 years of running businesses that 100% is nearly unachievable unless you have an unlimited budget. 20% of software features will generally give you 80% of your results.

As I talk with prospects daily many of them are looking to solve 100% of their problem.  Do you think most people know what 100% of their problem looks like?  Some think they do, for example, if you are a book keeper, you probably know what a complete accounting solution looks like, why, because it is mostly the same for each book keepers.  Everyone wants an AR and AP tool.  Everyone needs balance sheet and P&L reports.  Everyone needs to export certain information for taxes.  But does everyone need payroll, or credit card processing or SEC reporting tools?  Probably not.  Out of the box (without any customization) most accounting software will cover the basics and either offer customization additional modules for sale for added features.

If we look at the 80/20 principal in terms of scheduling doctors I would highly suggest that anyone that is using Excel or even better if you are still creating your schedule by hand think about what is important to you.  Time off requests, tallies, rules would probably cover 80% of schedule creation, maintenance and publishing.  If you are willing to "start here" you will not only save a tremendous amount of time, but you will be focusing on what is important.

Here is an example.  10 Doctor group that specializes in Cardiology.  The scheduler is currently a physician that creates the calendar by hand using Excel.  Call Scheduler Lite (shameless plug) as well as Amion has a solution that begins at $249.00 per year.  It does not get any less expensive than that.  A solution such as the above mentioned will give you many tools specific to scheduling that Excel will not.  I was talking to this physician and his biggest concern was "how the schedule printed".  Now keep in mind that at least our company is "web-based" so although we allow, we do not encourage printing of the schedule.  A printed schedule is an out-of-date schedule.  An out-of-date schedule increases the likelihood that the wrong physician gets called.  Now granted we allow printing, this person wanted it printed a certain way, his way.  Digging in your heals on a particular feature is very short sighted in my opinion.  At least 80% of our and our competitor’s features would have been a good fit for this group.  The price was a no-brainer for a Cardiologist.  But, this doctor could not see the sky through the clouds.

I tell you this story because in my opinion as a corporate leader, this way of thinking is not in the best interest of the organization or its stakeholders.  Do you think that the other 9 providers in the above mentioned Cardiology group would have staged a mass revolt if the printed schedule was one way versus another?  Maybe, but maybe not if they saw the other major benefits of using software to create a physician schedule.  I think 80% of the group would have been fine with the change.  This prospect could have used the software and 20% of the features that we have would have given him 80% of the schedule.  That is much better than Excel.

Now granted, as a standard exclaimer, I am talking about the software industry.  There are many things where 80% is not enough.  For example tire pressure, glass window coverage, dental work, CPR, sex.  But again please remember that we are talking about software.  Remember 20% is going to be used most.

If you are looking for 100% satisfaction regarding feature set, my only advice to you is to get real.  In software it is too expensive and not realistic. Think about the top 3 things you want to accomplish and start there.

Oncall Software Company is socially responsible, is your company?


KAH food packageAdjuvant and I have been actively involved with Kids Against Hunger of Central Minnesota since February 2005 just after the Tsunami in Indonesia. A small group of concerned Central MN citizens banded together to provide relief by way of "rice and soy" hunger packs. We raised nearly $30k and packaged over 285,000 meals with 1,000 local volunteers.

In 2010 the same group assembled to assist in the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. We were so fortunate to have done an event like this before; we just needed money and volunteers. We assembled 3,000 volunteers, and almost $100,000 in a 2 day marathon packaging event in Central MN. We packaged and shipped 1 million meals to Haiti.

Kids Against Hunger most recently committed to sending 1 million meals to The Horn of Africa to help the starving women and children in leaving Somalia for a refugee camp in Daadab, Kenya. This event will take place on December 3, 2011 in Central MN.

Kids Against Hunger also holds bi-monthly packaging sessions at its local warehouse.  I currently serve as Board Chairman of Kids Against Hunger because I believe in the mission of the organization and as a community leader, I and Adjuvant want to send a message.  WE CARE!

The reason I share what I have done with this organization is to highlight Corporate America's responsibility to create social capital in and for their community.  These events have not only feed the hungry throughout the world, but it has brought great volunteer opportunities for everyone from ages 6-80. 

In the community where I live we have a very large Somali refugee population, volunteer efforts like Kids Against Hunger give members in our community a chance to meet and work side-by-side with someone new to the community.  We see it as bridge building.  Although it may be a slow process, it is forward moving and we accept that change takes time.

I am proud that Adjuvant, its employees and the Board of Directors support my/our involvement with this organization.  I would not want to work for or own a company that does not share my passion for the community and building social capital.

If you are a customer of Adjuvant and use Call Scheduler or Call Communicator you can feel good that you have partnered with a socially responsible company.  I would also encourage you to have this conversation at your clinic or organization.  Ask yourself, how can you help make your community a better place.

PS:  If you want to get involved helping the Horn of Africa please contact me.  The famine and horror is like nothing you have seen before.  Please help!

How Steve Jobs influenced me, Adjuvant and Call Scheduling


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The big news in the US today is the death of Apple co-founder and Technology God Steve Jobs at the young age of 56. 

My first experience with an apple computer was in 1983, I was about 11 when my dad won a $5,000 gift certificate to a local retail giant.  Everyone was able to pick out what they wanted.  I wanted a computer.  I wanted an Apple IIe.  This was when my geek-dom began.  I remember playing games, using a few applications that were loaded on large hand size floppy disks.  I was one of the only kids in my entire school with my own computer.

Several years later in 1988 I purchased one of the first Macintosh Computers.  It was considered portable back in the day.  That meant that it came with a soft-sided carrying case similar to the ones you see "pizza guys" carrying today.  I used to pack it up and bring it over to friend's houses to show-off. When I first started college I upgraded to a Mac 660av.  This machine had Bose speakers in the color 17" monitor.  WOW.

In 1992 when I was in college I purchased my first laptop, a mono-chrome PowerBook.  I think it was around $2500.  They were only available in gray-scale, no color yet.  This laptop had a modem inside of it which allowed me to connect to American online and some local chat rooms.  As a student I worked at the University troubleshooting Apple products that professors had in their offices.

After college my first job was at the University in the computer services office where I had the opportunity to learn and use the Macintosh as a graphic design tool.  I learned Quark Xpress, Illustrator, and Photoshop just to name a few.  I was becoming a true Mac-head. 

My next job was at a large Apple reseller to K-12 in the upper Midwest.  It was at this company that I really learned everything I know today about Macs.  I was also lucky enough to play with all of the new toys as they came out.  Toys like scanners, Apple Quick-take camera, Newton, and the color laser writer.  In the mid 90's these were cutting edge toys. 

I was such a Geek that I even purchased several NeXT computers, which were made by Steve Jobs during his time when he was fired from Apple. There was a time in our community when I was known as one of the best Mac guys around.

The first company that I started used all Macintosh computers and Apple servers to host the websites that we developed for customers.  We remained a Mac shop until we "converted to the dark side" as we grew and needed to interface with other systems.

There was a period between 1998 and 2002 when I did not own a single Apple product.  All of that changed when the IPod was released.  Since then I have jumped back on the bandwagon with a IPod, Power book and IPad all under the Apple brand.

Here are a few of the things that I learned from Apple:

  1. Innovate, not follow. 
  2. Its ok to be ahead of your time (Newton, Quicktake camera)
  3. Build beautiful things
  4. Build things that are easy to use
  5. Have passion
  6. Stock-pile cash

Here are ways that Apple has influenced me: 

  1. Apple made me interested in technology. 
  2. Apple drew me to use and understand software. 
  3. Apple allowed me to realize that I could do anything with a computer.
  4. Apple gave me something to be great at.
  5. Apple introduced me to one of my longest and best team members (Amy was buying a computer at the University where I worked)

There are many things that would not be today if it were not for Apple computer and Steve Jobs.  Call Scheduler may be one of them.   I thank him for everything that he has done for the technology world and think that we live in a better place because of him.  RIP Steve Jobs.

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