July 18, 2018

Physician Scheduling Best Practices: Should Physicians Be Involved?

2 min read

Written by: James Nichols  |  Share:

At a time when healthcare organizations nationwide manage expenditures with ever-increasing rigor, utilization of clinical capacity and the associated management of clinical resource scheduling remains, for many, a significant opportunity for improvement. While effectively an administrative task, clinical staff scheduling often involves highly-trained and highly compensated personnel — the physician themselves.

This often leads to a taxing incremental burden on those involved in the resource scheduling process both in terms of time and also in their relationships with their peers. There are benefits and risks that occur when you decide to include physicians in the departmental or service line schedule creation process. Let's examine them.

The Pros of Physician Involvement

Experienced physicians have a valuable insight into schedule management. They have seen different scheduling initiatives come and go. They intuitively understand the demands and fluctuations that occur in the organization, and typically have valuable insight into what works best in each specific situation. Incorporating these physicians' experiences and perspectives into scheduling can save the hospital from making the same mistakes twice.

physicians will have a unique and in-tune perspective on the way to make other physicians pleased with their schedules. They know their colleagues better than anyone else in the hospital and know the nuances that make each team or person tick. They understand the personal preferences of their peers and are often uniquely positioned to take them into account. They know best how to take care of their colleagues' scheduling needs.

physicians possess the analytical and resulted-oriented disposition to solve the complex scheduling puzzle posed in many service lines and departments. Enlisting them to assist you in schedule creation and management will often lead to high-quality results.

The Cons of Physician Involvement

Physician involvement in schedule creation and management can drive a number of different issues. Fairness issues can come from physicians prioritizing personal preferences over the greater good of the hospital and the staff. Likewise, with detailed rules and guidelines, the scheduling process can expose favoritism and cause unnecessary tension or dissatisfaction

Physician administrators have the advantage of greater objectivity. Their perspective tends to have a larger focus on the greater good of operational efficiency in the department. Administrators don't have the emotional connection to every decision that needs to be made about scheduling. They prioritize the concern of getting a viable schedule (one that meets demand) out on time over meeting the scheduling requests of each and every individual doctor.

Physician involvement in resource scheduling can be expensive. Their time is very valuable and should be focused on offering the best care possible to patients instead of worrying about spreadsheets and schedules. Paying an administrator to take care of scheduling should cost significantly less than paying a doctor to do the same job. Administrators will also likely have a better opportunity to accommodate schedule development in their ongoing routine.

The Balance

Ultimately, the goal of including physicians in clinical resource scheduling should be to align around the rules and policies that govern schedule creation. Involving physicians as high-level strategic partners is a good way to proactively accomplish this. Their input is valuable but so is their time, so finding the right balance of their involvement is critical. Many hospitals have a committee that discusses scheduling conflicts and suggestions. They meet at a cadence of once a quarter.

Physicians know personally how staff offer the best care and like the control of having a say in the way schedules are created. A way to find involvement balance is to consult your physicians and administrators and follow those suggestions to carry out the schedule — without asking them to dig into the nitty-gritty every week or month.


Topics: Physician Scheduling