If you’re a leader in emergency medicine, you know that keeping things running smoothly in your department is a constant challenge.
Never quite sure what the next day, night, or hour might hold, physicians—and the ones coordinating them—have to be prepared for anything, with resources readily available to meet patient demand.
Unsurprisingly, emergency departments (EDs) have the most complex physician schedules to manage in all of medicine. And all too often, EDs are using manual processes or basic software to manage that complexity. The result? Suboptimal schedules, which yield less-than-satisfactory results for all involved—patients, physicians, administrators, and leaders trying to maintain business health.
Let’s explore the specific problems in ED physician scheduling today and talk about how we can fix them.
Physician scheduling challenges in emergency medicine
We know that ED physician scheduling is complicated, but why? If we don’t understand the driving forces, we won’t make any meaningful changes—we’ll just keep spinning our wheels.
In the ED, there are several factors at play:
1. Increasing patient volumes and varying acuity
Since the 1990s, the number of ED visits has been steadily increasing. As the baby boomer population ages, patients are also older and more likely to face chronic diseases and complex medical conditions. This high volume, combined with the unpredictability of any emergency situation, makes scheduling physicians a complicated balancing act.
2. Constant staffing needs and limited resources
The obvious difference between emergency departments and other medical groups? EDs don’t close. To keep the ER running smoothly, departments with limited resources—especially in rural areas—may find themselves having to rely too much on locum tenens physicians and moonlighters, driving up operational costs.
3. High risk of physician burnout
Continually immersed in a high-stress environment laboring long hours, physicians working in emergency medicine are among those most at-risk for burnout. In addition to factoring in other variables, administrators are challenged to provide physicians with adequate rest time between grueling shifts and to equitably manage on-call schedules.
Key benefits of optimized scheduling in the ED
In truth, AI technology is the only match for the complexity present in ED physician scheduling—there are simply too many variables for an administrator or even basic scheduling software to efficiently manage.
AI-optimized physician scheduling software has proven successful for many emergency departments and groups when it comes to addressing the challenges described above.
Here’s how it works: AI-powered technology takes criteria you set on the back end—like physician shift preferences and fair on-call time management—and considers millions of possible variations to automatically deliver the best possible schedule option.
With the kind of power AI-optimized scheduling provides, you can:
1. Protect patient safety.
Optimized schedules ensure that there will be enough physicians on staff and on-call to handle different levels of demand. When a physician needs to take time off or swap shifts, they can do it easily from their phone while the system automatically adjusts based on the new information.
2. Do more with the staff you have.
Before immediately turning to expensive outside sources for staffing, consider revamping the way existing staff are scheduled and organized. Use optimized scheduling software and best practices to accurately align physician supply with patient demand.
3. Build in work-life balance.
Create rules on the back end to safeguard physician well-being, like setting a certain amount of time that must pass between long or difficult shifts. Automatically equalize on-call shift scheduling.
Taking it home with you
The possibilities when it comes to shift scheduling in emergency medicine 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 emergency departments? Download and share this quick guide today.