6 Keys to Evaluating Physician Scheduling Software

Investigate Smart: Medical Groups Find 6 Keys to Evaluating Physician Scheduling Software

What should you focus on when investigating purchasing new physician on-call and shift scheduling software? I have spoken with thousands of specialty clinic administrators and physicians in the early stages of buying call scheduling software. More often than not, many of them focus on the wrong things and unknowingly jeopardize their success. I’m sure you’ve seen it firsthand in your profession. Consider this; a patient comes into your clinic for an appointment. He is unsure what his problem is, does not know how long he has had the problem, and does not have any payment form. During the visit, you share your diagnosis and give him a prescription. He only takes half of his pills and returns to complain because it didn’t work. He should have taken your advice and seen it through.

Here Are 6 Keys Medical Groups Find to Effectively Evaluating New On-Call Scheduling Software:

    1. Understand your needs and goals. One of the biggest mistakes clinic administrators and physicians make when evaluating and purchasing software is buying more than they need. They often get caught up in a sales-pitch and are sold on features that they will never use. Examples would include features such as payroll and secure text messaging. Sometimes people come to us underestimating or simplifying the goal of “schedule automation.” This is a big goal and often takes significant work to achieve. Scheduling automation coupled with accurate reporting, electronic vacation, and day-off requests and having all of the schedule information on-line and on smartphones are great initial goals for any practice that is doing everything manually today. The work required to achieve these seemingly simple goals will keep most practices busy for a while.
    2. Focus on results – not features. Features may look enticing, but some can be almost worthless if they do not help you achieve your goals. It’s important that you know your group’s desired results are and drive towards them. Sit down with your stakeholders and create a list of items you want a new scheduling software to accomplish. Identify the top priorities by giving each member
      three colored dots to place by the most important goals. When you are finished, you should have a list of your top three needs. Most of the specialty groups identify these top needs: (1) Schedule automation (2)Tally automation (3)Publish the schedule online.
    3. Be open to change. It is virtually impossible to take a manual scheduling process and make it fit perfectly into the software without any customization for a reasonable price. This means that the more open to reasonable change that your group and physicians are willing to accept, the more likely you are to be able to use “off-the-shelf” software. Many new users think that they need something is done a certain way, for example, a report or if the week starts on a Sunday or Monday. Often we learn that is the way that it has always been done at their organization, and they want things to stay the same. The more you want to stay the same and have the software adapt to your individual unique needs, the more you will pay. Openness to reasonable and effective change in the best interest of the organization’s goals is not only cost-effective but a smart business decision.
    4. Many practices take between 60-120 days to determine if the software is a good fit. This allows enough time to set-up, configure, create, publish, modify, and then evaluate its effectiveness. There is no such thing as a free lunch that holds true here. Ditch the strings and pay as you go. Then, you hold the control. From Apple to Microsoft, successful companies do not give it away for free – or require you to lock in for an extensive period of time. Keep in mind that a trial is not the same as a money-back-guarantee. At the end of the trial, you decide what is best for you. With a money-back guarantee, the company decides if and when it will return your money.
    5. How much risk are you willing to assume if this project doesn’t produce the results you need? Considering the amount of uncertainty regarding the results of scheduling software, and considering that the results are subjective, it’s best to limit your risk as much as you can. How do you limit your risk? Start by selecting a vendor that uses a monthly, pay-as-you-go model. Until you know that what you are buying will meet your needs, results, and outcomes, play it safe, go monthly.
    6. People matter. The best businesses are the ones with the best people. Choose wisely. When selecting a new physician scheduling software partner, choose one with great training and support. Trainers who have real-world experience, not fresh college graduates or engineers. This will make all of the difference in the world when it comes to an understanding of how scheduling works in the real world. There are several ways to achieve your desired results. Your biggest advocate will be the trainer – and ongoing support. Leverage their expertise. They want to help you achieve your desired results; let them help you.

Barriers to Success

Like anything in life, it is not always enough to know what we need to focus on. We also need to be aware of the red flags that signal we’re off track. Here are the top five things NOT to focus on because they can derail medical groups from making the right decision.

Don’t Focus on:

    1. Price – Few medical groups actually know what creating, maintaining, and publishing a schedule costs them today. They have not tracked it. In most cases, physicians find that on-call scheduling software significantly boosts the bottom line – both through time savings and increased productivity by allowing the physicians to focus on caring for patients.
    2. Company size – In today’s “flat,” technology-driven world, the number of employees at a company is less important and not necessarily a reflection of its success. In fact, most nimble vendors likely have the lowest overhead costs, which often means lower cost to you.
    3. References – It really doesn’t matter if the software works for someone else. With your unique data, will it give you the results you need to satisfy your doctors? That is more important.
    4. Printing – The health care industry is going electronic. Few doctors request printed versions now, and that continues to decrease with time.
    5. Rules and scheduling engine – It is almost impossible for someone to tell you if and how well something
      will work for you without using your specific data.

You’re Ready to Change When …

    1. You’re willing to make modifications to your current process.
    2. You’re willing to make some changes to your current rules.
    3. You’re willing to make some changes to your schedule length.
    4. You have identified your group’s top three needs.
    5. You have established a budget or have funds available.
    6. You have time set aside to configure and learn a new program.

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