The need for streamlined processes and efficiencies is becoming more evident in emergency departments (ED) that face unique challenges and fluctuating patient volumes on a daily basis. One source of frustration in the ED is lack of resources and issues with scheduling given the variability that occurs as patient volumes change. In response to this challenge, Intermedix, a health technology provider, recently released their latest version of their Tool for Optimizing Provider Schedules (TOPS). TOPS is a resource optimization solution built to fine-tune scheduling efforts and improve workloads to ensure the right staff is available at the right time for the right patient. We had the opportunity to sit down with Justin Schaper, Senior Vice President of Analytics at Intermedix to talk more about how the resource scheduling tool is creating efficiencies in the ED and in turn improving the patient experience. Here’s what he had to say:
Shayda Windle (SW): How is TOPS creating efficiencies for healthcare providers and improving the patient experience?
Justin Schaper (JS): TOPS helps manage unpredictability and lets medical directors anticipate and plan for the frequent demand and acuity changes they experience on a daily basis. Medical directors now have a dependable resource that helps them accurately determine what optimal scheduling designs look like for any given timeframe, while taking historical data and past trends into account. They can use TOPS to configure parameters such as hourly rates and volume changes, study calculated values such as provider productivity, and manage the addition, change or removal of shifts. Effectively dealing with these challenges can improve the quality of patient care as well as the financial operation and viability of the emergency department.
SW: How does TOPS provide visuals to medical directors?
JS: TOPS is organized as a series of user-friendly control panels, tables and graphs that medical directors can easily utilize. The solution’s intuitive dashboards and heat maps display key data and changing patterns in patient arrivals by the hour, week or year. The dashboard provides multiple scenario views that allow medical directors to determine the possible outcomes of different situations.
SW: TOPS has recently been enhanced with an auto-optimizer. How will this new functionality help healthcare providers make more informed decisions?
JS: Previously medical directors had to spend time manually inputting coverage parameters and operational constraints into TOPS, and would then receive feedback on ideal coverage design based on what they had submitted. With the auto-optimizer, TOPS can look at historical data and perform complex analytics functions to provide the best solutions when it comes to coverage and staffing. This new capability gives the most reliable recommendation when it comes to planning, which will help medical directors make decisions that fully meet and are tailored to the needs of their emergency departments.
SW: How is TOPS improving the patient experience?
JS: By focusing in on narrowed data sets for accuracy and precision, TOPS can identify trends in patient acuity and types of visits. This helps medical directors understand how sick or injured a patient may be when they enter the emergency department, and ensures that the best-suited provider type is on schedule at that time so the patient’s needs can be met and they can receive maximum care. For instance, patients that can be seen by mid-level practitioners are put in one category and those who require physician care are placed in another.
SW: How does TOPS help healthcare providers leverage data more effectively to optimize coverage scheduling?
JS: Traditionally, average or aggregated data has been used when looking at coverage planning; however this approach often prevents medical directors from factoring in the variability they typically face. TOPS leverages granular data to recognize trends that can help schedule coverage more appropriately.
An example would be looking at provider capacity and how shift performance changes over a period of time based on analysis of schedules and hours worked. TOPS can show when physicians will be at their most effective and when additional staff or coverage may be required based on the time of day. Using this data, medical directors can match patient type to provider type.
Granular data also provides flexibility and delivers unique analytical capabilities for medical directors when they need to compare different medical scenarios. By using a granular data approach, medical directors can determine potential outcomes and gain a better understanding of capacity and patient flow.