By Justin Wampach
Medical Groups should be providing valuable tools for physicians to use, for free, to create maintain, and communicate their on-call and work schedules. Physicians should have access to free tools to use to do their job. Free to the physicians, not free to the medical group. In some professions, it is acceptable to expect the resource to provide his/her own tools to be able to complete the job. Think about the building industry or mechanics.
If I could go back in time and be sitting in some of the early meetings at the large pharmaceutical companies when they had the brain-child idea of buying their way into the physician’s office using free drug samples, I would definitely have had something to say. This model has plagued the non-pharmaceutical medical industry for more than 40 plus years as medical offices have an expectation of being able to try something for nothing before they buy it or even consider it.
In 2010, Adjuvant, the maker of Call Scheduler (now TigerSchedule by TigerConnect) spent money to customize a way for doctors to come to our website and request a free-30-day-trial of our Call Scheduler (now TigerSchedule) Lite product. We thought this would work because many doctors are not available to speak with our sales team during the day, they’re too busy seeing patients. We thought it would be great to give them a self-serve method that they could do when it was convenient for them. The free call schedule trial was for our product to help them create, maintain, and publish a call schedule for their partners. In addition to our investment to automate the set-up process, we also needed to create many do-it-yourself videos so that the doctors would know how to set-up the system and be able it use it.
We had a large number of doctors sign-up for the free trial. Out of the total group of doctors that signed-up for the service, the large majority of them never completed the set-up part where you enter the doctors’ names. Not one of the free trials turned into a sale. Why? I’m not sure. I have some thoughts though.
• No money was invested (easy come easy go).
• Realized there was work involved, perhaps the volume seemed overwhelming.
• Realized that they did not have all of the necessary information to set-up the system.
• They thought that our set-up interface sucked and therefore moved on.
• They really didn’t have a problem.
Many of the physicians who look at our TigerSchedule demos and or that call into the office are still creating the work and on-call schedule for their partners on their own time, and by hand without any tools other than perhaps Excel. That is so important I am going to say it again, most of the Physicians that I speak with (several hundred each year) still have to create the call and work schedule for all the partners on their own time, and without any tools. This averages about 40 hours per year, of nights and weekends.
In many industries outside of medicine, this concept would have ended 20 years ago.
For example in the technology/software industry if you don’t provide time and tools for your most valuable employees, or if you expect them to perform duties that are time-consuming, and difficult, and on top of it, have people gripe about the results, they would pack up and go somewhere else. Technology people are so valuable and in such demand, they will simply leave. I have learned over the past 10+ years that most physicians are very mild-mannered people. They are not looking to rock the boat, nor are they looking to make a big deal out of something that others find trivial. The physicians who fit this profile are typically the ones who get talked into doing the on-call schedule for their partners.
I think that a few items are at play when we talk about doing work for free without the proper tools. First, medical groups are very cost-conscious organizations about certain things. Like all good businesses, it is important to make investments in the places that show a financial return. For example, an MRI machine has a large cost but also has a large return. The individual physicians are expensive to employ, but also have a large return on investment. Tools and services are often seen as a burden and are considered optional. The second item at play is that many groups have certain doctors doing scut work, like the on-call schedule, because they will do it and not push back.
Or if they do push back, they can be easily bullied into taking on the added responsibility, for free, without any tools. In my opinion, both of these things are pretty sad. I say that because it is a very black and white way of looking at the world, and unfortunately there are many shades of gray. For example, when you’re looking at a return on investment sometimes it can be easy to forget about the “soft” benefits and only look at the “hard” benefits. An example of a soft benefit would be physician satisfaction or work/life balance. Everyone wants to see a hard dollar return on everything that is not considered essential to whoever makes the decisions.
Funny story, a new service was being offered in my community, Oopie Poopie Scoopy service. It was a guy who came around each week to clean up dog waste. At first, I thought who in the world would ever use this or spend money on something like this. Until I became a pet owner of a 75lb Husky /German Sheppard mix. Let me tell you, it was the best $40 per month that I had ever spent. Once I had the crappy job (pun intended) and my mind changed, quickly!
Sometimes it is important to look at things from someone else’s perspective. I hear physicians tell me all of the time “my partners won’t pay for software, they don’t think we need it and it will not benefit everyone, only me, the person who creates the schedule”. Obviously, they are wrong, on-call scheduling software benefits all of the physicians, the staff, and even patients in the end. Each person will benefit in a different way, some will be greater than others, but everyone still benefits.
I have said it before and I will say it again, if you are a physician in a practice that is doing the call schedule for free, on your own time, without any tools, STOP. Politely go back to your partners or practice administrator and say, no thank you. The same way you would if they asked you to clean the toilets without rubber gloves. I am willing to bet my last pair of clean socks that either you or the next person will get at the very least some software to help them out.