For surgeons to perform their best work, they need a crack support team. Their glory in the OR is dependent on behind-the-scenes heroes, that include incredible schedulers coupled with effective scheduling technology. Naturally, surgeons want to be able to view their upcoming schedule and to be kept in the loop regarding changes and critical updates. But providing surgeons with *on demand* access to their schedules is not always so simple.
Too often, we’ve seen outdated tools and strategies grandfathered in from the past thwarting the hard work of schedulers.
Stop making surgical scheduling difficult
- Top of our list of the scheduling no-no’s is the “whiteboard-masquerading-as-calendar” scenario. The heyday of the whiteboard is long gone. Keeping a handwritten schedule up-to-date is inefficient and inconvenient, and it’s way too easy to make mistakes and scrub the wrong data.Don’t forget, displaying sensitive patient information in public is a HIPAA violation and something to avoid. Save the whiteboard for the restaurant specials and keep it out of the office.
Save the whiteboard for restaurant specials, not surgical schedules
- Then there’s the “typed or handwritten schedule” frustration in which schedulers are toiling away to create new timetables on a weekly or daily basis (at least they are portable, unlike the whiteboard).
- Finally, there’s the noble “trying-to-push-Excel-to its limits” method of scheduling. This just leads to confusing, heavy and cumbersome files that are a pain to navigate, awkward to follow and prone to errors. (Not to mention the hours of manual entry and manipulation involved).
Not what Excel was designed for
Old scheduling habits die hard
The ‘culprit’ behind these methods is often the surgeon. They’re used to receiving their schedule on a physical printout, or even a photocopy of a handwritten calendar – and expect that service to continue. The fact that there are often last-minute adjustments or cancellations that create panic for everyone, is just a fact of the working day, isn’t it?
Perhaps they don’t like change – even when it’s for the better. But if you want to increase efficiency, convenience and transparency, these outmoded scheduling systems have just got to go.
Options aplenty, but which one is right?
So what are your options?
Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook are good choices. They allow multiple users to access the same calendar across a range of platforms, including smartphones. They offer clear and easy-to-see color coding, so anyone with access to the document can view changes or updates in real time.
Google Calendar, especially, has a variety of useful features that lends itself to effective planning. Users can attach files directly to an event so that any relevant information is easily accessible. There are notifications to remind users about upcoming events and update when there are changes.
Google Calendar has some great features, shame it’s not HIPAA compliant
However, the major downside of programs like these is their lack of security. Like the whiteboards of yore, Google Calendar and Outlook are not (dare we say it!) HIPAA compliant. So if your surgeons are accessing patient data on their smartphones through either of these applications, you are potentially exposing your practice to a regulatory infraction.
It is important to note that Google recently added an option for surgical practices to purchase an Enterprise level product, GSuite, and sign a BAA in order to protect the data and make it HIPAA compliant. However, this is not out-of-the-box functionality, and also needs to be setup with business domain emails that are hosted by Google, and not personal emails. Outlook 365 offers a similar setup, but again, this is not part of the core product.
Choose a dedicated, HIPAA compliant surgical scheduling calendar
The best way to keep the surgeons’ schedules transparent and secure is with a purpose-designed, surgical scheduling calendar (yes, this actually exists!) Dedicated surgical calendars allow schedulers to input block time for each surgeon at multiple facilities, so open slots are easily identified and can be filled in seconds. When those inevitable changes arise, block time can be quickly redistributed.
Surgimate’s Calendar allows you to manage multiple schedules with ease
The big plus with solutions like Surgimate is that all patient demographic and insurance information is integrated from the EHR or PM system, so there’s no double entry.
When it comes to providing your surgeon with a way to view their schedule, Surgimate offers a host of options. Whether your surgeons are tech-savvy and like viewing everything on their smartphone, or they still prefer an old-school printout to take into the OR, Surgimate has options to cover all bases. A physical printout can be generated in a daily or weekly view. Lots of data can be included in this report such as CPT & ICD-10 codes, insurance type, and the patient’s phone number for post surgery follow-up.
Surgimate’s Daily Surgery Report – one of several outputs available
Communicating with surgeons on-the-go
|For the smartphone loving surgeon, accessing their schedule has never been better than with Surgimate’s HIPAA compliant app. SurgiApp uses color coding to denote block time, surgeries and personal appointments. Even better, the surgeon can send information back to the schedulers through the app – e.g. confirming that the procedure was performed- making the billing process far more efficient.
For the back office, communicating last minute cancellations and changes are no longer a nightmare. With SurgiApp, surgeons receive instant updates and notifications about any changes, on-the-fly.
By implementing planning tools that allow schedulers to make changes and updates without working up a sweat, your practice can save wasted time, frustration and annoyance for surgeons and patients alike. It also means that potential crises and conflicts are quickly solved or averted completely, leaving staff free to focus on the million and one other things they have to do each day.