An interview with Rhonda Cook, Regional Sales Manager, on automating patient assignment.  

Malachi: You’re having conversations with medical professionals on the daily. Who is primarily responsible for patient assignment at the healthcare organizations and physician groups you speak to?  

Rhonda: It varies. In some cases, it’s the hospitalist or at night, the nocturnist.   

In other cases, it’s admin personnel who have been doing it for years. They come in at four o’clock in the morning to do the daily assignments. When this person is out on PTO, it’s a total scramble. Worse, when they quit, it’s an even bigger scramble for hospitalists, nursing teams on the floor and non-clinical staff. The need to learn the manual process and everything that goes into assigning specific patients to physicians or teams. There’s a steep learning curve in most cases, which delays getting the lists out to the floor, which impacts patient care and length of stay.  

Sometimes it’s the morning hospitalist who comes in and either runs the full report or hits the print button and then moves patients and providers around.   

Malachi: It sounds like relying on humans to create the morning rounding lists presents a few challenges. How can automation help?  

Say somebody who normally does patient assignment gets sick, goes on leave, or takes vacation, when you have the initial rounding list creation part of the process automated, it’s much less disruptive. This allows for a consistent and predictable process that people can depend on. 

Honestly, nobody wants to start work at four o’clock in the morning. By automating the rounding list creation, the person who is responsible for patient assignment can start work at seven thirty in the morning instead. They can generate the rounding list using an automated tool like Medatpus Assign in minutes. Then, all they need to do is review, adjust and finalize the lists.   

There’s also the issue of fairness. As much as people are supposed to be neutral or objective, everyone has their favorite providers. Let’s say, hypothetically, there’s one provider that brings the nocturnist responsible for patient assignments a coffee and donut every Thursday. Coincidently this provider gets a lighter patient load the next day and is out by noon.   

When your patient assignment process is automated, the risk of human error and bias is eliminated. Assignments are accurate, fair and balanced.    

Malachi: Automating seems like a sensible solution with many benefits. What about the financial implications?  

Rhonda: When I get into the financial conversation with prospects, I break it down to three very simple questions?  

  1. How much time does it take to do it now? 
  2. How many people are doing it? 
  3. How dispensable are those people? 

You can speak to how automation saves money all day long. Take CVS pharmacies for example. There’s a reason there are multiple self-checkout kiosks in every store now. It saves time for the customers, and it reduces costs for staff. Both customers and staff are happier. CVS makes more money because more customers move through the checkouts faster and their staff costs are reduced. Now apply this same concept to automating patient assignment. Automating saves time, reduces costs, and increases job satisfaction. 

Malachi: That’s a good analogy. At the end of the day, patient care is what really matters. Can you explain how automation leads to better patient care?  

Rhonda: Continuity of care and length of stay are the two big ones that come to mind.   

As a patient, there’s nothing worse than lying in a hospital bed and seeing a familiar doctor who knows you and your condition walk by your room. Then, five minutes later a completely different doctor who knows nothing about you walks in.     

Say Dr. Hollis is a new Doctor to me. Because she hasn’t seen me before, she doesn’t know that my Type 2 diabetes is regulated by oral meds only so she gives me insulin. Now I’m in the hospital an extra two days; two days that could have been avoided if I had been assigned to a doctor familiar with my medical presentation.   

It’s small things like this that make a big impact on patient care.   

Malachi: Do you have any advice for healthcare organizations that are looking to alleviate the challenges associated with manual patient assignment?  

Rhonda: My advice would be as follows: Before you start down the path of evaluating solutions, figure out what the value would be to your organization. Are you ready and willing to make the investment in automating the process? What would solving these challenges be worth to you in dollars? Once you’ve figured this out, then do your research and come talk to us at medaptus. We are experts at automating manual patient assignment processes while ensuring the smoothest transition possible. 

Malachi: Great advice. Thanks for sharing these insights today, Rhonda.   

Rhonda: My pleasure. 

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