Organization Matters: The Benefits of an Automated Cloud Scheduling System for Healthcare Stakeholders

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A healthcare provider’s quality of patient care is intertwined with their level of organization. The strong link between the quality of management and the quality of patient care implies that when staff members feel appreciated, job performance increases. In a 2001 article written by Elizabeth West, a senior research fellow at the Royal College of Nursing Institute, “the structural features of the organization and the processes it employs partially determine the subjective experiences of workers (staff outcomes) such as job satisfaction and morale, and contribute to organizational outcomes such as difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff.” West believed that the organization of a healthcare facility ultimately can lead to better staff outcomes, thus improving patient care. As can be seen in Figure 1 below, the independent variables related to organization connect to both staff and organizational outcomes. These outcomes in turn reflect the quality of care patients receive. A low-quality organizational structure will cause poor organizational outcomes as well as create a poor workplace environment. Negative relationships between organizations and medical staff such as doctors ultimately negatively impact the relationship between doctors and patients. Research has shown that a stronger relationship between managerial and medical staff increases job satisfaction and in turn positively impacts the doctor-patient relationship.

 

Figure 1: Proposed model of the organizational impacts on quality of patient care

This being said, it can be assumed that a scheduling system improves management only for those that are directly impacted by the schedules, such as the staff members being scheduled and the administrators who create it. However, implementing the proper tools, such as anartificial intelligence (AI) system, into a healthcare organization improves company morale by completing tedious tasks, such as scheduling, which ultimately saves money. Artificial intelligence systems eliminate tedious tasks and allow your staff to be able to focus on the more important parts of their job. The use of proper managerial tools allows for increased revenue due to artificial intelligence systems efficiencies, as well as the ability to review various analytics which will help continue to keep costs low. Artificial intelligence systems also allow for the elimination of human error, which ultimately leads to less workplace accidents. It is estimated that 14% of wasted healthcare spending is the result of inefficient administration. Features such as a automated scheduling system allow your healthcare facility to run smoother than ever, by eliminating monotonous work and improving employer/employee relationships. This in turn allows your team to be able to spend more time focusing on patient care.

How a Scheduling System Can Help You

Advanced technologies and intelligent tools create value for all stakeholders in a healthcare system. While patients in need are the ultimate recipients of value, clinicians, nurses, residents, administrative staff, and budget holders will all receive benefits in a variety of ways. Let’s have a closer look at the added value of a cloud-based- also known as software as a service or SaaS- scheduling software for those involved in the delivery of care.

Clinicians

Having a real-time scheduling system allows clinicians to always be up-to-date in terms of their shifts and those of their colleagues no matter when and how they check them. This will eliminate errors and issues related to schedule changes for all. It also allows them to plan their personal life accordingly. With the ability to easily create a schedule far in advance using automated scheduling tools, physician satisfaction will increase dramatically. The right platform will be able to allow them to plan their vacations well in advance while also make last-minute changes and swaps when life brings about surprises. Some software tools even allow staff to request their schedule ‘preferences’; this will further provide a tool to achieve better work-life balance for all. According to a national study of burnout in a large sample of US physicians from all specialty disciplines, roughly 45% of physicians reported at least 1 symptom of burnout. The study reports that the specialities with the highest satisfaction of work-life balance also reported the lowest burnout rates. Many physicians find that they are generally more satisfied when using an automated scheduling system, therefore increasing overall patient care and hospital revenue.

 

Nurses

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As with doctors, a scheduling system would also allow nurses to know exactly when they need to be at work. Long hours and unequal schedules can lead to a dissatisfaction amongst nurses and other healthcare practitioners. A study on nursing schedules revealed that nurses worked longer than scheduled and that approximately 40% of the nurses logged shifts longer than twelve hours. Working long hours causes nurses to be at risk of making errors in the workplace. Healthcare scheduling tools have been shown to reduce stress levels by 35%; an automatic scheduling software can improve shift and commitment distributions among colleagues while also promoting a culture of fairness and transparency that goes even farther.

Human Resources

It typically takes in the order of 25 hours to create a two-week schedule and handle scheduling conflicts that may arise based on a team of around 100 people. Cloud-based scheduling systems can save schedulers and HR professionals hundreds of hours a year by creating efficiencies in i) communications required prior to shift assignments, ii) schedule creation, iii) sharing and communicating the assignments, and iv) communications required to handle changes and swap requests.

Automated schedulers can dramatically improve the speed and quality of shift assignments done by HR. It is no longer ‘impossible’ to create equitable shifts for all while also fully accommodating the organizational constraints. With proper scheduling and the ability to equalize shifts between staff members, employee-employer relationships have been shown to improve by 20%. Shift-swapping platforms included in some scheduling systems allow for employees to trade shifts with or without administrator approval. Taking these into consideration, an automated scheduling system allows you to spend working hours on other important tasks, ultimately saving you time and money- not to forget saving you from angry staff accusing you of favoritism. AI tools do the hard work while you are still in full control. Analytics platforms provided in some scheduling platforms not only show everyone how they stack up against others in the organization in terms of their job assignments, but also, allow managers to optimize their rosters and improve payroll numbers.

Switchboard Operators

Cloud-based scheduling systems allow switchboard operators to see when staff members are on and off shift, making it easier for them to direct calls to employees and page the right people for any time interval. Switchboard operators in healthcare organizations are able to see when doctors and other staff members are on-call at specific times, eliminating related errors: this is a life-saving aspect of an always-on real-time platform showing correct and up-to-date shift information across a hospital, for example. Not only does this make the jobs of switchboard operators easier, but also it improves patient and third-party experience for those needing to reach a clinician or practitioner quickly from inside or outside the unit.

Information Technology (IT)

From an IT standpoint, cloud-based automated scheduling systems are a blessing all around. By investing in a proper scheduling system, IT staff are no longer involved in the issues related to hardware maintenance as computing and data-base components are all handled by the scheduling software service provider. They, in turn, can focus more on aiding other aspects of the hospital hardware and software needs. Some cloud-based (software as a service or SaaS) scheduling systems offer full-support concierge services. Thus, your IT department in effect outsources all scheduling support. This is another area of major savings in terms of operational costs. 

Which Scheduling System?

While there are a dozen SaaS schedulers that can address some of the issues and challenges in our overburdened healthcare networks, MESH AI stands out as the superior solution. It is an innovative scheduling software designed by healthcare professionals that focuses specifically on the everyday life of doctors, nurses, medical residents, healthcare administrators, and social workers. The automated scheduling engine known as ‘MESH Autoscheduler’ easily creates a perfectly distributed schedule for your healthcare facility. MESH AI takes into account employee requests, time-offs, and job qualifications both when automatically creating a schedule or if an administrator decides to manually create a schedule. MESH AI also allows for “Smart Suggestions” that help you choose the perfect employee for any given shift. You can easily add shifts to your unpublished schedule on busy days or manually add in people before automatically making the rest of the schedule. You are always in control with a total of 4 automated/manual schedule creation options.

MESH AI’s shift swapping feature known as the “Shift Bazaar” allows employees to easily trade shifts amongst one another. This eliminates the hassle of administrators or staff members having to find someone to cover last minute shift changes. Staff members can swap shifts with or without administrator approval depending on your organization preferences. By allowing staff members to trade shifts amongst themselves transparently, employee conflicts are dramatically reduced while administrators’ productivity soars. Happier staff are shown through numerous studies to create more value and also better retention. Staff retention is a major challenge for today’s gig economy across all sectors.

With MESH AI, you are able to see who is on call at any given time via any device connected to the internet (e.g., via your computers, tablets, and smartphones). Unlike some alternatives available, mobile apps designed for MESH AI are ‘native” apps designed for optimal functionality over both iOS and Android phones. And they are free; many alternative platforms charge extra to provide mobile app access. You will also always know when you are on call by synchronizing your schedule to your favourite external calendar (Outlook, Apple, Google). Though, MESH AI comes equipped with a calendar. The built-in communication platform, dubbed MESHage system, allows MESH AI to serve as a “one-stop shop” for all your scheduling needs, giving you the ability to message one person or your entire staff in regards to their availabilities, vacations, shift trades, or any other issues. MESH AI allows you to have many different teams under one organization, keeping all your medical units separate from one another, but allows administrators to oversee all of them. The platform is also equipped with a simple on-boarding and training feature. There, you can conveniently post any important information to your staff on one team or for the whole organization.

MESH AI strives to make scheduling easy and user-friendly. Our system has been designed so that you have all the resources you need in order to create the perfect schedule for your healthcare facility. The MESH AI team enables your organization to excel and succeed while keeping people happy and costs low!

Rebecca Bertani