Scarborough Hospital deploys scheduling software

A large Toronto hospital has implemented a real-time scheduling system that allows its physicians to manage their own emergency room shifts. The Scarborough Hospital (TSH), which staffs a team of 700 doctors over its two campuses, wanted to give its physician team the flexibility and ease-of-use that comes with an on-demand scheduling tool. The hospital had been using a paper-based system to keep track of all its administrative changes.

“The problem with a paper-based system is that you can’t keep track of your changes, so the moment a schedule gets posted, it becomes outdated,” Jeanie Joaquin, vice-president of patient services at TSH, said. “There are some departments that are scheduling for 60, 70, or 80 physicians and keeping track of who’s doing what can be a very onerous and time consuming process.”

To facilitate the hospital’s need to provide on-call coverage for its patients, as well as, making sure its physicians have the freedom to make changes to their schedules, the TSH implemented an online scheduling module from Montreal-based Chyma Systems. The OnTime! Scheduler gives physicians the opportunity to view upcoming shifts and make shift transactions, while allowing hospital administrations to view month-by-month call and shift schedules for each department.

“In real-time, I’ll know who’s working in my emergency departments today and who’s going to be coming in at night,” Joaquin said. “For the physicians, they’ll know who they are going to be working with in the emergency department and who they might need to talk to if they want to change a shift or two.”

“It’s the one place to find out where all the physicians in my hospital are at any given time and whether there are any potential gaps, holes, or lapses in services that we need to start worrying about.”

Chyma said that most software-as-a-service (SaaS) implementations, such as OnTime!, are contracted out by a particular department within a hospital. The TSH, he said, is one of the first organizations he’s seen to implement an inter-departmental scheduling as a corporate mandate.

“Scarborough’s adoption is really innovative because it’s institution wide and involves multiple facilities,” Mark Gregory, vice-president of marketing and communications at Chyma, said. “And with Ontario lagging behind virtually every other province in Canada in the adoption of innovative technology to improve patient care, this initiative is a good example of what needs to happen a lot more often. Instead of waiting for a massive, quarter billion dollar government health plan that does everything but redecorate your kitchen sink, they have selected this because it excels in an area that they really need help in.”

The TSH also said the system will help keep and attract physicians in their facility and ultimately provide stronger health care coverage for their patients.

“This allows the physicians to worry about doing their jobs and not about the administrative burdens of their roles,” she said. “It’s an Internet-based system that’s very easy to use and self-explanatory. We have senior physicians who have very little knowledge of computers and they’ve been able to access it.”

Thus far, the TSH has only implemented the system within their busy ER departments, but they are planning to branch out to the other general medicine departments soon. The hospital might also consider expanding its use of Chyma tools into areas such as document sharing and instant messaging.

“Two of the highest profile reports that came out of the SARS pandemic a few years ago cited that communications was a major issue for hospitals,” Gregory said. “Scarborough actually came to us initially after SARS and was interest in a communication tool, so as they get more familiar with the scheduling tool, they’ll hopefully utilize other applications.”

Chyma said the OnTime! Scheduler is available on a subscription basis for $14.95 a month per user. The company also has an institution pricing discount for volume customers.

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