Previously published in Technology for Doctors Online
Written by Susie Lombardi
Doctors who work shifts at their local hospitals need an easy way to make scheduling changes. Most hospitals still use error-prone spreadsheets and require extensive messaging to inform all manner of staff members whenever a change is made. To tackle this, Dr. Rob Horvath (pictured), a Toronto-based ER physician, has developed Medevision, a Web-based system that modernizes the process by automating all the rules and messaging involved in maintaining real-time schedules online. “We recently released a mobile app so doctors can now look up and post schedules on the fly,” says Horvath.
In the past, it was the department chief’s job to create a schedule, and any changes had to be recorded and then communicated to the administrative assistant, switchboard, operating room, ER and other departments, he explains.
“With Medevision, doctors go online and enter their preferences and time off requests, and are given the rules and limits on how many shifts they have to work and can take off, and how many holidays they can take.
Then our system builds a schedule for the group with the assistance of the administrator. Once posted, it’s live for every department to see.”
Even though each department has its own rules and requirements, all the schedules appear in one place and they’re always up-to-date. “Medevision displays it like an airport screen. You can see when all the airplanes are arriving and leaving for each airline. They’re all unrelated to each other but they’re all in one place.”
Trading shifts with other doctors is a simple process. “They propose changes to their colleagues. If they agree, they sign off on it, then messages go to the people that need to know and the master schedule is updated.”
Finding a way to make trading shifts easy was in fact the reason Horvath developed Medevision. “It was my number one issue. The system was built by a doctor for doctors. Other doctors tell me they really like our trading feature and it works well with their workflow.”
Another feature is the hospital-wide Locate feature that allows every hospital staff member to view schedules and find specific doctors. “It also gives doctors and the staff interesting new ways to be able to view their colleague’s schedules. For example, I can overlay my schedule on top of a colleague’s schedule and then the two of us can discuss how can we cover each other.”
Horvath says administrators are impressed with the sophisticated algorithms Medevision uses to automate all the complicated rules around scheduling. “It builds schedules based upon all sorts of rules, metrics, time away requests, preferred times – all these factors are taken into account. I haven’t seen any other system out there that’s operating at Medevision’s level right now.”
And Medevision is very affordable. “It costs about ten to twelve dollars per doctor per month. In hospitals, we have a sliding scale depending on the numbers.”
Implementing and moving onto Medevision for scheduling needs to be a group decision made by everyone in the department. “If 40 doctors see it and we show them all it can do, it’s a no-brainer implementing it in one department.”
But the best-case scenario for simplifying scheduling for everyone is a hospital-wide decision to move to one system so all staff can view every department’s schedules. But there can be problems getting multiple departments all to agree to use one system because some areas may already be using a different system.
“To deal with this, we offer a feature that allows hospitals to import their data from various schedule formats into Medevision, even if it’s just in Excel, but it’s not going to be as good for those doctors because they’re not going to be able to use the trading features. And we can sync to other hospital systems if need be.
Despite these challenges, Medevision is being used in many major hospitals across Ontario and in other provinces, in one or more departments. “About 50 medical institutions are using it, including North York General, Sunnybrook, Mount Sinai and Ornge.”
In the future, Horvath plans to develop a version of Medevision for nurse scheduling to simplify this equally complex area of hospital management. “The biggest pressure on hospitals is nurse scheduling, and it’s a big landmine. A tremendous amount of work and effort goes into scheduling nurses, and if you look at the number one grievance amongst nurses today, it relates to their schedules. We are currently working with a nurse consultant to help us address this.”