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

Passing Physician Schedule Creation from Doc to Doc; Good or Bad Idea?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 @ 11:20 AM

potato-10050678According to the Cambridge English Dictionary “a situation or subject that people disagree strongly about and that no one wants to deal with is called a hot potato.”  I can’t think of a worse idea than passing the physician on-call and shift schedule creation from doctor to doctor each year or two.  The reason I think it’s such a bad idea is that it doesn’t solve the problem, in fact it will make it significantly worse, here’s why:

  • No consistency. Each new physician who takes over the task more than likely is going to think that the person before him/her was not doing it correctly.  Therefore, they are going to try and develop a new process or do it their way.  Here’s the kicker, since they don’t have any “scheduling” experience, it’s probably going to stink or be worse than it was before. 
  • No long-term ownership. Why would you invest time and energy in fixing something that you are only going to do/have for a short time?  More than likely you would not.  This is one of the reasons it doesn’t get better. 
  • No reason to develop a long-term process/solution: This is most often die to the lack of ownership.  It’s no one’s job to make it better.
  • Making it 10 times harder than it needs to be: This is referred to as over complexifying.  With all due respect to physicians, many tend to be so intelligent that they attempt to make the process a lot more complex than it needs to be.  This often is another reason that there is not consistency year over year because one person’s idea of greatness is another person’s idea of craziness.
  • The value of time: In many studies, including the "Medscape National Physician Burnout and Depression Report of 2018" burnout continues to be a pervasive issue among physicians.  Knowing this, why would you burden a doctor who is already burdened with an administrative task that is known to cause frustration, anger, and unhappiness, and then on top of it ask them to do it on their free time?    

Passing the physician on-call and shift schedule creation from doctor to doctor does not work.  It makes a bad problem worse.  The goal becomes to survive “your term” and “pass the hot potato” to the next sucker.  A great alternative to this way of thinking is to solve the problem once and for all.  Buy or create a physician schedule system that manages the creation and daily change process, while making the tasks that stink easier for the scheduler and allow this to be done by an administrative assistant under the watchful eye of a practice administrator or physician.  By doing this you will find so many unknown benefits, here’s a few just off the top of my head.

  • Automatically syncing schedules with doctor’s phones
  • Everyone has instant access to accurate/live information
  • Doctors can request time off and make swaps from an app on their phone
  • Tally and fairness reports can be run in a second
  • Complex scheduling rules can be automated
  • Limits can be honored
  • Written, documented process that can be replicated
  • Electronic back-ups

Key Takeaway:  systems solve problems, passing the hot potato from one doctor to another does not, in fact, it makes things worse.  Take the time and spend the money to solve the problem once and for all.  To learn more about purchasing physician scheduling software check out my last post "7 Tips for Getting your Physician Scheduling Software Approved".

Learn More About Call Scheduler

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7 Tips for Getting your Physician Software Purchase Approved

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Apr 05, 2018 @ 02:52 PM

Tips for purchasing physician on-call scheduling softwareNot everyone has experience buying software, especially if you’re in a clinic or medical practice.  Therefore, “schedulers” and even physicians don’t have a good understanding of how to get the job done in a reasonable period of time.  This leads to frustration and often just giving-up and settling for the old way.   This can lead to dissatisfaction which leads to finding other more satisfying work.  Because of this we have created a cheat-sheet so to speak with 7 simple to understand concepts that are necessary if you want to be successful in your journey to buy physician on-call and shift scheduling software, and have it approved within your lifetime.

7 Tips to Getting Physician Software Approved for Purchase Without it Taking Forever:

  1. Create a strike force. Form a small group of people who will be creating, updating or viewing physician schedule information.  This should obviously include a physician or two, whoever gets to make schedule changes, someone from IT and the practice administrator.  This group needs to agree that a problem exists and that it must be solved.  If this is not the case, you may not need to read further.
  2. Establish your goals for transitioning from paper or Excel to rule based physician on-call and shift scheduling software. I would encourage you to limit your goals to 3.  Any more than 3 will be difficult to accomplish.  Once you have your goals, then rate them in order of importance.  For example: (1) Allowing the doctors to easily view schedule info from their phones.  (2) Automated way to collect and process vacation and day’s off for the physicians.  (3) Automation tools to reduce the time to create a schedule by ½. 
  3. Rate it. If you are not the practice administrator, meet with your administrator and determine where this problem rates in comparison to all the other problems that are trying to be solved within the practice.  As yourself, how big is this fire?  Who does it effect?  What is the cost of this problem?  What happens if we just leave it alone, will it go away and resolve itself?
  4. Talk about money. I would not wait until you begin collecting estimates to have the cost discussion with the people in your organization who control the purse strings.  You may want to consider truly understanding what you are spending today to get the results you are not happy with.  That will be a starting point when comparing cost to value.  Whatever you do, do not out yourself if the box of saying “that’s too expensive”.  The only time things are too expensive is if they don’t work and provide the value you were promised.  If when you are investigating this step you find that money is a hurdle to moving forward, then stop.  You are wasting your time and others.
  5. Define success criteria. Everyone knows what a project will look like when it explodes or isn’t successful.  Spend time thinking about your goals and what it will look like when they are achieved.  The reason you need to do this step is that when not done correctly, success becomes a moving target.  Moving targets are the toughest targets to hit.  Putting yourself in this position is a rookie mistake.  Make sure you clearly understand what success looks like and how you will measure it, and how you will know it has been achieved.
  6. Tie it back to the organization. Each year your practice will have goals and objectives that it is trying to meet.  Often, they are centered around quality patient care, physician satisfaction, community involvement and so on.  Do the goals of your project align to the organizations goals for the year?  They should, not artificially, but, actually.   For example, regarding physician on-call and shift scheduling software directly tie back to better quality patient care and physician satisfaction.   Take the time to understand what your organization is trying to accomplish and ask yourself if your project can help make the goals a reality.
  7. Use your strike-force. You will be amazed at how helpful the members of your strike-force can be, especially if they are physicians or people who have influence over the decision maker.  Please remember that many decision makers have 5 or 10 projects in review and only 1 or 2 may get funded.  It is to your projects benefit to have multiple people advocating for the new solution.  The more influential the better.  Use your strike force as a secret lobbying group.

You may also be interested in a previous post "10 Reasons Not to Purchase [Physician ] Call Scheduling Software".  

Key Takeaway:  If you want the process to go smooth and quickly, you need to do your foot work on the front end.  Make sure you are organized and can answer questions like “why are we doing this?”, “what’s the value to the organization?”.   The more compelling the answer, the faster your software will be funded.

Learn More About Call Scheduler

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Hidden Value in Physician Scheduling Software

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 03:41 PM

ID-100369787As it turns out soliciting, collecting, processing, accepting and notifying physicians about vacations and other day-off types is a lot of work. Who knew? Apparently, schedulers have always known this fact. Consider this, a group of 10 physicians who each can take four weeks off each year will generate anywhere from 40-200+ vacation and day-off requests in a given year.

Most of the people we speak with have an outdated process and are still processing these manually. Some use email, some are still back in the Post-It note days and some still rely on a blank calendar. Although sticky notes, emails and sign-up can still work, it certainly is not streamlined nor designed to benefit the busy physician or the busy scheduler. It has worked because no one found a better way plus it was a good fit for the budget. (Meaning it was free). According to physicians it also sends the message the practice doesn’t place much, if any value, on how easy or difficult it is for you to take your well-deserved time-off.

This seems a bit short-sighted considering a few factors.

First the people you are making work harder are the very ones who generate most of the revenue.

Secondly, if – and when - it gets messed up, it often requires the clinic to reschedule patients to accommodate the physicians request. It seems a bit short sighted, and many would refer to this as penny-wise and pound foolish.

We find many practices struggle so much with physician vacations and time-off requests they forego the process entirely and just create the schedule without talking day-off information into account. This initially makes it easier on the scheduler, until the physicians start bringing in their summer time-off requests and then the scheduler is expected to re-do the schedule.

If you are considering moving away from a manual physician scheduling process to using software such as Call Scheduler, you may be surprised at what a hidden-gem the “provider request area” will be for not only you as the “scheduler”, but also for physicians. Giving the right people the right tools when they need them and making it simple is the key to success when it comes to software. Listed below are some of the features both Physicians and Schedulers love about using software.

What Physicians Love About Requesting Vacation and Time Off online:

  • Available from App on smartphone, or laptop or tablet computer
  • Can submit time-off requests 24/7/365
  • Simple interface to request one day or two weeks (whatever they want)
  • Simple ability to choose the correct request type
  • Ability to see where they are already scheduled
  • Feedback if there is a conflict or if they are already scheduled
  • Ability to edit and retract a request without asking for help
  • Feedback when a request is submitted, accepted or declined

What Schedulers Love About Time-Off Request Systems for Physicians:

  • Notification when a request is submitted (no more missing emails)
  • The ability to open and close the request area
  • Easy interface to view all “pending” requests
  • The ability to have rules limit how many people can be off on a certain day
  • The ability to limit how many vacation or other day-off types a person can request
  • The ability to limit what type of requests people can make
  • The ability to sort requests
  • The ability to view an archive of past requests and see what action was taken
  • Multi-step approval processes
  • Custom messages based on rules back to the physicians

Key Takeaway: Most people switch from paper/Excel to Physician Scheduling Software to save time “creating” the doctors’ work and on-call schedule. When we follow-up with new customers after a few months, they tell us the Provider Request Area is really a hidden gem.

Learn More About Call Scheduler

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Considering an On-Call Scheduling Software Pilot? Which Specialty?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Feb 19, 2018 @ 11:43 AM

 

ID-100282976

We speak with practice administrators and IT professionals all the time who are interested in conducting a pilot or trial of physician on-call scheduling software within their organization. What helps sell a project better to management than a trial or proof of concept?  Great idea in theory, but what many don’t know is which specialty calendar/department to use as the test case. Sometimes they will often pick the most difficult specialty or the group that is screaming the loudest at that time. Or sometimes they will pick a department who has the primary user who is unwilling or unable to participate in the process. How should a practice decide who to use in a trial? What goes into a trial? What we have found is that the person leading the pilot can and is often more important than which specialty itself is choosen.

Here are some characteristics that may be helpful when selecting candidates. Obviously, there are not hard and fast rules in this process, but make no mistake, the department/specialty as well as who from that specialty you choose to do the work will have a tremendous amount of impact on the success or failure of the project.  If you would like more information about selecting vendors check out a previous blog post "11 Traits that your Physician Scheduling Vendor Should Have".

Characteristics of someone that would be a good candidate for a trial:

  • Excited about trying something new and or thinking about the problem in a new way
  • Clearly understands the current manual / paper process and how to schedule physicians
  • Does not have to ask someone else’s permission or how-to when it comes to process
  • Understands technology and software
  • Understands that software is an iterative process
  • Has clear and reasonable goals regarding what outcomes it is expecting
  • Willing to complete training / onboarding
  • Is not trying to mimic current paper/manual process with software
  • Is willing to do the homework or necessary data entry in-order-to evaluate results
  • Understands that there several people who need to receive value from this type of software within an organization and everyone’s will be different
  • IS willing to commit to goals and success criteria for the trial so that it is not a moving target for your vendor partners

Characteristics of someone that would not be a good candidate for a trail:

  • Schedules but cancels many training sessions
  • When in a training session, not present (texting, answering emails)
  • Trying to mimic current manual process
  • Unwilling to do homework, data entry
  • Unwilling to run scenarios (thinks it should be perfect the first time)
  • Doesn’t understand the difference between rules and preferences
  • Doesn’t understand the difference between a user not knowing how to do something and the software application not being able to do something
  • Unreasonable expectations based on what a blank sheet of paper can do
  • Is more concerned with counting clicks than results

Characteristics of a Group / Department NOT to Choose:

  • Not a group with the most difficult, eat-your-face-off calendar that no one has been able to figure out in years. 50 doctors and 100 jobs
  • Not the simplest schedule either with 5 doctors and 1 job
  • Not a group or department that is in the process of merging or in some way changing
  • Not a group with a new scheduler
  • Not a group with a scheduler who is just handed a paper schedule by a doctor and then they just enter it into software (doesn’t actually create the schedule)
  • Not a group where the doctors can’t agree on what “fair” looks like
  • Not a group who has a scheduler who knows it all and is not interested in changing
  • Not a group where the scheduler is using the scheduling software as a “secret weapon”
  • Not a group where the scheduler will not let other users (doctors) use certain features
  • Not a group where the users are unwilling to recognize how the entire enterprise level projects fits together

Tip: I know it may be counter intuitive but remember that vendor/partners also have a rigorous selection criterion for giving a potential customer a trials and pilot. If the vendor gets a department schedule that is next to impossible to automate or schedulers who are unwilling to participate in the process, it can be disastrous.  If both the vendor and the department work hard to select the right people and get the work done together, the proof-of-concept should be a win/win every time. 

Learn More About Call Scheduler

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does One Physician Scheduling Software Solution Meet Everyone’s Needs?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Nov 06, 2017 @ 03:03 PM

ID-100158316.jpgA trend that we in the physician work and on-call scheduling software space continue to see grow is the enterprise wide adoption of physician scheduling software by healthcare systems. Organizations go through an extensive vetting process to try and find a vendor with the best feature set at the lowest price and attempt to make that vendor a “standard” or a “preference” within the organization. I suspect that standardizing solutions makes it much easier on the IT Department in terms of contracting, negotiations and end support. I wonder if the users who create schedules for the physicians benefit from this type of “standard” adoption? My gut answer would probably be, sometimes.

Why Standardize: My best guess is that standardization does not originate at the department level. I don’t think that individual departments have that much concern for how things are being done in other departments. Not that they don’t care, but more because they have so much to focus on in their own area that there isn’t much time to concentrate on other areas. Therefore, I think this does come from IT or even purchasing to make the purchasing process easier for others down the road.

The technical argument for standardization is pretty cut and dry. A health care system can benefit from standardizing the “physician schedule creation process”, the “physician schedule change process”, the “daily call roster creation process” and the “availability of on-call information”. They can achieve this by choosing one vendor to provide on-call creation and on-call management software. The organization can create and enforce new “standards” that ultimately can help support the mission of the organization. As long as each department or specialty has the same needs and does things the same way, its more than likely a great idea. The big question is “do individual practices they have the same physician scheduling needs and “create, maintain and communicate” it the same way”?

Standardization Pros:

  • Every department gets a bucket of tools to use to assist them in the creation of the physician schedule. Some of the tools are intended to reduce the time it takes to manually schedule physicians.
  • Often the solution will be paid with IT’s budget.
  • Often better negotiated pricing and terms (volume discount)
  • Reduction in the manual “data entry” process needed to create daily on-call rosters.
  • Increased accuracy in the on-call information that is available to end users

Standardization Cons:

  • Some specialty groups are much more complex to schedule than others. Who do you buy the software for? The most complex group or the least complex group? Or perhaps somewhere in the middle? In my opinion standardization ultimately will give some groups way more tools than they need, and it will give others not enough. This is the classic “3-Bears” scenario.
  • Some groups may already have a vendor relationship that they are already happy with. They don’t want or need to change. They do not see any personal value in changing.
  • The cost could be higher by forcing small groups to use certain software that has more features than they need and is therefore more expensive.

Both pro and con lists have merit. I would not discount the largest and most poignant con of all, listed as number one. How do you overcome the three-bears scenario? I think it’s great that a Health Care System would choose a single vendor for a solution such as physician scheduling to attempt to standardize the process and tools.

Key Takeaway: Not everyone is the same. Specialty groups have unique needs, unique rules, unique processes, unique ways of paying and accounting for time worked. Maybe in the best interest of creating a great physician schedule, we should make it easier on the “schedulers” and “physicians” who must create and then work those schedules as opposed to those who buy and manage technology.

If standardization isn't your issue, but convincing your physicians that scheduling software will benefit them, you may enjoy this blog post "How to Get Physician Buy-In for Scheduling Software Adoption".

Learn More About Call Scheduler

 

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How to Get Physician Buy-In for Scheduling Software Adoption

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 @ 09:41 AM

ID-10062966.jpgSpecifically, how to get your doctors to use an electronic vacation and day-off request system;

“My Doctors won’t do it that way.” “My doctors are so busy they can’t learn one more thing”. “My doctors just want to do it the old way”. If you are in healthcare and are a practice manager, clinic manager or in a leadership position, how many times have you heard the statements above? My guess would be almost every time you try to do something new. How is it that some physicians are open to change and trying new things, while others are not? I have a sneaking suspicion its all about the approach.

When trying to move a new initiative forward and gain physician buy-in, be it a new clinical documentation initiative or trying to  adopt a new electronic vacation and day-off request system, some of the basic techniques still apply.

  • First and foremost, there must be a compelling purpose. Why are you wanting to do what you are proposing? Who will it help? Who will it hurt? Who cares? These answers need to be carefully considered. If your answers are not strategically aligned around your organizations long and short-term goals, then you may want to reconsider what you are trying to do. Be sure that the problem that you are solving is real and effects more than just you. The “purpose” you are identifying is needed in gaining support and buy-in. In our specific example, you need to clearly illustrate how moving from sending request emails to the scheduler to using the "new system" is meant to benefit the doctors. How? By reducing errors in translating request emails. It was designed to make it easier to submit requests by making the system available on the physicians computer or via an app on their phone. Clearly show them what is in it for them.  You may find this previous blog post helpful "Who are you Buying On-Call Software for"? if you need some help identifying what is in it for the physicians.
  • Find your “white knight”. Never tackle a large initiative alone. You need to find at least one person, of influence, that can help be a pollinator of your proposed idea.
    In our specific example, find a doctor that most everyone respects. Do not pick the person who everyone already thinks is weird or the “techie” doctor. Just pick someone who understands why the practice needs to move away from a paper based vacation request system and sees the value as a physician in being able to do it him/herself when it is convenient for them. If you have to sell them on the “why” pick someone else who just "get’s it" without any convincing.
  • Let the "white knight" pollinate. Just like a bee, your pollinator will fly around and talk with several others about the project. Show them how things work, dispel myths, and answer questions. In our example it would be ideal to download the app onto your physician pollinators phone. Be sure they are fully trained on requesting vacations and days-off on-line. Have them submit all their requests using the “new way” and give honest feedback to his/her partners about their experience. You want the pollinator to be able to compare and contrast his/her new experience to someone who is doing it the old way.
  • Track where everyone is at. If you have a larger organization you can use Excel to track who is supporting your initiative and who is not. This is not done to punish, but more to see if your new process is making a difference. If you have 20 physicians and you have everyone on board except 2, then you may choose to move forward despite the laggards. In our example you need to clearly understand who is on board and who is not. Go through this list with your "white knight" and see if you can strategize on how to convert the stubborn ones.
  • Remember The Pareto Principle. 80/20 might be good enough. Physician adoption can sometimes be slow. You may have to settle for 80% of your providers adopting a new way of doing something. When the 80% are happy and seeing the benefits of the new process or initiative, it is easier to mandate that the others now must join-in. In our example you may not get everyone on board right away. 100% participation may require some attrition, meaning the stubborn older providers to retire. The younger physicians are going to expect to participate electronically, for some its all they know.  
  • Stand by your decision and enforce new policies. Everything is going to be harder and messier in the beginning of implementation. Nothing will work perfect, there will be glitches, people may even be termporarly inconvenienced. All of this is part of change. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to give-in or give-up too early. If this happens often you can have a whiplash type of effect where there is too much change back and forth and people are confused as to which they should follow, the old way or the new way.  This also can taint your next project, so be careful.  Unless it is a disaster, claw your way to success. You will be happy you did. In our example please remember not to give up too soon. Take the time to work with those who are struggling. Resist the temptation to give up. Remember what your alternative is, going back to emails and sticky notes on your chair.

Key Takeaway: Anything worth having is going to take some time to learn and adjust to. If physicians clearly understand what is in it for them, they have some best practice examples to follow, and they are given ample time to convert and adjust, you will most likely be just fine, as long as you take the correct approach.  Although making a transition from an email day-off or vacation request from the physicians to an electronic systm will make everyone's life so much easier, it will be worth the transition.

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What to do When Your Physicians Don't Care About the "How"

Posted by Justin Wampach on Fri, Oct 06, 2017 @ 11:56 AM

ID-100414155.jpgThis is a guest post by Gina Loxtercamp. 

I Don’t Want to Keep Driving a Gremlin!  

What do you do when your group is content for you to spend your evenings and weekends working on your physician schedule – without compensation? 

I had talked to an administrator recently that is ready to change how she creates, manages and communicates their practice’s physician schedules – so ready that she walked me through what would be important to the physicians, strongly emphasizing not to discuss any benefits the scheduler would have -- because they do not care about that.  Wow!  I was stunned (still am), and thought this couldn’t really be the case.  Unfortunately, it was.

Jill has cared about her practice and the physicians for many many years, and wants to transition from manually scheduling on paper to software.  She would like to have cloud-based physician scheduling software to create, manage changes and vacation information, and communicate an accurate, real-time schedule to drastically reduce how much time she spends on her own time doing all of this today.  Another goal that is important to her – essential -- is to make this as seamless as possible to her physicians, and ensure they have an accurate schedule wherever they are, easily accessible by whatever device they prefer to use -- especially a mobile App.  The physicians do want the mobile and “live” schedule.

Upon meeting the group, the providers wanted to change just about every aspect of how the software does what it does – you name it, they had a preconceived idea about how to take exactly what they were doing on paper, and try to bend software into that form.  When the discussion came around to pricing, they actually encouraged Jill to keep a separate vacation calendar for those that aren’t essential to the schedule to save dollars (a few physicians, PA’s, and NP’s).  Again, WOW!  Managing all the time out of the office is one of her most cumbersome tasks!

With all due respect, they are focusing on the wrong things – we are the programming and physician scheduling experts.  What a practice should focus on is how to help their practice become more efficient, actually SAVE time, resources, reduce errors, improve employee satisfaction, and of course their own satisfaction – all to benefit patient care!

What can an administrator or scheduler do when the physicians in their practice seriously under-value what they do every day to make their lives easier?

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Identify if your practice is ready for change.
  2. If yes, do your homework and document the time required for today’s process, errors that have cost the practice a loss of revenue or patient dissatisfaction, and schedule errors that have resulted in the wrong physician being called in the middle of the night!
  3. Identify your top 3 or 4 pain points that you must solve, and let the experts help you do it – we want you to succeed!
  4. If no, there still is hope. Start charging the practice for your nights and weekends, and read this blog post on how to give away a skunk.

Key takeaway:  We want to help you have a seamless transition from a more manual process to our software – if your practice isn’t ready and you are willing, we will help you find a way!

Learn More About Call Scheduler

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The Value of Electronic Vacation Requests in Physician Scheduling

Posted by Justin Wampach on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 @ 03:18 PM

ID-100207213.jpgI’m sure you have heard many times that the 6 most dangerous words in business are “we’ve always done it that way”.  I am surprised occasionally when we are conducting annual client success reviews and I hear a practice administrator tell us that they still process vacation requests and other time-off requests for the physicians via email or telephone or even sticky notes.  Really?, I ask.  How come you don’t do it electronically? I hear something that resembles “the doctors don’t want to change” or “it’s just easier that way”.  Is the scheduler resistant to change?  read here to find out more in a previous blog post.  

As a business leader, I can’t think of anything more contentious than figuring out day’s off and vacations for the team at the top of the food chain.  Especially if we have limits regarding how many people can be “off” on any given day.  I also think that as a physician, your time off is so valuable and necessary to reduce the possibility of burnout.  O-kay.  I’m not here judge or to force the use of any features upon a practice.  And I certainly understand that each practice has policies and procedures, some of which may be older than myself, that have worked for years.  But that old-style thinking has some major flaws that can lead to practice inefficiency.  Why change now?  If you're using physician scheduling software there are many reasons to give it serious consideration.

 

The problem with processing vacation and day-off requests via paper or email:

  • Schedulers are not telling doctors about the electronic tools available to request time-off.
  • Doctors are asking for time off without having immediate feedback regarding their request. For example, “we already have the max number of providers off on that day”.
  • Physicians have to submit requests when and how it is most convenient for the scheduler.
  • The scheduler is spending extra time processing vacation and day-off requests manually.
  • The paper trail for both the scheduler and physician is limited, at best.
  • Approved and declined requests do not come back in a consistent manner.

 

Benefits for the Physicians

  • Easy secure access to the Provider Request Area from your laptop, tablet or smart phone.
  • Submit requests 24 hours a day. 365 days per year. Very accessible.
  • Reference other assignments while submitting your request.
  • Edit and retract requests that have not been processed when your plans change.
  • Get instant feedback when there are too many pending requests or approved requests on the day that you want off.
  • The ability to “override and submit anyway” when you receive the notice of too many requests so that the scheduler knows you still want this day off, even thought it may already be full.
  • Using the iPhone or Android app, you can make requests on the go, anytime and anyplace.

 

Benefits for the Scheduler

  • The ability to decide when you will accept electronic vacation and day-off requests and when you will not. (open and close the provider request area at will)
  • Decide what types of requests your providers can submit. You choose which day-off types display in the down-down lists.
  • Decide how many “total days” each provider gets per day type. How many vacation days, how many CME days, etc.
  • Limit the number of providers that can be off on each day of the week. For example, only 3 people can be on vacation on Monday’s. Even choose a specific day, “black Friday or cyber Monday”.
  • Customize the message a physician is sent when a request is approved, declined or the max number has been reached.
  • Get an email notification each time a new day-off request is submitted.
  • Sort all unprocessed requests by provider, date submitted, date effected, or assignment.
  • If you have a multi-step process, visual indication of an “update” to a request.
  • Quickly do an advanced search to review all past approved and denied requests.
  • Edit or change the request type on the fly
  • Once you approve a “request” it will automatically place the assignment on the calendar and update the tally report.

Key takeaway: It's clear that giving your physicians easy tools to request vacations and time-off has a lot of benefits for both the physicians and the scheduler.  These benefits can save time, prevent errors and contribute to a more satisfied medical staff within your practice.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What's Contributing to Physician On-Call Burnout?

Posted by Justin Wampach on Wed, Aug 02, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

ID-100260935.jpgAre physicians being asked to do too much?  How different is the workload today than it was 40 years ago?  What contributes to physicians getting burned out?  These types of questions are being asked across the United States by medical practices and hospitals small and large.  How do we acknowledge and reduce physician burnout?

Younger physicians seem to have a different view on what their work day looks like than they did 40 years ago.  Young doctors often have one or both parents who may have been a physician or practitioner and grew up having very little contact with them because their work was their life.  Although they have a passion for medicine, they do not want their kids and family to grow up the way they did.  Younger physicians are negotiating and taking less and less on-call duty, and when they are on-call they expect to be heavily compensated for that time away from their friends and family. 

According to a November 7, 2016 New York Times Article “A Doctor Shortage?” The overall shortage of physicians is getting worse each year.  The AMA is projecting that by 2025 there will be a shortfall of between 46,100 and 90,400 doctors.  This scenario is putting more pressure on the existing workforce and making it extremely more difficult to create and maintain the physician on-call and in-office schedule.  In fact, for many specialty practices creating the physician schedule has become so complicated that it requires a Doctor to do the work.  You can read more about that topic in my blog post “ Went to medical school to create on-call schedules, Eh?”  Work, office, and the growing number of small satellite locations have providers spending up to 1 hour in their car each way to see patients.  Many physicians spend their day’s off catching up on “charting” or updating ERM systems, training and some even spend it creating schedules for their partners.

Because of just a few of the things we mentioned above, we see a direct correlation between how physicians are scheduled and burnout.  According to a 2016 Medscape Lifestyle Report, the top five specialties that are most burned out are Critical Care, Urology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine and Internal Medicine. 

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On a scale of 1-6 the average severity of the burnout is about 4.1 and the study shows no noticeable difference between men and women.  There is no surprise that there is a noticeable difference between happiness outside of work and at work.  There is also no big surprises when looking at which specialities have the happiest doctors, they are primarily the areas that have the least on-call duty requirement, Dermatology and Ophthalmology.  In addition to on-call the causes of burnout also include too many bureaucratic tasks, increasing computerization (EMR), too many patient appointments in a day and dealing with difficult colleagues.

It seems clear that on-call directly contributes to physician burnout and happiness.  Is there anything that can be done?  I think that all the companies that work directly in the physician scheduling industry would agree that yes, there are things that can be done to immediately reduce the burden that on-call places on doctors.   

Here is Call Scheduler’s top list:

  1. Ensure that the provider schedule is fair and balanced.  There is enough stress taking call on nights, weekends and holidays without the feeling of unfairness.  This is easy to achieve and even easier to prove.
  2. Ensure that your providers have easy tools to access information when and where they need.
  3. Ensure that your providers have tools to make vacation and other day-off requests when and where it is most convenient.
  4. Ensure that whoever creates and maintains the physician schedule has all of the available tools to automate and systematize as much of the process as possible.
  5. Ensure that your providers are not creating scheduling rules and scenarios that are so complex that they are unable to be automated.
  6. Train your providers to be open to change and to persist in the face of resilience to change.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source:  Medscape Lifestyle Report 2016: Bias and Burnout.  
Carol 
Peckham  |  January 11, 2017

Persistence is the Key to Physician Scheduling Success

Posted by Justin Wampach on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 @ 03:56 PM

ID-100290992.jpgOne of our main goals at Call Scheduler is to help make our existing and new customers “wildly successful”.  As you can imagine, that’s not always an easy task.  One of the top reasons is that we are competing against a blank sheet of paper, or perhaps Excel.  With paper or Excel, you can do anything you want, put anyone where you want, you can even violate all the things you say you never do when creating your physicians schedule. 

Although our goal is very ambitious, we strive to accomplish it by doing the following:

  1. Expert onboarding and set-up.  We use the term “expert” because the people who you will work with during this process are seasoned, experienced physician schedulers.  Although they are experts in Call Scheduler, they are also experts in creating fair, balanced, even schedules for physicians.  When you are transitioning your on-call and office scheduling process from paper or Excel to software such as Call Scheduler you need someone who knows a lot more about scheduling than they do about the software.  We have spent a ton of time and money making the software easy to set-up and use.  What take the most time and is most complicated is helping the customer manage the transition. 
  2. Transitioning from manually scheduling your physicians to rule based automated placement is an iterative process. Iteration is the act of repeating a process to generate a sequence of outcomes, with the aim of a desired goal or targeted result in our case.  The main objective is to bring the desired result closer to discovery with each repetition (iteration).  Configuring rules and understanding the impact of each rule, how new rules interact with the other rules, along with other limits and restrictions such as skills, teams and physician’s day’s off, not to mention countless assignments, there are a lot of moving parts to work through.  This is one of the most important areas to remain persistent.   It’s also one of the top areas in which we tend to find customers go from excitement to frustration.  Amy Engebretson, VP of Training and Support has termed this stage “the dip”.  Check out a previous blog post by Amy "Are you Stuck in the Dip"

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Figure 1:  From “Customer Success” by Mehta, Steinman and Murphy

As you can see in Figure1:  which was taken from the 2016 book “Customer Success” by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman and Lincoln Murphy, when a customer decides to purchase software they are excited and most can’t wait to get started.  Then they begin the process of getting the work done and iterating to get their desired results.  This often takes the customer down into the “dip”.  As you can see by the image, the dip is temporary and most people, through work and persistence, make it out of the dip and begin seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

  1. The third way that we try to make our customers Wildly Successful is by taking the time after we have worked out all the kinks in the new process to document the new process. Scheduling physicians for office assessments as well as on-call and vacations is not something that is done every day.  In fact, most of our customers create schedules quarterly, semi-annually or annually.  Because of this, it’s not uncommon that someone may need a little refresher before they begin to create their next schedule.  Our customers feel confident because they have a document that they can refer to that will remind them of the steps they need to take to create the schedule.  Please note this has nothing to do with the Call Scheduler software.  It has to do with the order in which things are done.  For example, choosing who works holidays is done first, not last.  Processing vacations and other day-off requests happened before you begin auto-scheduling, not after.
  2. The final way we help our customers become and stay “wildly successful” is via our Customer Success Manager. This position at Call Scheduler is to relentlessly monitor and manage each of our customers health.  It’s our job to work with you on a constant basis to be sure we understand what success means and looks like to each of our customers.  We need to know how our customers will declare victory.  Once we understand this, we can be of assistance.  Our Success Managers also know that our customers targets move constantly as their practices change, this is why our we’re relentless in our pursuit to help.

Persistence is the key to success in scheduling physicians for work and on-call using software such as Call Scheduler.  Customers need to be persistent in their journey to achieve value and our team needs to be persistent in helping them achieve the value they expect and need. 

Key Takeaway:  Nothing happens overnight, it’s an iterative process, but one that is well worth the time and effort.  You will get out of physician scheduling software what you put into it.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net