Are Agencies Scheduling The Right Way?

For agencies, scheduling clinicians to fulfill patient cases can be stressful and error-prone as they navigate a maze of concurrent text messages, emails and phone conversations with their mobile clinicians.

Agencies end up managing bottlenecks rather than work assignments and it rapidly starts to overshadow the primary mission of the agency: providing exceptional care to patients quickly and without hassle.

Here is the typical case fulfillment workflow:

  1. A referral comes in through either fax, phone or electronic means.
  2. Intake receives the referral and inputs the information into the EMR
  3. The referral is pushed to either a dedicated scheduler, or intake takes on the task of scheduling to assign the patient to the appropriate clinician.
  4. The scheduler identifies which clinicians meet all the patient criteria; such as the right skill set, location, availability, gender, language, and more.
  5. Then begin the texts, emails and phone calls to find the first clinician who is in the right region, is the right discipline, has the right specialties and meets all the necessary constraints the patient requires.

Unfortunately, with little visibility into the other end of these texts and emails and faced with an urgent request, schedulers often need to hedge their bets and find backups — so they send out more texts and emails to other clinicians.

Now it’s a juggling act of concurrent streams of communication that quickly become overwhelming — all just to find someone who can see the patient. At times this job starts to feel more like air traffic control!!

This stress can lead to turnover and a high cost of re-training. When scheduling staff is lost, often times knowledge about region assignments, clinician specialties and preferences goes with them. If a scheduler calls in sick, or quits unexpectedly, it creates headaches trying to find an adequate substitute who can successfully deliver the right clinician to the right patient in a short amount of time.

Do these issues sound familiar?

These issues are familiar to many home health, home care and private duty agencies. This cumbersome scheduling process made a lot of sense when they were first established. But given the strides in technological advancement over the last decade, we really need to take a step back and ask ourselves: Is this still the right way to assign patients?

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