The Challenge

When not with patients, Dr. Claudia F. Olson, MD, must find time to assess expected workloads by location and specialty so she can add or subtract applicable providers and shifts to ensure optimal coverage. But physicians often specify preferences such as “no Sundays” or “no evenings,” and unexpected changes require juggling schedules in this rotating shift environment. Dr. Olson must ensure fair and equitable scheduling for all providers, publish and republish dynamic schedules, and track providers’ work products for payroll purposes.

Using Microsoft Excel for employee scheduling, Dr. Olson was spending unnecessarily long hours at these detailed and complex tasks. “Excel is clunky in this application,” she says. “Juggling all those factors for two clinic locations was dicey. Three were unmanageable. Handling four would have been impossible.

“Accommodating physician’s preferences and changes in Excel was a huge hassle requiring several worksheets. I had to put different providers in different-colored fonts, which wasn’t clear so people couldn’t always tell whether, when, and where they were working. In printouts, I had to manually highlight each provider in a separate color. Then, verifying thorough coverage and totalling hours for payroll added another five or six hours per week. I was always up late.”

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The Solution

Dr. Olson drew up specifications for the ideal staff scheduling software. “It had to drag and drop, have colors, and be fast and intuitive to use and make changes in our dynamically changing environment,” she says.

“After a month’s searching and software trials, we had tested basic and complex employee scheduling software, going through tutorials and actually applying their tools hands-on to our real-world applications. Some were overly complex and expensive. Others required pointless data entry into fields we didn’t need—but would have had to fill in and pay for.

“We downloaded a trial version of Snap Schedule and that was our answer. The first thing I noticed was that it is easy to visualize quickly. Staff and I see a provider’s name, look across and see her schedule for a month at a time. In the past, they used to have to look every day.” Snap Schedule is developed, marketed and supported by Business Management Systems (BMS) of Anaheim, California, USA.

The Benefits

“The hours I save are tremendous,” says Dr. Olson, “and that is still improving. I can spend more time with patients. Even though a clinic’s dynamic conditions force us to constantly tweak schedules, I still save 50 percent of the previous time spent in scheduling.

“Snap Schedule is exactly designed to cover handle our biggest need—which was Excel’s biggest weakness—multiple locations,” she says. “I can easily put in scheduled vacations, sudden requests for days off and sick days. I put in meetings and CME time as shifts and I can repeat patterns I set up. We easily see if any shift at any location isn’t correctly covered and it alerts me if I try to mis-schedule someone.

“I can look down the side and see how many hours I have people working at which location. Colors tell people where they’re going on which days, and all parties can see that no provider is working extra hours except by request. Then I email schedules to providers so they see them immediately, which is really helpful. And I can already tell it will be easy to teach another person to use. I wish we’d had it years ago.”