The moment your practice decides to explore software as an alternative to manual scheduling, you will be faced with a myriad of choices. Like anything else, there are a lot of options on the market. To navigate those possibilities, you need to consider the functionality, adaptability, and analytics capabilities of the software you are considering.
This is the most basic criteria under consideration. Every software company will tell you they have full functionality, but it pays to look at the details. Here are some questions you should be asking:
- Can they guarantee that a provider will never be scheduled in two conflicting places at the same time?
Rules and policy problems can go wrong in two places - either the software simply can't handle your requirements, or their implementation team does not fully understand your needs. In either situation, you wind up with unreliable schedules. Ideally, you need a software capable of programming rules and policies down to the most minute detail, and an implementation team so well-versed in medical staff scheduling that they know exactly what questions to ask you so nothing is overlooked.
- How many steps do you have to go through to build a simple monthly schedule?
If you are going to make the leap to automated scheduling, you want to be sure it's actually going to be an improvement. Ask to see how long it takes to pull together a monthly schedule and see the process for yourself.
- Do they have a calendar view, so you can see your schedule easily?
This would seem like a no-brainer, but not all scheduling software provides a calendar view. Since most of us think in terms of calendars, make sure you choose a software with this viewing option.
- If you're an academic medical center, can they integrate resident scheduling?
Resident scheduling has its own special needs, such as rotation and certification tracking. You will also likely want to be able to count their hours by rotation or procedures. Most of all, you will want to be able to view your available residents along with your permanent staff, so you are not switching between different views to see who you have on the schedule for each assignment.
It's great to find a software that meets all your current needs - but your needs will change, and you need to make sure that same software will be able to grow along with your practice. Consider these questions to pull out issues of adaptability:
- How do they handle their customizations, and will your customizations be upgraded automatically along with the rest of the software?
It is not uncommon for a medical practice to require a custom report or a custom approach to scheduling, one that is not available out of the box. The difficulty comes as time goes by and the primary software is updated - then, what happens to your customization? Ideally, you want any custom work to be automatically upgraded along with the base software. What you don't want is to have to pay every time your customization needs an upgrade. Or make your life even easier and look for a healthcare staff scheduling software that provides an extensive range of reports and capabilities as part of their standard implementation.
- Can you add add new users, roles, and facilities on your own?
As your practice grows and changes, you will find you need to add users, roles, and even new facilities. Make sure the software you choose makes this easy. The last thing you want is to have to place a call to the help desk every time you hire a new doctor.
- Can you delegate parts of your schedule to sub-admins, without worrying that rules and policies will be violated?
Delegating parts of your schedule requires that you have absolute confidence in your software's rules enforcement. Only then is it possible to divvy up the scheduling and trust that inconsistencies or policy violations will not be introduced. Make sure the software can enforce rules automatically across all schedules, regardless of who builds them.
Reports and Analytics
Without strong business intelligence, you will not be able to analyze your staffing. As staffing is typically over 50% of a medical practice's operating budget, this is not something you want to skip. To ensure you have the reporting capability you need, ask these questions:
- Do they integrate scheduling and time data into reports for easy forecasting of overtime?
To make the best decisions in terms of which provider to send home first, or who to schedule for an upcoming assignment, you need software that syncs your scheduling and time data. This allows you to forecast staffing and overtime, but also to view historical trends, such as holiday assignments.
- How many reports come standard with the software?
The more built-in reports that come standard with your software, the more flexibility you have in analyzing your staffing data. You also want to make sure you can sort and filter the reports any way you need.
- What data can they provide to help you build fair call schedules?
Statistics on how much call each provider is working, along with what stress levels are associated with each call, help you verify that call is being distributed equitably.
The Right Questions, the Right Healthcare Scheduling Software
These ten questions will make it easy to determine the capabilities of any software you explore. You will know how they rank in terms of functionality, adaptability, and reports/analytics, so you can make an informed decision for your practice.