10 (Not So) Secrets to Better Physician Scheduling

10 (Not So) Secrets to Better Physician Scheduling

Better Physician Scheduling Is Within Reach

Effective physician scheduling can be difficult and time-consuming. A surge in patients along with limited staff makes adequate and timely on-call scheduling even more challenging. At the same time, it’s important to evenly distribute hours — one physician can’t be over-scheduled while another is greatly under-scheduled.

Even in an otherwise great team or practice, poor physician scheduling can be harmful, both to worn-out physicians and to patients. On-the-go doctors can have trouble accessing schedules, and it can be hard to input, share, or sync manually created schedules to a smartphone. Typical scheduling methods can lead to mistakes1. Further, what happens when a patient reschedules an appointment or a physician switches their schedule with another provider last minute? Do these changes cause a schedule-wide reshuffling?

Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities use outdated or inefficient scheduling methods that can lead to confusion, upset physicians, and missed appointments with patients.

Better Physician Scheduling Is Within Reach

Thanks to modern technology, automated physician scheduling software can streamline the scheduling process without compromise. Consider the following best practices to help with effective provider scheduling and its impact on clinical collaboration and patient care.

1. Ensure Fairness in Holiday and Vacation Scheduling

Employees responsible for physician scheduling can, sometimes unwittingly, unfairly distribute holidays and time off. Among its many benefits, automated physician scheduling software allows for fair schedule distribution among physicians. Instead of using disparate platforms (emails, calls, text messages, sticky notes) to make time-off requests, one platform can be used to send and receive requests and deliver an up-to-date calendar. This reduces stress for the scheduler while streamlining the process for physicians. Additionally, changes can be made as needed, while everyone utilizing the software has access to the most recent calendar.

2. Improve Transparency and Communication

An online physician scheduling platform improves communication among clinicians, schedulers, and other staff. In addition, an application that can be downloaded to a mobile smartphone enables faster, real-time communication and transparency. Logging in to a desktop to check an email or a schedule spreadsheet is no longer necessary. One app with easy communication leads to less confusion, mistakes, or uncertainty.

3. Integrate with Key Healthcare Technologies

Technological advances have modernized many components of healthcare. When it comes to an automated physician scheduling tool, an integration with a patient electronic health records (EHR) system can allow the scheduler to see what the consequences will be to the patient schedule if a physician takes time off.

In addition, an integrated on-call scheduling tool can allow for the scheduling of a full team of specialists, who can be scheduled by role and experience, not just by name. This means that during patient surges or other stressful times, staff do not need to know the names of physicians but can contact who is on-call based on their role. Integration with a clinical collaboration platform can even allow for rapid response teams to be alerted quickly based on a patient’s code event (e.g. sepsis), which is critical when time is of the essence.

4. Automate to Save Time and Costs

Effective physician scheduling can take lots of time and effort to deliver fairness while also ensuring coverage. If done manually, the scheduler needs to consider vacation requests, hours worked, sudden patient surges, and the overall layout of the team. Automated on-call physician scheduling software greatly reduces the time otherwise needed to manually put together a weekly or monthly schedule.

5. Don’t Rely on Whiteboards, Paper, and Sticky Notes

Cloud-based physician scheduling software eliminates the need for clinicians or other staff to access a desktop computer, carry around a printed Excel spreadsheet, or continually check a whiteboard. Both physicians and staff have instant access to an up-to-date, secure calendar on their desktop and mobile devices – both inside and outside the facility. This saves time, reduces the risk of a wrong physician being called, and streamlines workflows for improved patient throughput.

6. Unify Physician and On-Call Scheduling Across Departments

Some hospitals or large health systems may have physician scheduling separate from on-call scheduling, or use multiple scheduling tools for different departments, which can lead to confusion and inefficiencies. Integrating on-call and provider scheduling across departments – or even across facilities – creates “one source of truth,” reducing costs while improving communication between departments.

7. Make Physicians Happy

Physician turnover is a major issue, with more than half of healthcare organizations reportedly affected during any given year2. Although physicians leave healthcare practices and facilities for many reasons, frustration with scheduling and a lack of support from the facility contribute to physician dissatisfaction. Turnover leads to higher costs for the facility, along with serious disruption for other staff. Using a reliable, modern physician scheduling tool can directly improve a provider’s day-to-day life and trust in the healthcare organization.

8. Integrate for Cross-Facility Communication

When integrated with a cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration platform, physicians can use the same tool they use to check their schedules to also consult with staff in other facilities or even send a prescription to a pharmacy. A secure, HIPAA-compliant, and mobile-friendly platform eases clinical communication and moves it “beyond the four walls” of a single facility, opening up incredible possibilities for improved collaboration, streamlined workflows, and better patient care.

9. Integrate with a Patient Engagement Tool

After a patient’s scheduled office visit or discharge from a hospital, it’s important that the care team stays in touch with them to head off any issues and ensure adherence to care plans or medication schedules. In fact, effective communication at all stages in a patient’s care mitigates risk and can result in improved outcomes3,4. Making clinical collaboration, physician scheduling, and patient communication all easily accessible on the same cloud-based platform enables more seamless, efficient, and effective care, leading to lower costs, happier staff, and higher patient satisfaction.

10. Choose a Solution that Can Scale

The future is uncertain, so you need to plan ahead. If you choose a physician scheduling tool that can adapt to the changing healthcare environment and integrate with other solutions, you can reduce headaches later on. Training physicians and staff to use one new solution can be difficult enough; introducing disparate tools on multiple devices or apps one-by-one can lead to frustration or even burnout. If you address your current scheduling challenges while also considering what the future may bring, you can ultimately save your organization time, money, and many unnecessary inconveniences.

What’s Next?

Physician scheduling can be a frantic process characterized by multiple Excel spreadsheets, brightly colored sticky notes, oft-smudged whiteboards, and hectic emails and phone calls that result in last-minute changes. But it shouldn’t be this way – particularly in an environment devoted to health and patient care.

TigerConnect can save you time when it comes to on-call physician scheduling, along with so much more. Our platform helps you plan schedules fairly among physicians while improving timeliness, accuracy, and transparency. Beyond that, it enables you to scale up as needed to improve clinical collaboration, enhance patient engagement, and ultimately boost both staff and patient satisfaction. Schedule a personalized demo to learn how we can help your organization.

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References

1. Deliberato RO, Rocha LL, Lima AH, et al. Physician satisfaction with a multi-platform digital scheduling system. Amaral LAN, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(3):e0174127. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0174127
2. Please don’t go: ways to reduce physician turnover, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), Sep. 20, 2018: https://www.mgma.com/data/data-stories/please-don-t-go-ways-to-reduce-physician-turnover
3. Woolf SH, Kuzel AJ, Dovey SM, et al. A string of mistakes: The importance of cascade analysis in describing, counting, and preventing medical errors. Ann Fam Med. 2004;2:317–326.
4. Leonard M, Graham S, Bonacum D. The human factor: The critical importance of effective teamwork and communication in providing safe care. Qual Saf Health Care. 2004;13:85–90.

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