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

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

9 Mistakes Doctors Make When Choosing Physician Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Mar 02, 2012 @ 02:38 PM

mistakeChoosing which call scheduling program to buy 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!

Physicians who wish to enhance their practice and provide better care and service to their patients by using technology are on the right track. Unfortunately, they don’t always go about it the right way.  Some of the important mistakes doctors make are highlighted below.

1. Wanting too many bells and whistles:

Some doctors want their call scheduling software to do everything for them - even pay their taxes (Just joking! ). 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.  That’s what we recommend sticking 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, unsupported database for you to manage your patient’s addresses. 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 space. Medical practice is a complex domain, and an 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. Please stop acting like a miser in choosing a package. 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. Losing sight of the basics – KISS :

Your primary aim is to improve your productivity, and you should always keep this in mind! Anything else should come later. For example, we have clients who request Accounts integration in their software. But delaying an order or cancelling an order based on just this one feature is unjustified. Nice to have is not the same as “essential” – and adding too many features just results in “bloat ware”. It is a mistake to want your software to do too many things right from the start. Get what is essential, and build from there.

4. Waiting for something better:

Doctors often keep on waiting for something better to come along. Unless you don’t jump in the water, you aren’t going to learn how to swim! Some of the best run private clinics have been early adopters of technology. Today they might still be using legacy systems, but they are much better run than non IT friendly setups. It’s true that software will evolve over time, but you cannot wait for perfection. It is a mistake to wait when you can always upgrade if you want to later on!

5. Thinking your staff shares your vision:

Many good doctors buy the perfect software and then find that it does not help them manage their physician schedule at all. Often they blame the software for being unfriendly or useless. Most doctors fail to understand that their staff is one of the key stake holders in this process. Unless the staff uses the software, it is bound to fail. The software may be the best in the world, but if it is not used properly, it isn’t living up-to its potential. Doctors need to be firm and to share their vision for the software with their staff. It is a mistake to assume that software will be easily adopted by support staff, nurses and fellow doctors. Provide lots of training – and if some members refuse to use this, you need to take them to task.

6. Not nurturing innovation:

The biggest stake holders in this industry are the doctors. It is important for them to nurture innovation. Sometimes it is valuable to take a risk or allow a software company to go that extra mile in providing a feature which will change the process flow of your clinic. Doctors who refuse to try out products which provide extra features or new age ideas because they do not understand its utility are closing the door on innovation. A doctor who asks me to block some modules to save money because he feels he will not use them is basically closing his own mind to the potential of using new processes to improve his practice. Do not buy the module in the beginning, but keep an open mind.  Even when doctors do not ask for the SMS or Email Plug-in, we still leave it on the User Interface, because just seeing that button there will make them wish it was active when they want to send out a report or reading instantly. Once they see the value, they can always buy the module later on.

7. Underestimating the complexity of your needs:

Running a clinic is like running a small business. It’s a complex enterprise, and often doctors over estimate their ability to do a good job. Ideally, you should be focused on taking care of your patients, so your staff can run the clinic. If you find you are spending time on routine administrative tasks, this means you are wasting your time and money. There are only 24 hours is your day – learn to use them sensibly. A good scheduling software program will help you to improve your productivity and that of your staff, if you use it to its fullest extent. Don’t get stuck using the "free" program which was designed for a small shop – you will end up being unhappy and dissatisfied.

8. Delaying a decision:

The single biggest mistake a doctor makes in buying call scheduling software is when he delays his decisions – whether it is thinking about his needs; talking to the vendor; spelling out his requirement; installing the program ; or getting training for his staff. As a result, the vendor is frustrated; the doctor is confused; the staff is anxious; and patients continue to remain unhappy. Start small – but start today!

9. Not providing enough time for training:

While doctors understand that learning a new medical procedure can take time, unfortunately, they are not willing to invest the same time in training their staff – and themselves – in learning how to use the software properly.  This can cause a lot of frustration and when this happens, many doctors just give up on the idea of using any software at all, because they feel their staff is too stupid.

By avoiding these 9 mistakes that doctors make when choosing physician software you will save yourself, your practice and patients a lot of time and money.

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

Call Scheduling Software: Everyone has an expectation

Posted by Justin Wampach on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 @ 10:14 AM

expectationsvsrealityAlthough I have been advised not to editorialize in my blog (duly noted) I thought that it might be useful to have a brief chat about expectations.  Prospects, customers and vendors all have different expectations about how things will work regarding doctor scheduling software. 

Here are a few call scheduling software prospect and customer myths that I can dispel.

  1. I should only have to pay for what I use in the software.
  2. The software should set itself up (including all of the information about my providers).
  3. You don't need any training on how to use call scheduling software.
  4. Software will schedule my providers just like I do with Excel.
  5. I want you to be my partner, but I will not treat you that way.
  6. The software should be able to accommodate that certain things only happen sometimes.
  7. The schedule will display the way I want it.
  8. The schedule will show up in my phone the way I want it.
  9. Software customization (custom programming) should be very easy and inexpensive.
  10. The software should be damn near free.

When you stop and think about it there is no way that a company can program to meet everyone’s needs or wants.  The more you use software the more you become ok with that.  In fact, as soon as we (Software Company) make a decision and choose a direction we know for certain that some will like it, some will love it, and some will hate it and think that we are idiots because we did it that way.  This gets back to a former blog I did about the Parato Principal, better known as the 80/20 rule.  Most software companies create products that meet 80% of the customer’s needs within their specific market.  Perhaps if you never find what you are looking for in software you need to adjust your expectations. 

Similar to prospects and customers having certain expectations of us as a company, we also have certain expectations of you as a prospective customer. 

To be fair, here are a few call scheduling software Vendor myths that I can dispel;

  1. We don’t like it when you tell us that our software sucks.
  2. We don’t like it when you don't do your homework.
  3. Our trainers have no clue how people create, maintain and publish a call schedule.
  4. We don’t like being stood-up for demos and training.
  5. Sometimes "why something works the way it does" is just because it does.
  6. Our trainers have others scheduled after you, so we cannot do it all at once.
  7. We don’t like being called on a Sunday night because you forgot your password and you don’t want to call your scheduler to bother them.
  8. We don’t like it when customers lack of planning become our emergencies.
  9. We don’t like when our software is blamed for your organizations dysfunction.
  10. We don’t like it when you don't pay your bill and we have to call and ask for it.

I think there are a few takeaways from this blog post. 

First, it is important to be realistic and reasonable with your expectations.  Also remember that expectations change and you must communicate your changes if you wish to be satisfied.  And lastly, remember that if you expect your expectations to be meet, others do as well, this should be a two-way street.  You can have everything you want, just not all at once.

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

5 Risks of allowing your Docs to change their own on-call schedule

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Dec 09, 2011 @ 10:16 AM


There are risks that need to be considered if you are going to allow all of your physicians to have the ability to modify the on-call schedule without any oversight.  In my opinion the risks outweigh the benefits.

Risk #1. Fairness.  Most all schedulers create the schedule with fairness in mind.  All providers demand even tallies.  When you allow your providers to modify the schedule fairness needs to be taken into consideration.

Risk #2.  Skills and Privileges.  Does the provider that you are trading with have the proper skills and credentialing to work your assignment? 

Risk #3.  Personal Liability.  What happens if no one is oncall, when there is supposed to be?  Critical patient presents at ED.  ED physician evaluates and proceeds to find the on-call consulting physician.  No physician found.  Patient is transferred to another facility.  Patient takes a dive while in transport.  Patient dies.  EMTALA investigation regarding the transfer.  When the legal team at the hospital steps in and finds out that a doctor took himself off of the call schedule because he was tired after a surgery.   Guess what happens next?

Risk #4.  Too many cooks.  Most doctor scheduling software companies have designed their software for a special user called "scheduler", this user has certain privileges in the software that others do not.  Some would call this a super-user.  Super-users are usually highly trained in the software use.  Super-users have the ability to "screw up the program" because of what they can do.  The larger the number of super-users in any system, the greater likelihood that someone will accidently screw something up.  Real super-users know how to fix their mistakes without having to call tech-support.

Risk #5.  Bizarre results.  If you are using web-based software by nature you can work in collaboration with someone very easily.  At Adjuvant we take advantage of this when we train our Call Scheduler Classic and Lite customers.  Both customer and trainer logs into the same account and they can both see the same results.  If customer changes something, all the trainer has to do is hit the "refresh" button and the new change is updated.  This same principal is true for multiple people to be using the software at the same time, all trying to manually schedule and every time they refresh the screen they are seeing other days scheduled, notes made and so on.  The bizarre results were not "bugs in the system" they were caused by multiple users logged into the same schedule at the same time and both making changes.

There are many more risks associated with allowing all of your providers to have the ability to create and make changes to the on-call schedule. 

Topics: software for scheduling physicians, on-call software, physician scheduling software, on call schedule, call scheduling

5 Disastrous Misconceptions about On-call Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Dec 01, 2011 @ 02:48 PM

misconceptionI think it is helpful when everyone is on the same page.  Most of the time when my expectations were not meet in the past was because I made incorrect assumptions.  I thought I might be able to clear-up some misconceptions before you start looking for physician scheduling software.

Misconception #1.  Software should be free or low cost and have all the features.  This misconception comes from some in the software industry who have developed great software for free.  The cost of software comes from client focused development; bug fixing/testing, integration, training and support, and sales and marketing.  Although few customers want to pay for sales and marketing expenses, everyone wants support/training and new features along with a product that is free of bugs.  As you know, this takes money.  You should want your vendor partners to make money so that they can continue to offer you good products and great service.  This cannot be done for free (at least for too long)

Misconception #2.  Oncall software will replicate our current paper/Excel process.  If you use Excel to create your doctors call schedule, I'm sure that you have noticed that you can put anything in any "cell" that you want.  You can break your rules and preferences; you can create a schedule one day-at-a time.  Although many things are possible, it does not always mean that you should.  Creating a call schedule using call scheduling software is different than with Excel.  Do not try to force your current process into a new system.  Be open to change.  Think about what you want to accomplish and why as opposed to focusing on why the software is doing a certain thing.  Excel is predictable; most on-call software was designed not to be, in order to create a better, schedule.

Misconception #3.  Software will save you time right out of the gate.  Let’s be real here.  Everything takes time to set-up and configure as well as master.  When you have mastered the software, most any software, it will save you time.

Misconception #4.  You don't need any training.  In order to be a ninja master, you need training.  How much training depends on your comfort level with using software in general.  People who do not get proper training on how to use software always blame the software when they cannot accomplish what they want to do.  Non-trained users are usually the first to jump ship.  If you are not committed enough to schedule and attend training, then your problem is probably not significant enough to warrant the purchase.  In other words, if you don't want training, save your money on the software!

Misconception #5.  Our rules and process are probably too complicated for a software system.  This is sometimes accurate.  Some medical groups are very complex.  For example a group of 25 Cardiologists with 50 jobs at 10 locations.  This is pretty complex.  What is important here is to understand that nothing will solve all of your needs.  Nothing is 100 push-button and if it was you probable would not want to pay the fees.  What you should be looking at is a prioritization of what is important (most to least).  Also what is important to your Doctors, sometimes software is not going to save the scheduler time at all, but it will assist in communication of the call information to the providers.   Remember what is important.  If you don't know, you should not be looking.

With the proper expectations of what physician scheduling software can and will do, along with a clear need and established budget range is a great place for any shopper to start.

Click me

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

The on call schedule is more than just a calendar

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 @ 04:07 PM

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!

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Topics: software for scheduling physicians, physician scheduling, on-call software, physician scheduling software, doctor scheduling software, on call schedule, call scheduling

Think Pareto Principal when looking at oncall scheduling software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 @ 11:05 AM

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.

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

Is your call scheduler a miracle worker?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 @ 01:36 PM

angels among us

This is not a blog post about The Miracle Worker, a play about the lives of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.  This is a post about one of the toughest non-clinical jobs within a clinic.  This is a post about the person who is often asked to do the impossible.

I hear stories almost every day from people who call in with this similar problem.  "I am the physician scheduler for a group of 5 doctors.  Our practice is going to be doubeling in size and we need some help with the call scheduling."    Although growing from 5 to 10 is a challenge it is not unsurmountable.  What we continue to learn about is the promises that were made to the new doctors regarding their schedule by the other partners or whoever negotiated the contract.

Savy physicians understand that after all of the nicesities are done during negotiations regarding salery and benefits where the rubber meets the road is about the schedule that they are required to work.  Todays new doctors are sure to negotiate the best deal for themselves without any regard for who and how that will happen.  If you take this times 5, (using the example above) you see how this quickly turns into a scheduling nightmear.

If your practice accomidates every providers scheduling requests my suggestion to you would be that one of the physician partners or the administrator create, maintain and publish the call schedule.  This will ensure that it can actually be done by a human.  We often see scenerios where there is just not enough people to fill all of the required jobs that need to be filled, along with the requests and promises that were made, without having significant holes in the schedule.  The second part of this conversations also comes when the scheduler expects a company like ours to have software (low cost) do what a human is not able to perform.  Math is math, weather you are a software program or a smart scheduler.

How do I know if I have created a monster:

  1. How many providers do you have?
  2. How many jobs are you scheduling?
  3. How many people can be off at any given time?
  4. Is anyone restricted from working with anyone else?
  5. Do you allow new providers special scheduling accomidations?
  6. Do you have a non-physician, non-administrator person who is the scheduler?

How do I know if my current scheduler is a miracle worker?

  1. Are they expefcted to accomidate all of the providers unique rules?
  2. Do they have to create multiple drafts of the schedule?
  3. Do they have to publish the schedule in several different formats to accomidate different doctors?
  4. Do they have software to assist them in the complex task they have been assigned?
  5. Do you consistantly see a bright light coming from their office?
  6. There is a "funny circular thing" protruding from the top of their head?
  7. Do you occasionally see feathers on the floor?

If you have a scheduler who is a miracle worker here are some suggestions:

  1. Be sure they document their current process, because if they leave, your screwed.
  2. Buy them software (not Excel) to assist in creating a complex schedule.
  3. Thank them for the hard work they do.
  4. Ask them what impact the hiring practices of the organization have had on them in the past few years.
Please be aware, your current practice is not sustainable and it will manafest itself as an invisable problem.  Be sure you keep your evey open.  The problem is easy to solve, with an iron fist.

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

How to convince your partners to try new call scheduling software?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Sep 19, 2011 @ 11:15 AM

try something newA New Day

When was the last time you tried something new? What convinced you to try it? Was it a coworker, family member or good friend? And were you glad for the experience whether you enjoyed it or not? Studies actually suggest that trying new things improves our overall happiness and well being and can lead to improved mental health.

We often try new things easily in our personal life — a new food, a new activity or a new book. But trying new things in the workplace can present more of a challenge. We may fear that trying a new technique or system could fail leaving us worse off than we were before. Or we may feel like we don't have the time to learn anything new at work with schedules packed full of meetings, appointments and obligations. However, just like in our personal life, we can benefit from trying new things in the work place leading to improvements in our satisfaction with our jobs and helping us do our jobs better.

New Practices in Medicine
In medical clinics, doctors often work to convince their partners and colleagues to try new things whether it is a new drug, treatment or approach to treating patients. Doctors may also try to convince their partners to incorporate new software into a practice. Software can enhance a medical practice by streamlining different processes from documenting patient contacts to improving the physician schedule and on call schedule. If you're ready to try new software but your partners aren't quite there, try these tips to convince other doctors in your practice to try something new.

We may decide not to try something new simply because we don't know anything about it. Giving your partners information about new software will help them feel more comfortable with the unknown and familiarize themselves with something new. Studies have shown that people actually fear unknown outcomes more than they do negative outcomes. Education takes away the unknown factor of new software and can help raise your partners' comfort level.

We are all more likely to try something new if someone we know and trust has already tried it and had a positive outcome. Gather positive testimonials from trusted physicians you know either personally or by reputation to share with your colleagues. Many medical clinics have implemented physician scheduling software and the company you're considering can provide you with testimonials or you may know physicians in your specialty or geographic region who have stories to share.

Eliminate the Risk
"What have you got to lose?" You've heard that one before. When the answer is truly nothing, then it's easier to try something new. Physician scheduling software usually comes with a 90-day risk-free trial period. During this time, the software company provides education and training to the clinic employees, support as new software is implemented and a guarantee that if the software doesn't work for the clinic, the practice owes nothing. By eliminating the risk, you give the partners in your clinic more of a reason to try new software.

Trying new things in the workplace brings about all kinds of benefits. You can save time, money and streamline difficult and complicated systems like the physician schedule. When you're ready to make a change but your partners aren't, remember these tips to encourage others to try new things.

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