Category: Smart Resource Management

Integrations: The Missing Piece to Optimizing Your Workflow

Although the term integration may seem like a word reserved for only the most tech-savvy, it’s actually an essential software function that can drastically streamline your practice. Think about it like this: if you’ve ever had a patient who does not speak your language, you’ve probably had to bring in a translator in order to communicate effectively. You speak to the translator who, in turn, speaks to the patient. An integration is just like that, except between two pieces of software. Simply put, an integration is when two pieces of software “talk” to each other. This is typically achieved by removing the “translator” completely, enabling the programs to speak the same language.
QGenda supports a multitude of integrations that enable third-party software to pull data from, or push data to, the system. QGenda takes an open approach to integrations – we offer a REST API, as well as flat-file integration options, to allow for several channels of communication between our software and others used by your practice. Even if you have homegrown software, QGenda can likely send and/or receive data from your system to streamline your processes.
So, why would you want to set up an integration with QGenda? One of the most common integrations we see is between QGenda and a clinical communication system. QGenda can partner with any major clinical communication vendor to streamline the clinical communication process in your practice. Schedules are created in QGenda and automatically populate the call schedule so that the right provider can be called at the right time. This integration even allows your providers to swap at the last second without running the risk of having an out-of-date communication system.
In addition to clinical communication, QGenda can also integrate directly with payroll processors to convey schedule and pay data. Instead of spending hours calculating beeper fees, QGenda can pull that information right off of the schedule, make the calculations, and export to your payroll processor for checks to be cut, saving your practice valuable time and stress.
Integrations with QGenda have been utilized for communication, payroll, resident management, daily case scheduling, and much more. Long story short, integrations can help avoid duplicate entry and mistakes in all your systems and ultimately create a single source-of-truth for your practice.
Interested in learning more about QGenda and our integration capabilities? Schedule a demo or contact your Customer Success Consultant today!
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New Year, New Schedule

Here we are, just a few weeks into the New Year – how are those New Year’s resolutions going? The beginning of the year is a great time to review your practice/hospital system goals and to align your scheduling practices to match them. We’re here to help you do just that!
Below are just a few resolutions to consider for your practice, along with some practical ideas to help you keep with them this year!
 
Resolution 1: Utilize Resources More Efficiently
Creating a schedule without the right staffing is like following a recipe without the right ingredients: the end result will never be quite right. If you are under-staffed, this can cause major issues within your practice, such as losing time for patient care due to holes in the schedule or even reducing quality of care due to physician burnout. On the other hand, overstaffing or inefficient allocation of resources can be a significant waste of money for your organization. Thus, the beginning of the year is a good time to analyze your resources and make the appropriate changes. Here are a few ideas to consider:

If you often lacked coverage in your schedule last year, comparing lost profits to the cost of a locum or new staff member can help guide hiring decisions. Be sure to consider whether the shortages were seasonal or consistent throughout the year.
Consider restricting the number of providers who are able to take off on any given day. Maximizing efficiency may also require varying the restriction based on the day of the week or on the specialty of the providers..
If you were typically overstaffed and consistently gave unplanned days off, consider splitting heavier shifts to disperse the workload. This can improve quality of care by increasing the attention patients receive and decreasing the risk of provider burnout. More intensive solutions include increasing patient load, moving to a 4-day work week, or reducing your total FTE.

 
Resolution 2: Spend Less Time Making Schedules and Release Them Earlier
Creating a schedule can get complex pretty quickly, especially for a practice or department with many moving parts. While this resolution might seem like wishful thinking, scheduling software offers many tools to simplify your process and reduce your workload.  

If you are drafting the schedule by hand, consider using automation software. Whether you automate your whole schedule or just a portion of it, you can reduce your workload dramatically. Software is much quicker when making calculations regarding different specialties, availability, FTEs, multiple locations, and other complicating factors.
If you spend a lot of time reviewing the schedule, whether ensuring adequate coverage, counting shifts, or analyzing the distribution of assignments, then the statistics tool in your scheduling software can greatly increase your efficiency.
The time savings from points 1 and 2 above can allow you to make the schedule further in advance or for a longer period of time. In turn, this can allow you to be proactive in anticipating and correcting areas of over-/understaffing. This benefits providers as well, increasing job satisfaction by allowing them to better plan around their work schedule.

 
Resolution 3: Consolidate Schedule Information to Improve Workflow
Our final resolution for medical organizations in 2019 allows you to eliminate unnecessary work and make better decisions at the same time.

If your group frequently experiences errors with transcription or spends time entering the same information in multiple places, consider adopting a tool that centralizes the collection and distribution of schedules. This will reduce errors and eliminate the time spent duplicating entries. It’s an added bonus if this tool can also integrate with other system that you currently use, such as payroll or communication systems.
If you would like to make it easier to access information when making important business decisions, consolidating your schedule information ensures that all such data is easily accessed from a central location. A scheduling solution that includes (or integrates with) payroll and time clock software takes this consolidation to the next level.

 
As 2019 continues to take  hold, we here are QGenda hope that these resolutions help you optimize your scheduling process throughout the year!
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“You’ve never seen a schedule as complicated as ours!”

“You’ve never seen a schedule as complicated as ours!” This is a phrase that we at QGenda hear all the time. Difficult schedules come in all shapes and sizes, but for all schedules, it’s important to take a step back from the complexities and ask why the schedule is so tricky. Sometimes it has to do with provider preferences, sometimes it has to do with an increasing number of locations and services, and often, it is just because rules have been added over time without reconsidering the big picture.
Healthcare is a dynamic landscape, and in regards to physician scheduling, it is not uncommon to keep piling on rules and stipulations as needs arise. This often results in a schedule that is so complicated that there are very few degrees of freedom and where rules exist just because they have been present for so long. This is exactly why you need more than just a piece of software to take on your schedule – you need a partner. QGenda’s experienced consultants are well-versed in industry best practices from routine scheduling items to broader practice management initiatives. This know-how allows your QGenda consultant to work with your group to separate scheduling criteria into requirements and preferences.
After over ten years in the industry, QGenda has refined the task of gathering rules to guide every practice through a documentation process, encouraging the breakdown of rules into basic requirements. For example:
If Dr. A works in Clinic A every Wednesday to see the follow-up patients from his Tuesday OR, a plan needs to be in place for what happens if the OR doesn’t occur on Tuesday. It’s easy to think of this as “OR every Tuesday and Clinic every Wednesday,” but a broader rule of “An OR will always be followed by Clinic A the next day” reduces the chance for errors and defines the rule in a way that’s clear and applicable to future situations.
QGenda’s intake process also consolidates all of your rules in a secure cloud so that you never have to worry about a single member of your team carrying all of them in their head. Furthermore, the controls within QGenda validate that these rules are not violated when you’re building a schedule.
So, is your schedule the most complicated we’ve ever seen? It’s definitely possible, but our team has yet to come across a schedule or a workflow that cannot be enhanced by the use of QGenda.
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Best Practices for Radiology Scheduling

Developing the Radiologist schedule can be a puzzle. While the scheduling process shares characteristics with a number of other medical specialties, radiology schedules are often centered around precise location and staff sub-specialization requirements. Consequently, a seemingly simple change to the schedule can cause a waterfall effect to other services and modalities that need to be covered. Although each radiology practice has its own nuances in the scheduling process, following these scheduling best practices can save your group valuable time, money, and stress:
 
Develop a Scheduling Order.
While scheduling to accommodate provider sub-specialties across locations is not necessarily unique to radiology, it is often most complex in radiology. Radiologists are generally credentialed to work only one particular sub-specialty, with just a few specializing in multiple and able to provide cross-coverage. Thus, defining a set order to build the schedule can offer flexibility while optimizing cross-coverage opportunities. Each schedule build may present different restrictions that call for alterations to this order. For example, vacation one month may make MSK the toughest to assign, whereas another month, more abdominal radiologists may be away.
 
Commit to Requesting and Swapping Rules.
Last-minute vacation requests and changes to the schedule are unavoidable. Due to the strict coverage needs in radiology, the trickle-down effect of a single change can cause havoc on an already-built schedule. However, defining a strong group culture around requesting can help alleviate these last-minute changes. The following are a few common techniques to make the schedule change process more efficient.
(1) Each location may set a maximum number of providers allowed off on any given day so that the schedulers always have ample resources available.
(2) Schedulers may also enforce a standard to collect all requests before the schedule building process begins in order to allow adequate time to gauge the challenges of an upcoming month. For instance, perhaps one particular location will have limited resources and, therefore, should be prioritized in the assignment order during that month’s schedule build.
(3) Additionally, when requesting, providers should make a habit of distinguishing between a simple “off day” and a higher priority conference or tumor board to give additional clarity about their requests.
Having providers engaged in swapping shifts can also mitigate many of these struggles. In smaller practices where cross-coverage is more common, it may be easier and more efficient to have providers communicate amongst themselves to find the necessary backup coverage.
 
Leverage Schedule Validation Tools.
Strong validation tools are critical for radiology scheduling. In the frenzy of maintaining coverage amid waterfall changes, the last thing a scheduler wants to do is spend valuable time and energy actively thinking through each radiologist’s location preference and credentialed specialization. Validation techniques can be as simple as color-coding the staff to their sub-specialty as a visual cue, or as advanced as programmatically only allowing credentialed staff to be assigned to certain services. Beyond that, quick-access reports should be maintained to monitor night call equitability, clinical vs. academic FTEs, and any other pertinent tallies. This helps remove the personal issues from scheduling to increase transparency and ensure provider satisfaction.
 
Of course, these practices merely scrape the surface of the intricacies of a radiology schedule; however, following these guidelines can have a major impact on the efficiency of your radiology scheduling process.
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How QGenda helps reduce physician burnout

Just a few weeks ago, we shared an article from the August 2018 edition of the MGMA Connection, “Keys to reducing and eliminating physician burnout.” This article is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last discussing the serious detrimental effects of burnout on medical professionals, their organizations, and most importantly – their patients. It’s past time to start working towards solutions.
As Jami M. Clark, MHA, FACMPE notes in the article, lack of autonomy and control often contribute to physician burnout, so finding opportunities for balance and joint decision-making between physicians and practice managers can drastically improve morale and subsequent patient care.
“Giving providers the ability to balance their workload is another way to reduce burnout… Allowing physicians to design their schedule can help to reduce chaos, improve work-life balance, and give providers an opportunity to design patient schedules outside the normal 9-to-5 model.”
Here at QGenda, we aim to increase transparency, flexibility, and fairness across your provider scheduling, ultimately improving work-life balance, optimizing your workforce, and helping your team provide the best possible patient care. Here are a few ways our QGenda scheduling platform can help your group reduce burnout:

Automation that accounts for physician preferences
Not only does QGenda’s intelligent, rules-based algorithm include providers’ skill sets, it also accounts for assignment preferences when generating the schedule. For example, if one provider prefers to be scheduled for early morning shifts in order to pick her kids up from school, another provider prefers to work clinic on a specific day, and still another prefers no back-to-back call, those preferences will be considered whenever possible, giving providers more control over shifts worked.

Reduction of time spent on administrative tasks
Administrative duties often either take away face-to-face time with patients or require daunting amounts of time outside of scheduled work hours to complete. Excessive administrative tasks create unnecessary stress and fatigue and reduce the feeling of purpose and connection to work that comes from caring for patients. Automating the provider scheduling process with QGenda significantly reduces administrative time spent creating, managing, and viewing the schedule, meaning more time to spend with patients and more time for providers outside of work.

Autonomous swapping and requesting via mobile device
With the QGenda mobile app, providers can submit shift swaps and vacation requests with the push of a button. Giving providers control over their schedule presents them with a sense of autonomy necessary for maintaining provider satisfaction. Changes to the schedule are reflected in real-time, so there is never time wasted or frustration over searching for the most up-to-date version.

Flexibility of Assignments
QGenda’s software enables an increased level of complexity of shift and task types, allowing for more flexibility of assignments. For example, instead of 24-hour call shifts, QGenda can easily accommodate two separate 12-hour call shifts, giving providers the option to more optimally break up workflow.

Transparency and Equality
Each shift and task in QGenda can be assigned a specific credit value, depending on how desirable or essential it is. Providers can then choose which shifts they prefer to work in order to reach a certain credit value total. For example, picking up an extra holiday shift could be worth more than picking up an extra weekday shift. QGenda keeps reliable statistics of all providers’ totals in order to ensure equality between providers, enhancing transparency and fairness and leading to more satisfied providers.

Our goal is to enable providers and practice managers to work together in finding optimal solutions for reducing burnout in their groups. By automating the scheduling process, increasing transparency and flexibility, and providing more autonomy and control over individual schedules, QGenda reduces stress, gives valuable time back to patient care, and makes lives easier, all contributing to improved work-life balance.
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Is the adoption of new technology a benefit or a hindrance to medical organizations?

Although the need for cost-effective and efficient solutions for the healthcare industry has increased, the industry continues to be perceived as the slowest to adopt new technology. Why?
Reasons why a medical organization may elect not to adopt new technologies vary between cost, time, legality, usefulness, or workflow; however, if a group can overcome these barriers, there are immense potential benefits.
So what are some concerns associated with new technology adoption?

Safety and Security – This is often the main hesitation in deciding to adopt new technology. Unless the new technology has been heavily tested and vouched for, the level of safety and security it upholds can be difficult to demonstrate. Providers and administrators will not risk a patient’s life or safety in the adoption process, nor risk facing the legalities for compromising the security of patient information.
Workflow Disruption – Another persistent fear of new technology is that it will add extra steps into already-established daily workflows and slow down the organization. Workflow disruption is often prevalent during the early stages of new technology implementation, as the group is learning how to best incorporate and use the new technology.
Cost vs. Value – No surprise here, implementing new technology can be a substantial investment for many medical groups. A concern for these groups is whether this new technology will be worth the money given the value it adds, or is the money better used elsewhere?

Each of these concerns should be considered when new technology is introduced; however, technology worth adopting should address these concerns as part of the solution. For example:

Compliance with Safety and Security Standards – For medical groups, patient safety and protection of patient information are of utmost importance. New technologies must first and foremost be able to comply with your group’s predetermined standards, such as HIPAA compliance.  
Centralization of Information – Most new technology utilizes a cloud to store information for easy access anytime, anywhere. Information in the cloud is backed up, so risk of losing important information is significantly reduced. Information is also updated in real-time, ensuring the group always has the most up-to-date and current version — this saves time and frustration, ultimately improving workflow.
Quick and Detailed Data Processing – Having an abundance of information centrally located in the cloud enables quicker, more detailed processing of data that can be used for decision making. Having immediate access to large amounts of data can be especially beneficial for medical groups to make important decisions on organizational processes, scaling business operations, etc., ultimately leading to smarter decisions that save the group money.
Improved Overall Efficiency – Once the learning period is complete, using the new technology should be faster and more efficient than the old method. The new technology may take a portion of the workload and automate it to reduce redundancy, standardize a process to limit the potential for error or deviation, or more effectively allocate resources to eliminate excessive costs. In any case, the new technology should save time and/or money while improving quality, ultimately adding value.

When determining whether or not to adopt a new technology, remember to consider the benefits and value the technology can add to your medical group’s practice. A technology that saves time, money, and improves quality without sacrificing security is a technology worth adopting.
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Best practices for delegating scheduling duties

Provider and staff scheduling, while often overlooked, is an important and necessary area for optimization. Creating an equitable schedule that considers all complexities, such as staff preferences, proper spacing of shifts, or yearly shift quotas, can prove challenging. Add on provider requests, shift trades, and schedule auditing, and the scheduling process has gone from challenging to daunting, especially for one person to manually handle alone. By delegating scheduling duties and assigning out different parts of the schedule workflow, the schedule creation process can become much more efficient.
For larger groups or schedules with a lot of moving parts
It’s best to specialize job responsibilities amongst schedulers. For example, perhaps one scheduler will consider all vacation requests, rejecting or approving accordingly; then, another scheduler will create the schedule; another would be responsible for auditing the schedule and approving trades or additional time-off. The biggest benefit of segmenting scheduling duties is accountability; for example, if pending requests are left in mass on the schedule, the individual in charge of approving requests can be contacted.
For smaller groups or less complex schedules
It’s best to have a single administrator handle all scheduling responsibilities. Beyond a certain group-size threshold, it is actually less efficient to have ‘too many hands in the pot.’ Typically, both group size and schedule workflow complexity dictate this threshold. For example, if a ten-person OB/GYN group’s schedule is templated from week-to-week and the group has a request period of two weeks during the year, it’s probably easiest for a single scheduler to handle all scheduling responsibilities.
As groups grow larger, segmenting scheduling duties becomes increasingly important. Often other hospitals or outside facilities must stay informed of changes to the schedule and need these changes entered into multiple systems. It can become overwhelming for a single scheduler who is already managing requests from 150 providers, creating the schedule, and auditing it to also enter changes into multiple EMRs; therefore, segmenting scheduling duties among multiple schedulers benefits both the schedulers and the group as a whole.
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Weighting scheduling rules. A good or bad idea?

Building a workable schedule can be a challenge. You can save time and energy by having a solution that auto-generates a schedule by analyzing your providers’ rules and availability, but will you be happy with the results? Will your providers be happy? The answer will lie in your scheduling solution’s algorithm and how it processes those final hard-to-fill shifts.
In the world of automated scheduling, vendors fall into two distinct categories. Some weight the rules and break them, where necessary, to guarantee a full schedule, while others exhaust all scheduling possibilities, present to the scheduler any remaining open shifts, and then the scheduler decides on how best to address the few open shifts. So, which philosophy is right for you?
Consider these questions:

Who really knows your providers?
Do you want a program that controls all decisions?
Who best understands the dynamics of your schedule and the shifts?
Is your environment predictable, or is every day unique and complex?

In reality, a program that weights rules is “breaking rules” based on a predetermined set of priorities. If your environment and providers are dynamic, how can you accurately and effectively pre-set, or weight, the rules? Rule weighting and rule-breaking often lead to providers going into incompatible shifts or a schedule that just doesn’t flow correctly. In many cases, the scheduler will be forced to rewrite the schedule in order to make it workable.
Rule weighting “empowers” the program to make the critical decisions based on those fixed priorities; however, many schedulers complain, “…my people and shifts are dynamic. No one understands my providers and each situation better than I do, so let me make those critical decisions.” If this sounds like you, rule weighting and a promise of a “full” schedule is NOT for you.
Many schedulers believe their knowledge and experience is best utilized when the algorithm is allowed to maximize the schedule and allows the scheduler to make final decisions regarding which rules can be broken and which provider goes into any remaining open shifts. Many feel it’s a blend of technology and the scheduler’s knowledge which will lead to real time-savings, and ultimately, the best possible schedule.
So yes, building a workable schedule can be a challenge, but with the appropriate solution, it’s a far from impossible one.
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