How Outdated On-Call Scheduling is Hurting Your Hospital

How Outdated Call Schedules Hurt Your Hospital

Whether your hospital lacks on-call scheduling technology or manages physician call schedules manually, poor on-call scheduling wastes the valuable time of your clinical staff, delays patient care, and leads to provider dissatisfaction.

Physician On-Call Schedule Management Shouldn’t be Manual

The connection between call schedules and time to treatment is clear. As patients with emergency medical conditions arrive in the ED or need emergent specialty care in departments throughout the hospital, the on-call schedule plays a key role in communicating their care needs to providers across the organization.

Yet, some hospitals still manage on-call schedules manually, with administrators faxing paper copies of the schedule to departments across the hospital or manually inputting the schedule to a central location. The unfortunate result of manual on-call schedule management is inaccurate schedules that delay care and frustrate clinical staff.

“Every unit had a three-ring binder that basically had a copy of the paper schedule. Everybody got a paper copy of it and put it in the three-ring binder and that was the call schedule for the month. Hopefully it was accurate, sometimes it wasn’t.”

– Dr. Scott James, Emergency Physician and Medical Director at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center Omaha (CHMC)

How are on-call schedules really impacting your hospital?

1. Poor On-Call Schedule Management Wastes Time

As much as 40% of communication time is spent attempting, but failing, to reach the correct provider or searching for contact information.1

Clinical communication researchers refer to this as “problematic” time—time that nurses spend trying, but ultimately failing, to communicate with the correct provider. Some examples of problematic time include:

  • Paging or calling the incorrect physician.
  • Searching for information, like the latest schedule, in order to determine which provider should be contacted.
  • Looking for updated contact information for a provider.

Sound familiar? If so, your communication process may look something like this:

On call scheduling workflow chart

This repetitive process doesn’t just impact nursing staff. Call-center representatives, administrative team members, and even physicians regularly need to locate and connect with clinical staff across your hospital. Inefficient workflows eat away at the time of the whole organization.

2. Delayed Communication Leads to Delayed Time to Treatment

80% of serious medical errors are tied to miscommunication.2

Scheduling information is at the heart of communication for any healthcare organization, particularly call shift schedules. Time to treatment not only impacts care quality, but also the patient experience. As more patients are looking for care outside of traditional healthcare settings, speeding up patient care is key to minimizing patient leakage.

Communication delivery can only be as accurate as the schedules that direct the solution’s routing rules, even for organizations that have a secure messaging platform. This is why integrating communication platforms with accurate schedules is crucial to timely communication and care delivery.

3. Frustrating Workflows Contribute to Provider Turnover

“In the acute care setting, communication failures lead to increases in patient harm, length of stay, and resource use, as well as more intense caregiver dissatisfaction and more rapid turnover.”1

Communication errors can drive clinical staff morale, satisfaction, and turnover. Clinician turnover can be a huge drain on hospital resources, resulting in lost revenue and increasing labor costs.

  • It costs anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million to recruit and replace a single physician.3
  • Nurse turnover costs up to $58,000 per nurse.4

So, how do on-call schedules impact provider morale? There are more than a few ways that inaccurate, outdated schedules can foster confusion and frustration:

  • Problematic time keeps nurses away from patient care
  • Paper calendars and spreadsheets quickly become out of date, making it difficult for physicians to determine when they are assigned on-call duty.

Studies suggest there’s a connection between quality-of-care delivery and provider satisfaction.1 As communication errors negatively impact patient care, provider satisfaction is likely to be impacted as well.

On-Call Scheduling Solutions for Better Management

Implementing a single enterprise-wide on-call scheduling software is the most efficient and cost-effective way to streamline clinical communication for your organization. Not only does it eliminate significant manual work that’s taking place across your hospital, but it enables better care coordination and drives provider satisfaction.

“To be able to see who is the surgeon that’s going to be taking this case, who’s the radiologist on call, who’s the infectious disease provider on call—all at a glance—that just has huge value to an organization for patient safety and workflow efficiency.”

– Dr. Corey Joekel, Chief Medical Information Officer, CHMC

An enterprise-wide on-call scheduling platform can streamline call schedule management by enabling:

  1. Each department to quickly build and manage their on-call schedules. Significant time is wasted in each hospital department building and managing on-call and shift schedules. On-call scheduling software automates the schedule creation process, freeing up time for administrators and even physicians that are often saddled with the task.
  2. 24/7 real-time access to call schedules from any device. With a single enterprise-wide scheduling software, on-call and shift schedules from every department are available in a centralized location. This creates a single source of truth for the latest schedules that’s available in real-time on any device. As schedule changes occur, hospital staff can be confident they have the correct schedule.
  1. Full specialty call coverage for your entire hospital. When on-call schedules are manually managed, there’s plenty of room for error. As providers swap shifts and administrators make changes to call schedules, these errors can leave gaps in call coverage. An automated system ensures complete specialty call coverage while offering visibility into call schedules across the hospital.
  1. Faster speed to care—reduce time to contact on-call providers by up to 88%. Most importantly, on-call scheduling software reduces the time to contact on-call providers by as much as 88%. An easy click-to-connect workflow simplifies the process of contacting providers while real-time schedules make it easy to determine who’s on call. The result? Faster patient care.

Interested in exploring more of the benefits of enterprise on-call scheduling software?  Download our infographic “6 Reasons to Implement an Enterprise On-Call Scheduling Platform” for a deep dive into the key reasons every hospital should consider an enterprise-wide physician on-call scheduling solution.


  1. Improving Patient Safety Through Provider Communication Strategy Enhancements, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US), Dingley, C. et all., Advances in Patient Safety: New Directions and Alternative Approaches—Vol. 3, Aug. 2008: ncbi.nlm.nih.cov/books/NBK43663
  2. Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Releases Targeted Solutions Tool for Hand-Off Communication, Aug. 2012:
  3. At Stanford, physician burnout costs at least $7.75 million a year, American Medical Association, Sara Berg, American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2017:
  4. The High Cost of Nurse Turnover, The University of New Mexico, Nov. 30, 2016: