Building More Efficient Schedules for Academic Hospitals


Scheduling for Academic Hospitals

Tracking shifts, managing resident time constraints, balancing program requirements, and pairing residents with attendings isn’t easy when an Excel sheet and sticky notes are the only tools in your basket. But, the scheduling process for academic hospital programs doesn’t have to be so cumbersome and time-consuming.

Optimized scheduling solutions for academic hospitals equip schedulers with a tool to help them align GME requirements and provider requests. These solutions can also provide insights into how to better manage resources, reporting, and expand accessibility across the entire hospital, clinic, or department.

Provider Scheduling Difficulties in Academic Settings

Balancing Clinical Care, Education, Demand, and Research

Provider schedules must be able to balance individual departments’ scheduling requirements, organizational standards, provider preferences, and patient demand. Academic healthcare organizations require schedules that can serve as an anchor to operations, factoring in:

  • The unique needs of individual departments
  • The organization’s overall goals and objectives
  • Individual provider scheduling preferences
  • Patient demand for certain care services
  • Clinical, teaching, and research responsibilities
  • Training requirements for residents across specialties

Scheduler Workload

The responsibility of orchestrating academic schedules falls to schedulers, who may spend hundreds of hours annually turning the above laundry list of requirements into provider schedules—often manually, or with little to no automation. Schedulers work hard building on-call lists, calendars, and schedules that meet the needs of their organization, but it’s a tall task. As the hospitalist team at UNC Health (an academic medical center) grew, their scheduler felt that manually scheduling the department’s providers had become nearly impossible.

“The difficulty was, we grew very rapidly. It got to where I was spending so many hours creating the schedule, and it had just gotten so complex that it almost became impossible to create. We have to take into consideration providers’ preferences, the many different services that we have. We also have particular services that only some of our providers can cover, such as the procedure service. There are so many different factors that come into play that have to be considered.”

– Administrative Coordinator, Hospitalist Division, UNC Health

Fortunately, UNC Health managed to streamline the scheduling process with Lightning Bolt Scheduling. Click below to see a video about UNC’s story.

Benefits of Optimized Scheduling Software for Academic Hospitals

Cost Savings

Academic medical centers and teaching hospitals play an essential role in the overall health system, but the expanded scope of teaching, research, and patient care means academic hospitals routinely face higher patient care costs than non-teaching hospitals.

Average Inpatient Hospital Cost Per Case1

In such a competitive financial environment, academic healthcare organizations need a more efficient way to manage resources to ensure they can perform their critical social mission. Because labor costs are at an all-time high—likely accounting for up to 60% of hospital operating budgets2clinical staffing is one of the most critical areas to monitor when it comes to resource management and utilization. Unfortunately, this is also a difficult task.

Time Savings

An advanced scheduling solution can be instrumental in saving schedulers time as well as creating more effective and efficient schedules. By building out rules that dictate a department’s schedules, schedulers can auto-generate provider schedules and share them globally across their organization to increase schedule visibility and give time back to supporting clinical teams.

“It has allowed me time to do other work besides just scheduling. Scheduling is only a part of what I do.”

– Administrative Coordinator, Hospitalist Division, UNC Health

Uncertain how to find a scheduling platform that meets your organization’s needs? Download our Choosing an Enterprise Scheduling Solution guide for a detailed discussion of how rules-based scheduling works and the capabilities you should expect from a scheduling solution.

Accessibility and Reporting

Automated, rule-based scheduling software like Lightning Bolt gives a more detailed view into the shift schedule than ever before. Academic scheduling software allows for detailed reports, including:

  • Measured clinical hours for inpatient and outpatient
  • Tracking of required conferences and training
  • Pairing residents and attending physicians accurately

Automated scheduling grants better schedule accessibility across the entire health system, hospital, or individual department. This is done by having:

  • One accessible link for the real-time schedule across hospitals, clinics, and individual departments
  • Visible dynamic updates across all departments and locations
  • Everything centrally located in the Lightning Bolt application

Resource Utilization

In addition to generating significant time savings, an advanced provider scheduling system can also help healthcare organizations better manage their most important resource: clinical staff. Here are four ways an optimized scheduling solution can eliminate excess, cut costs, and increase revenue:

  1. Build schedules that take provider productivity into consideration
  2. Align provider supply and patient demand to identify and optimize missed revenue opportunities
  3. Access analytics across shifts, departments, and locations to guide decision-making
  4. Reduce turnover by ensuring shift equity with schedule transparency and provider autonomy over their schedules

Optimizing Your Academic Schedule Process

Optimize the scheduling process at your academic medical center or hospital with rule-based scheduling software. To learn what Lightning Bolt can do for your hospital’s academic program, connect with us below.


1. Estimating the Mission-Related Costs of Teaching Hospitals, Project HOPE, Lane Koenig, Allen Dobson, Silver Ho, Jonathan M. Siegel, David Blumenthal, and Joel S. Weissman, Health Affairs—Vol. 22, No. 6—Pages 112-122, November 2003:
2. Labor Management Trends, Healthcare Financial Management Association, Navigant, Aug. 2018:

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