How Outdated On-Call Scheduling is Hurting Your Hospital

Whether your hospital lacks on-call scheduling technology or manages physician schedules manually, poor on-call scheduling wastes the valuable time of your clinical staff. It delays patient care and leads to provider dissatisfaction. Physician on-call schedule management shouldn’t be a manual task.

The connection between call schedules and time to treatment is critical. As patients with emergency medical conditions arrive in the ED or need specialty care, the on-call schedule plays a key role in communicating patient 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. These manual, inaccurate schedules 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

Up to 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.
  • Combing through sticky notes and desk calendars to find who is on rotation.

Sound familiar? If so, your communication process might take longer to deliver the result to the lab, specialist, or patient.

An outdated, repetitive process doesn’t just impact nursing staff. Call-center representatives, administrative team members, and physicians need to regularly locate and connect with clinical staff across your hospital. These inefficient workflows cost time and money for the whole organization.

2. Delayed Communication Leads to Delayed Time to Treatment

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

Medical scheduling software 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 is only as accurate as the schedules which direct the solution’s routing rules, even for organizations that have a secure messaging platform. Integrating communication platforms with accurate schedules will improve patient and provider satisfaction.

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? Here are a couple ways 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 on-call

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. Before providers contemplate exiting your healthcare system, give them a better physician scheduling program.

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, 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 hospital communication by enabling:

  1. Each department to quickly build and manage their on-call schedules. Significant time is wasted in each hospital department building with 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.
  1. 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. Schedules become available in real-time on any device. As out of office, vacation time, sick leave, or shift 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 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%. 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 Benefits of On-Call Provider Scheduling?

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 scheduling solution.

Sources

    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: jointcommission.org
    3. At Stanford, physician burnout costs at least $7.75 million a year, American Medical Association, Sara Berg, American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2017: ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health-stanford-physician-burnout-costs-least-775-million-year
    4. The High Cost of Nurse Turnover, The University of New Mexico, Nov. 30, 2016: rnbsnonline.unm.edu/articles/high-cost-of-nurse-turnover.aspx

Improve Healthcare Operations With Clinical Workforce Analytics

“Although caregivers are burdened with reporting reams of information, they rarely consistently track the health outcomes that matter most to patients and thus to themselves as clinicians.”1

With rising labor costs,2 growing expenses, falling EBITDA, and decreasing operating margins,3 healthcare organizations need new strategies for controlling costs and improving clinical communication workflows. While analytics are often used to inform strategic decision making such as supply chain management, healthcare organizations may miss the opportunity to use analytics to maximize their most important resource: their clinical workforce.

Let’s explore how an advanced provider scheduling solution can deliver analytics which play an essential role in improving healthcare operations.

Four Ways Workforce Analytics Improve Operations

  1. Reduce waste by adjusting staff levels to meet trends in patient demand and value-based care.
  2. Ensure patient access and minimize leakage by maximizing clinical communications capacity across locations.
  3. Improve provider retention and reduce physician and nurse burn-out by increasing work-life balance and schedule autonomy.
  4. Optimize clinical staffing models to enhance productivity.

1. Reduce Wasted Resources

Advanced scheduling analytics allow your organization to identify trends in patient demand. Assess service utilization across departments and clinic locations to adjust staffing levels over time. You can analyze demand for specific services, determine the number of clinicians needed to deliver those services for a given timeframe, and reduce staff and labor costs when patient demand is lower. For example:

The Chief of Surgery wants to better understand seasonal trends in patient demand for elective surgeries. He runs a report and finds that case numbers are much lower during January and February. With granular insights into provider supply and patient demand, he is able to project exactly how many surgeons are needed during each shift. He asks the department scheduler to reduce staffing levels for January and February.

2. Ensure Patient Access

After using analytics to identify trends in patient demand, you can respond to rising demand by proactively increasing staff levels to improve patient access and increase revenue. For example:

The Emergency Department’s Medical Director runs a report and finds that during the summer months, the need for pediatric emergency care greatly increases. Currently, the team only staffs a single pediatric emergency physician. The Medical Director contacts the department scheduler and requests for a pediatric advanced practice provider to be added to the schedule for June through August.

In the example above, the ED (Emergency Department) has both increased patient access to pediatric emergency care and increased clinical capacity—helping the department generate more revenue based on a particularly common type of service for the specific timeframe. With trends in value-based care, this pediatric practice can improve patient satisfaction.

3. Improve Provider Retention

A key approach to cost reduction is to improve provider retention. Replacing a single physician can cost anywhere from $500,000 up to $1 million, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).4 This means focusing on provider satisfaction and retention could save your organization hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the 2020 Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report, spending too many hours at work is a key contributor to provider burnout.5 But what is the definition of “too many hours” and how can you help prevent provider schedules from reaching the threshold?

Scheduling analytics help ensure certain shifts, like weekends and call, are evenly distributed across a team of providers. You can share reports with your team that show even shift distribution. This eliminates any possible suspicion of unfairness, which may not completely eliminate the issue of spending too many hours at work, but it helps address a source of provider dissatisfaction.

4. Optimize Staffing Models

Not all providers and care team members are alike. Some prefer to work more than others, some practice part-time, and they each vary in their preferences and productivity levels, making it challenging to optimize staffing models by specialization and availability alone. Advanced medical analytics reporting provides the details needed to enhance your organization’s staffing models for productivity.

Over time, you can note which providers are more productive during specific shift times to create rules that schedule individual providers for their most productive shifts. You can then review the larger impact of certain staffing models on productivity and adjust your scheduling rules on a macro level. Without scheduling analytics, this type of insight and optimization is nearly impossible. With the evolving demands and expectations in healthcare, it is also essential.

 

Watch How PerfectServe Helps Medical Staff Reduce Poor Workflows and Improve Patient Response Times

 

Interested in improving operations, reducing labor costs, and increasing patient and provider satisfaction with better clinical scheduling?

Learn more about the clinical workforce analytics available in our Optimized Provider Scheduling solution and how they can enhance your organization’s operations.

Resources:

  1. Tiesberg T, Wallace S, O’Hara S. Defining and Implementing Value-Based Health Care: A Strategic Framework. Academic Med. 2020 May; 95(5):682-685. doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000003122
  2. Labor Management Trends, Healthcare Financial Management Association, Navigant, Aug. 2018: guidehouse.com/-/media/www/site/insights/healthcare/2018/navigant-hfma-2018-labor-pulse-survey.pdf
  3. Hospital profitability withers in November as volumes, revenues lag, Becker’s Healthcare, Morgan Haefner, Becker’s Healthcare Review, Jan. 2, 2020: beckershospitalreview.com/finance/hospital-profitability-withers-in-november-as-volume-revenues-lag.html
  4. At Stanford, physician burnout costs at least $7.75 million a year, American Medical Association, Sara Berg, American Medical Association, Nov. 17, 2017: ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/stanfordphysician-burnout-costs-least-775-million-year
  5. Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020: The Generational Divide, Medscape, January 15, 2020: medscape.com/slideshow/2020-lifestyle-burnout-6012460 – 5