The Importance of an Automated Scheduler: Improving healthcare organisation structure and patient care delivery

The organizational structure of a healthcare facility is closely related to the quality of its patient care delivery. In Professional Dominance: The social structure of medical care (Taylor & Francis, 2006, reprint 2017), Eliot Freidson sheds light on the importance of a well-structured healthcare organizational system in the improvement of serious social problems proper to the American society. Healthcare professionals (doctors, practitioners, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) often form specialized teams to offer personalized quality care for patients. As argued by Kevin Grumbach, MD; Thomas Bodenheimer, MD(2004), developing and implementing these multidisciplinary teams requires clear goals with measurable outcomes, well-defined administrative and organizational structure, division of labour, training, and effective communication.

Finding and creating a (near-) perfect schedule for all the complex mesh of teams, units, and categories proper to the healthcare organisational structure necessary for quality patient care delivery comes with its share of major challenges. The good news is: HR managers, administrators and switchboard operators working within a healthcare environment can easily keep the balance between their staff, healthcare professionals, and organisation’s needs, through the implementation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) scheduling system, such as MESH AIIn doing so, they would also increase the quality of patient care delivery. As a state-of-the-art smart scheduler, MESH AI stands out from the lot with its particularly unique ability to automate all the communications and schedules created within its platform, while keeping administrators and managers in full control of their units and staff.

Why MESH AI?

There are a few different automated scheduling tools available on the market, but not all are equally performant, sophisticated, and easy to use. Launched in July 2017, MESH AI, an innovative Canadian company, is the ideal one-stop, dynamic, and fully-automated shift scheduler and communication tool for healthcare, emergency and social service organisations. Designed for these highly collaborative environments, MESH AI promotes fairness and efficiency, while allowing healthcare teams to interact, swap shifts and modify their schedules to provide better patient care. Offering an attractive, affordable, and sophisticated interface, MESH AI is a cloud-based and lightweight software available as an application (iOS and Android) and web platform. Both the app and the web platform are easy to use and do not require any installation.

AI and State-of-the-Art Algorithms

Setting MESH AI above all other schedulers on the market, the MESH Autoscheduler — a proprietary and mathematically near-optimal algorithmic engine — puts an end to the daunting and outdated scheduling process, which is traditionally done by hand (pencil and paper/spreadsheet). With Canarmonizer, MESHAI eliminates scheduling errors and discrepancies by taking shifts, team rosters and rulesets proper to an organisation, to quickly generate the best possible schedules with near-mathematical optimality. MESH Autoscheduler accommodates healthcare professionals, staff, managers and administrators’ priorities, availabilities, and preferences, with fairness, by the click of a button. It also suggests replacements when changes are needed, while instantly keeping everyone informed.

Pre-Scheduling Features

MESH AI facilitates pre-schedule communications by integrating all labour regulations and healthcare professionals and staff requests on one platform, before implementing a hierarchical system of priorities composed of hard and soft rules. These rules are then used by MESH Autoscheduler to assign people to shifts. MESH AI builds schedules around hard rules — rules that should never be broken or violated (e.g., HR policies, union requirements, organisation’s rules, etc.). Soft rules are more flexible and less important; they are accommodated secondary to hard rules to further provide flexibility to the organization while also allowing every employee to have a say in when they will work.  

Through MESH AI’s ‘Request’ feature, healthcare professionals and staff can inform their team administrator of days that they cannot work (i.e. vacation, study day, conference, etc.), as well as their work preferences (e.g., morning, five days a week, prefer not to work on Tuesdays, etc.). Once approved by the administrator, for example, MESH Autoscheduler will process a ‘cannot work’ request as a hard rule while a preference to not work on Wednesdays as a soft rule.  With its centralised set of rules and requests, MESH AI and its MESH Autoscheduler allow a smooth and effortless creation of schedule that includes both the organisation and the staff and healthcare professionals’ priorities and preferences. As a result, not only does MESH AI simplifies the pre-scheduling process, but it also provides the best possible schedule, which improves the organisation and its staff and healthcare professionals’ work conditions and environment. MESH AI can directly improve employees’ performance and job satisfaction by giving all staff a sense of control over the time of work.

Schedule Generation Utility: Templates and clusters

Administrators and managers can create their team’s schedules on MESH AI from a pre-programmed template, which includes recurring periodical shifts, jobs, and positions defined within the healthcare organisation’s team, rules, and regulations. MESH AI also offers a ‘Cluster’ feature allowing administrators and managers to group a series of shifts from the schedule template and assign them to the same healthcare professional and/or staff within a given team, in certain intervals. MESH Autoscheduler will then add these clusters to the organisation’s rules that must be prioritized before generating the best possible schedule.

Post-Scheduling Features: Instant schedule updates and synchronization

Not only does MESH AI process all the work preferences and vacation requests of a team, but it also allows staff to self-manage emergency and sick leaves by swapping shifts among themselves on the ‘Shift Bazaar’ (with or without managerial approval, depending on the organisation's preferences). MESH AI also offers its users a constant access to the latest published schedules on both their computers, through its lightweight web interface, as well as their smartphones and tablets, through iOS and Android apps. All MESH AI schedules can also be uploaded to and accessed on your favourite calendar apps, such as iCal, Google Cal, and Outlook.

Dynamic, Built-in Messaging System

Functioning as a live-chat/text-messaging platform, MESH AI’s internal messaging system, ‘MESHage,’ allows team members to discuss all work-related issues, such as schedules, sick leaves, confirmations, and replacements, on one centralised messaging system. Also, MESH AI ‘On-Boarding’ feature provides an announcement board where administrators can publish special and/or important information to their teams to keep everyone informed and up-to-date. These announcements and messages include new schedule publications, new team member addition, and changes in the organisation’s rules and regulations. MESHage and On-boarding functionalities improve communication within a team by eliminating the hassles of phone calls and emails. Optimizing the time and resources of a healthcare organisation, they help health professionals and staff do what they do best: provide quality patient care.

MESH AI vs. Other Prominent Healthcare Scheduling Systems

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing a scheduling platform that suits an organisation’s needs, such as its team size and requirements related to post-scheduling changes. Ideal for the healthcare sector, MESH AI stands out for its affordability, dynamic features, and state-of-the-art Canarmonizer engine.

Team Size and Organisation Rules and Regulations

For larger organisations with less financial concerns, Kronos would be a suitable scheduling tool, as it possesses a long-standing experience with large teams, and provides various options and custom tools that cover an assortment of HR restrictions and preferences. Deputy is equally popular with larger industries; although more affordable than Kronos, it accommodates fewer HR limitation types than MESH AI.

Post-Scheduling Features: Shift swaps

While a good schedule helps a better workflow, on some occasions, last-minute schedule changes need to be applied. Post-schedule features such as ‘shift swapping’ become essential to finding a replacement or modifying operations in a timely manner. Zoomshift offers a simple shift exchange space to facilitate the shift replacement process. Although this tool provides scheduling templates, it is not capable of providing the full automation and flexibility of MESHAI. Life does not happen on a schedule; work needs and requirements are always changing to accommodate demands and resources. With MESHAI, managers and administrators can respond to all such variations by adding and/or removing rules from an easy-to-use menu.

Schedule Generation Utility: Templates

For smaller teams, with a generally regular schedule, a smart tool with manual drag and drop employee-to-shift assignment is good enough; however, for larger teams in organisations with many rules, constraints, and divisions of labour, an intelligent and automated tool that takes into account the healthcare professionals’ and staffs’ availabilities and skills becomes essential. To that end, Humanity provides the basics of an intelligent scheduler, as it is programed to fill the shifts. Nevertheless, MESH AI remains the best tool for healthcare sectors as it integrates healthcare professionals and staff’s needs (via both hard and soft rules), preferences, and type of labour within the organisation’s rules and regulations and scheduling style; ultimately, MESH AI improves everyone’s work conditions as well as patient care delivery.

To help guide your selection of an intelligent scheduler, we have compiled a table comparing MESH AI’s features with other prominent intelligent scheduler. For more information, contact us at [email protected] or visit help.meshai.io. Our team is ready to help: let us add harmony to your healthcare workspace.

 

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Joseph Lee