Can quality care be achieved with a suboptimal patient assignment process?

At MedAptus, we think the answer is no.

Not only do we think that the current patient assignment process being administered in most hospitals today are time consuming and terribly inefficient, but they’re exposing hospitals to greater patient safety risks and contributing to physician burnout as a result of disruptive and heavy workloads.

This is not trivial.

Forty percent of rounding physicians surveyed said they exceeded what they perceived as unsafe workloads at least once a month and 22% of them said they delayed admitting or discharging a patient until a subsequent shift because of unsafe workloads.1

Length-of-stays (LOS) are also being affected by suboptimal patient assignments and heavy workloads.

One study found LOS increased from 5 days to 7.5 days from increased workloads, resulting in added costs of $5,000 to $7,500 per Medicare patient. 2


In terms of physician burnout, workload is clearly a significant factor, which has enormous cost and workforce implications.

The direct and indirect costs of replacing one physician can run as high as $500,000 to $1 million, not to mention the internal disruption and lower productivity it causes.3

A suboptimal patient assignment process also fails to take full advantage of the clinical and psychological benefits associated with improved continuity of care, which is significant because the evidence is clear that increased continuity of care is associated with reductions in length-of-stay and lower health costs.4

Another study suggested “discontinuities” may lead to hospitalists ordering excessive diagnostic tests, resulting in “higher costs with no benefit to hospitalized patients.”5

The fact is – suboptimal patient assignments fall short of delivering quality care.


Is there a better solution?

Scheduling software programs don’t adequately address the problem of suboptimal assignments. Their focus is on making sure the right physician is working the right day and the right hours to handle the workload, but they don’t match the right patient with the right physician.

A few modules in the marketplace assign patients to physicians. But most of those can’t handle the complexity of care most rounding physicians face every day. For example, what if a team wants to balance patients admitted after midnight evenly across physicians? Or what if a team wants to break continuity of OBS patients if they become inpatients? Modules are not equipped to handle those protocols.


A better solution is automated and intelligent patient assignment process using software that matches the right patient with the right physician using sophisticated rules-based algorithms that factor in multiple variables and protocols.

That product is ASSIGN for Physicians.

ASSIGN for Physicians is a beautifully simple concept with a lot of complex math behind it.

Imagine manually assigning 300 patients to 20 physicians (15 patients per physician) and then trying to factor in multiple protocols, such as patient weighting, geography, continuity of care, workload balancing, and even insurance considerations into the process. In fact, if there were 20 different choices of protocols, the number of decision points quickly becomes 120,000. That level of complexity simply can’t be handled with a manual patient assignment process.

But a rules-based algorithm “engine” can.

In fact, it can be customized so that only those protocols important to a team or division are used and applied to making assignments. That way, the resulting list is exactly what a team needs or wants, thereby improving operational efficiency and lowering costs.

ASSIGN for Physicians also speeds up the patient assignment process since the software can do in minutes what might have taken an hour or more, thereby saving administrative time.

ASSIGN for Physicians is a highly sophisticated, yet easy-to-use software program that not only integrates seamlessly with all major EHR systems, but requires minimal IT involvement during implementation and is fully HIPPA compliant.

ASSIGN for Physicians also improves continuity of care, improves patient safety, improves physician morale, reduces administrative time, and helps reduce added length of stays and re-admissions – all of which add costs and affect quality of care.

It’s time to stop wasting time and effort with a suboptimal patient assignment process — not when there’s a sophisticated software program that can do it faster, easier, safer and better handle the complexity associated with hospital medicine.

Want to learn more or see a demo?

Click here or call (617) 896-4000.

1 Michtalik HJ, Yeh HC, Pronovost PJ, Brotman DJ. Impact of attending physician workload on patient care: a survey of hospitalists. JAM Intern Med. 2013;173(5):375-377.
2 Elliott DJ, Young RS, Brice J, Aguiar R, Kolm P. Effect of hospitalist workload on the quality and efficiency of care. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 May;174(5):786-93.
3 Shanafelt TD, Balch CM, Bechamps G, et al. Burnout and medical errors among American Surgeons. Ann Surg. 2010;251(6):995-1000.
4 Chandra S, Wright SM, Howell EE. The Creating Incentives and Continuity Leading to Efficiency Staffing Model: A Quality Improvement Initiative in Hospital Medicine. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2012;87(4):364-371. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2011.12.015.
5 Lindenauer PK, Rothberg MB, Pekow PS, Kenwood C, Benjamin EM, & Auerbach AD. Outcomes of care by hospitalists, general internists, and family physicians. New England Journal of Medicine; 357(25), 2589-2600.