How Optimized Physician Scheduling Boosts Hospital Productivity


Reducing costs and improving hospital productivity remain high on the list of yearly objectives for hospital executives thanks to an ongoing physician shortage, declining operating incomes, lowering reimbursements, and smaller patient volumes.

In 2022, the average cost of labor budgets hovered at more than 50% of hospital expenses.1 Many hospitals in the US use contract labor (think contract nurses and locum tenens providers) to close gaps caused by consistent staffing shortages.2

From 2019 to 2022, contract labor expenses for hospitals exploded by 258%.

The combination of high labor demands and low supply can lead to increased provider frustration and elevated burnout rates, and it can also strain a hospital’s budget.

One of the underlying themes here is that your scheduling system better be able to keep up with the pace of change. If you’re using an outdated or inefficient system that hands out inequitable schedules when resources are strained, the consequences will be very real.

Health systems need a scheduling solution that builds equitable schedules that account for provider preferences to cut costs and boost hospital productivity as a whole.

Three Ways Optimized Provider Scheduling Improves Hospital Productivity

Hospitals and health systems that optimize provider scheduling can see increased productivity across their organization by way of:

  1. Reduced time spent creating increasingly complex clinical schedules
  2. Improved provider satisfaction and a decrease in costly clinical turnover
  3. A greater understanding of clinician supply and patient demand

Reducing Time Spent Creating Complex Schedules

Many factors contribute to the time it takes to build schedules:

Manually creating clinical schedules based on these factors can take hundreds of hours per year, not to mention the added complexity of scheduling locum positions across multiple locations. 

Simply put, without technology, this is an understandably taxing and risk-heavy endeavor. 

Even so, 45% of US hospitals still create schedules with workflows that involve some combination of spreadsheets, note pads, and fax machines.4 Often, this falls on the shoulders of a senior physician, which diverts their time away from direct patient care.

Automating this process reduces the headache of manual scheduling and gives time back to physicians and schedulers. As just one example, Lightning Bolt helped UK HealthCare’s hospitalist division rebuild their scheduling process and reduce time spent managing schedules by 82%.

Increase Provider Satisfaction and Decrease Costly Turnover

Poor scheduling practices often leave providers unsatisfied, working inequitable shifts, and lacking a sufficient amount of control over their schedule.

This can easily lead to a decrease in provider satisfaction and a higher likelihood of turnover, which costs health systems an average of $1.2 million per physician.5

The growing cost of physician recruitment shows no signs of slowing down. New data projects a shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032.6 Hospitals and health systems need to consider how optimized scheduling can create a better practice experience for providers by giving them:

  • More schedule transparency
  • More clinical time with patients
  • The ability to indicate scheduling preferences
  • Easy access to their schedule from any location
  • The ability to quickly submit shift-swap and time-off requests
  • Confidence that their on-call and shift schedules are equitable

As another concrete example, Lightning Bolt helped Clear Medical Imaging automate their process for time-off requests to greatly boost provider satisfaction. Simple administrative processes like these should not be sources of frustration!

Added benefits like those listed above can greatly increase satisfaction and retention, meaning less turnover and increased productivity across departments. Without optimized scheduling, how much money could your organization lose this year to turnover?

Align Clinician Supply with Patient Demand

Improving retention and provider satisfaction are critical to hospital productivity, but having enough providers to cover patient demand is the central piece to providing high-quality, timely patient care.

Because patient demand fluctuates, hospital leaders must have access to insightful, real-time data to make any number of decisions that impact productivity and cost throughout the organization. 

Optimized scheduling software can provide a detailed look at advanced workforce analytics. Using prescriptive analytics, optimized scheduling can assist in aligning clinician supply with patient demand to avoid patient leakage and optimize the use of your most valuable resource—clinical staff. 

With this data, hospitals can analyze gaps in care efficiency to cut waste, boost productivity, and increase patient access. Easily answer difficult operations questions like:

  • On which days are the number of clinicians on staff above and below what we need to handle our daily patient appointments?
  • How close did we get to meeting patient demand this year compared to last year?
  • What is the expected number of appointments seen per provider based on their schedule?

With rules that consider clinician productivity and specializations, optimized scheduling helps healthcare organizations schedule their clinical workforce as efficiently as possible.

How to Enhance Health System Scheduling Practices

Improving hospital productivity is a lofty goal with many elements. Efficient scheduling can help align each element within the hospital system, from provider schedules to meeting patient demands and cutting unnecessary costs.

If you’re ready to automate and optimize your scheduling practices, reach out to us today to learn more, or request a demo to see Lightning Bolt in action.


  1. Massive Growth in Expenses and Rising Inflation Fuel Continued Financial Challenges for America’s Hospitals and Health Systems, AHA:
  2. 2024 State of Locum Tenens Report, CHG Healthcare:
  3. Hospitals’ labor costs increased 258% over the last three years, Healthcare Finance:
  4. Experts: Rethinking Provider Scheduling Alleviates Headaches, Turnover,
  5. The Real Cost of Vacancies and Provider Turnover, Weatherby Healthcare:
  6. New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage, AAMC:

Ready to see us in action?

Get a demo of Lightning Bolt's platform.