Shift scheduling in radiology is notoriously complex. It’s a task typically reserved only for tenured physicians or administrators with deep knowledge of how their teams operate. No one else, it seems, could possibly navigate that labyrinth.
The result, however, is often a time-consuming, inefficient process that would have anyone close to pulling their hair out.
But with the advent of new AI-powered physician scheduling software, radiology scheduling might now be easier—and more cost-effective—than previously thought. Let’s explore some of the most persistent challenges in radiology scheduling and ask how new methods help radiology groups and departments tackle them.
Common challenges in radiology shift scheduling
Scheduling shifts for radiologists is a major balancing act, with multiple, often contradicting, variables at play:
1. Need for subspecialists to evaluate different image exam types
Many image exam types and interventional procedures require specific radiology subspecialists who must be available to meet demand.
2. Multiple locations to manage
Radiologists typically cover multiple locations, which can make it difficult to sort out who’s going where, and at what time.
3. Fluctuating patient demand
Patient volume and needs can be unpredictable, so schedulers must be prepared to make unexpected scheduling adjustments without disrupting operations.
4. Physician preference and work-life balance
Schedulers must also account for individual physicians’ schedule preferences and time-off requests and ensure adequate spacing between long shifts and equitable on-call scheduling.
Despite this complexity, the majority of radiology groups today schedule their physicians manually—that is, by hand, spreadsheet, or Excel sheet—instead of using optimized shift scheduling software and techniques.
Manual scheduling, however, leaves gaps in patient care, contributes to physician burnout, and doesn’t maximize existing physician resources. Countless variables and a lack of predictability are too much for administrators to manage effectively, eating away at schedulers’ valuable time.
The benefits of optimized radiology shift scheduling
When talking about optimized shift scheduling, it’s important to differentiate it from automated shift scheduling—a prevalent practice in healthcare today. While perhaps more efficient than scheduling by hand, automated scheduling doesn’t adequately consider the nuances present in a field like radiology. Automated scheduling takes the criteria that you’ve set and simply chooses the first possible option to set the schedule.
Optimized scheduling goes several steps further.
With optimized scheduling, you prioritize rules on the back end, and the software generates the best possible schedule based on your criteria. With optimized scheduling, AI does the hardest work for you so that you can generate schedules that meet your unique group, department, and/or practice’s needs with just the click of a button.
With the kind of power you get from AI-optimized scheduling, you can:
1. Automatically align available radiologists with current demand.
Optimize subspecialty coverage by setting minimum staffing requirements (limiting the number of providers off).
2. Easily schedule across multiple locations.
Provide access to a real-time centralized on-call schedule so that everyone can get access to the information they need at a glance.
3. Proactively guard against physician burnout.
Fairly distribute on-call shifts and ensure adequate time off between long or difficult shifts.
4. Maximize operational efficiency.
Schedule providers based on productivity (i.e., match slow and fast providers). Make it easy for physicians to view their schedule, request time off, and swap shifts through an intuitive mobile app.
Using optimized radiology scheduling to advance your value management
Relative value units, or RVUs, have long been the standard for productivity measurement in radiology. As healthcare increasingly shifts to a value-based care model, however, these traditional measurements are aging quickly. Value-based models in radiology, meanwhile, have the power to boost organizational productivity while guarding against physician burnout.
How do you make the shift? With optimized scheduling software, you can begin to track, evaluate, and adapt the type of work that gets done, who does it, and how long it takes. Accurately measure productivity and workload by setting tallies for physicians’ non-work RVU-related activities, such as meetings, conferences, and administrative tasks.
Taking it home with you
The possibilities when it comes to shift scheduling for radiology are endless—literally, because there are more possible shift schedules in medicine than there are atoms in the universe.
But with optimized scheduling, you have the opportunity to choose the best one, every time.
Ready to learn more about Lightning Bolt’s optimized scheduling solution for radiology? Download and share this quick guide today.