Streamlining and Standardizing Scheduling Workflows
When Via Christi Health implemented Cerner Scheduling Management in 2014, we went through quite a few changes – all for the good of our patients. We’d used the same scheduling system in our surgery unit for roughly 15 years. The downside to that system was that schedulers were not able to create encounters or input insurance information when the appointment was created. That information had to be entered into the system at a later date, which caused potential problems. We needed to know this information to properly serve our patients. Implementing the new Cerner solution would provide a more streamlined process.
After the implementation, I noticed that the talk time (individual time on the phone) per scheduler increased. The team grew accustomed to the previous system, and I realized there would be a learning curve. To combat this, we took action.
Each scheduler documented all the steps they took during a call. We posted the notes on a wall, so we could visually see the various processes each scheduler went through. It was evident that some schedulers took different steps than others, and we needed to streamline the process.
We used Lean tools, such as Value Stream Mapping, Takt Time, Affinity Diagrams, Five Why’s, etc., to help us identify which processes were more efficient. Lean creates customer value through a process that systematically minimizes all forms of waste.
It was important for us to recognize the different ways the schedulers worked in the same system. We found that some associates carried over processes from the old system, and these steps were no longer needed. We outlined all the necessary steps, worked with clinicians and provided updated training. We successfully eliminated a whole set of phone calls. We even set up boards in the call center to showcase our weekly scorecard, which displayed the average talk time and other key metrics. Each month, several groups, including IT, schedulers and clinicians, meet to discuss any issues, delays or improvements, so we can continue to optimize the solution. The Lean tools allowed us to delve into each process and determine how to best use the system, so the staff could be successful and reduce talk time.