Most of the time, medical service schedules are planned and managed by the physicians themselves. This administrative task adds to the already busy days of physicians and can easily become a source of fatigue and additional stress.
Fortunately, there are ways to optimize the time allotted for this complex task. Based on the 6,400 physician schedules published each year through the Petal Scheduling solution, the PetalMD team has identified the most common time sinks. When creating and managing planned schedules for periods of 3 months to 1 year certain reoccurring issues are noticeable. Today, we suggest you 7 tips to overcome these problems and save you time.
1. Centralize and Standardize the Compilation of Absence Requests
Many planners waste time manually compiling absence requests that come from many different sources, such as e-mail, phones, text messages, or handwritten notes. The more physicians that are implicated in a schedule, the more difficult it is to gather and classify these requests.
To save time, planners are better off when they standardize absence requests by ensuring that all members of their group submit their requests through the same tool. When requests for absences are directly integrated into the scheduling tool and sent instantly to the planner, as is the case with the Petal Scheduling solution, the time savings are even more substantial.
2. Establish and Follow Planning Rules for Your Group
Making changes to a schedule that has already been shared with a group of physicians can easily become a complex and energy-consuming task, especially when the schedule is also accessed by administrative staff. Although some changes are inevitable, it is important to limit them by having the medical service establish a list of rules.
Here are some examples of rules that can be established by the medical service:
- Physicians cannot be on-call, if they have already been on-call during the previous two weeks
- Physicians cannot work more than five nights in a row
- Physicians cannot be assigned to task X the day after an evening shift
- Physicians cannot be assigned to more than one task Y within 3 consecutive weeks
In addition to reducing change requests to the schedule, strict adherence to the rules established by the medical service promotes fairness in the task distribution.
VIDEO: Why Equity Matters in Physician Shift Distribution
3. Allow Physicians to Manage Replacements Independently
When two physicians want to trade shifts, they usually have to go through the planner. This person must then take the time to ensure that the exchange is possible and then communicate the changes to all the relevant staff including the administrative members of the hospital.
To save time in this process, the planner can allow physicians to exchange tasks among themselves independently. With Petal Scheduling, the planner can offer this possibility while still maintaining control over the schedule. For example, an approval process may be require for most complex tasks, but approval is not necessary for external clinic tasks. If schedule changes can be made directly by the physicians themselves, this can save a considerable amount of time, especially if each replacement is instantly displayed in the group schedule thanks to updates in real time.
4. Communicate the Schedule Changes Instantly
Several time losses are directly related to poor communication of changes to the schedule made after the schedule is posted, particularly when it comes to on-call shifts. Indeed, when a change of on-call shifts is not well communicated to all the concerned staff; the physician who is no longer scheduled might end up being called for nothing. The same type of error can occur if two physicians have traded shifts, but the resident (under the responsibility of one of the physicians) has not been notified. In certain critical situations, the delays generated by these types of errors can compromise the patient safety.
To limit the time spent communicating changes and ensure that they are passed on rapidly to everyone involved, physician groups can implement a solution, like Petal Scheduling. This solution allows you to set up automatic notifications that would instantly (as it updates in real-time) be sent off to everyone affected by a schedule change.
5. Filter Physicians and Tasks by Subsets
To avoid wasting time looking for information about the availability and skills of physicians when planning the schedule, it is important to have an overview of all the scheduled group members and all the tasks that must be assigned. However, the larger the group of physicians and tasks, the more time it can take to manually create schedules.
By using a solution like Petal Scheduling, planners can group together different pieces of information, such as: member type and tasks to be assigned. Then it becomes possible to filter this information during planning according to the specific needs of the planner. By digitizing and categorizing tasks and physicians, the planner can speed up the search for information and, consequently, the creation of the schedule.
Examples of filters based on subsets:
- On-call tasks
- Consulting tasks
- Evening tasks
- 1st year residents
- Last year residents
- External physicians
- Physicians with a subspecialty
- Department chiefs
6. Display Meetings on the Schedule
Ensuring that the schedule includes department meetings or other important events can be a burden to planning and schedule management. With the Petal Scheduling solutions, it's possible to create events that will show up on the group calendar. It is also possible to send invitations to all the physicians involved. They will then have the option to accept or decline the invitation directly in the tool and the response will be automatically forwarded to the group planner.
The planner saves time by having the opportunity to quickly select a date that suits everyone, to ensure that all concerned physicians have seen the invitation and to follow up with physicians who have accepted or refused the invitation.
7. Automate Your Schedule Creation with a Specialized Digital Solution
According to our observations, the more complex a physician's schedule is, the more time the planner can save by automating the scheduling process with a specialized solution. Currently, more than 6,400 physicians are already benefiting from the automated planning features of Petal Scheduling.
This automated procedure quickly suggests an optimal schedule relying on the different constraints of physicians, as well as the rules of the group. The planner then only has to review the suggested schedule (or make any final adjustments manually) to complete the schedule. This represents a huge time saving for the planner compared to manual creation.
VIDEO: Automated Planning for Physician’ Schedules
Case Study - Vancouver General Hospital
Would you like to know how one of Canada's largest cardiology departments reduced its schedule planning time by 75% with the use of a specialized Web solution? Download the case study below to find out.