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Editor's Note: This post first appeared on the BioOptronics, Inc. blog.
Generating a complete schedule for a hospital department or specialty practice can be a highly complex process that can take weeks to complete successfully. Unfortunately, many organizations face this problem on a daily basis, with no relief in sight. However, there are finally solutions that give scheduling administrators all of the tools needed to build schedules in minutes, not hours.
Converting from a manual to an automated scheduling process provides healthcare organizations of all sizes a tremendous sense of relief when it comes to schedule generation. Improve schedule accuracy, eliminate scheduling errors, reduce generation time and improve staff satisfaction, all with the click of a button. Additionally, automated scheduling tools provide the benefit of preserving an organization’s scheduling memory. No longer does an organization need to rely on one person or a group of people to know the intricacies of the scheduling process. The official rules and policies of the organization will be recorded for all future scheduling administrators.
When the time comes to select a scheduling application, it is critical to consider several very important factors that can greatly impact the final outcome. Below is a list of nine key factors to keep in mind while researching and selecting physician and staff scheduling applications.
Most healthcare organizations have equity goals or requirements for physicians and staff. Fairly and evenly distributing physicians and staff across the different roles within an organization can be one of the most difficult tasks a scheduler will need to perform. Automated scheduling applications can make managing role equity extremely easy. Top-notch scheduling applications will allow for custom equity goals to be coded into the system so that all staff hours requirements are met. A critical factor to consider is if the scheduling application is designed to automatically take equity into account with each schedule it builds.
Physicians and support staff are always on the move, and might not have time to sit down at a computer to check the schedule. It is critical for staff to have access to schedules via mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Additionally, users should be able to integrate schedules with existing Outlook, iCal and Google Calendars to eliminate the need to maintain multiple schedules.
All healthcare organizations have rules and policies that dictate how physician and staff schedules should, and need to, be created. Each organization is different, and operates under a different set of rules, policies, constraints and other variables. Some organizations have very simple schedules, while others operate under complex constraints that can make scheduling a nightmare. In order for a scheduling application to be successful, it needs to conform to the specific needs of each organization. Furthermore, a premier scheduling application will have support staff on-hand who will completely configure the system to your needs and will ensure the schedules are being created exactly as needed.
Creating physician and staff schedules by hand is a time consuming process, which can often lead to mistakes and an uneven distribution of shifts. Additionally, managing the dozens of factors that can impact a schedule is a tedious and sometimes downright frustrating process. Scheduling administrators can eliminate this stress by using a physician scheduling application that automates the process of building schedules, the application takes into account any and all variables when building a schedule. Hours of manual work can be reduced to the simple click of a button.
Staff Request Management
Scheduling administrators need to be able to keep track of each physician or staff member’s time off. Be it for a conference or just regular vacation, tracking time off is essential for ensuring proper coverage for each specialty and role. Scheduling applications should be able to automatically take into account staff requests and ensure that staff with approved requests are not scheduled when they are not available. Additionally, scheduling applications should give users the ability to see how approving time off requests will impact the schedule in the future, preventing short-staffing situations.
No matter how automated a schedule is, there will always be a need to make manual changes to a schedule. No matter the reason, a top-notch scheduling application will give users the ability to make manual changes to a schedule. Furthermore, a leading scheduling application will provide tools that provide transparency into how manual changes will effect the overall schedule; this way, users are not making changes in a vacuum. Are any rules being broken with a particular change? Will there be a short-staffing situation in another area should a switch be made?
While the functionality of a scheduling application is critical, support and service should be another key factor lurking in the back of people’s minds. The quality of support can make or break the successful use of a scheduling application. Top-notch scheduling providers will provide dedicated account representatives who will learn every facet of an organization’s schedule and ensure perfect schedules are built every time. General support should also be available daily to answer questions, provide additional training or make changes as necessary.
Organizational needs change frequently. It is important that scheduling application developers continue to release updates that make the software run more efficiently and create new features that allow for optimized schedule and workforce management. A scheduling company that understands users are always evolving will consistently have software updates.
As a healthcare organization, expansion is always a possibility. This expansion may be through the addition of more staff at existing locations or through the addition of multiple locations. Taking into account potential expansion in the future is a necessary step organizations need to consider before selecting a scheduling application today. While there are many scheduling companies that have software that is capable of scaling along with organizational growth, it is important to note that scalability is just one of the factors used in determining which product is best for your organization.