Guest Column | October 1, 2019

Real-Time Data Is The Answer For Mobile Workforce Management

By Paul Whitelam, ClickSoftware

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When it comes to homecare and managing patient relationships, following through on commitments is mandatory. Yet many providers are shooting themselves in the proverbial foot — using tired scheduling methods that overlook real-world challenges, such as appointments running over and unanticipated traffic that can lead to broken commitments. In lieu of a crystal ball that can predict problems and delays, providers must rely on actual, real-time data to create the ideal schedule. This model, known as truth-based appointment booking, involves booking appointments based on true job durations and true travel time, and considers existing commitments to patients in making the best scheduling decisions. 

In homecare, resource utilization refers to the amount of time caregivers spend productively serving patients. Because truth-based appointment booking relies on actual data, it’s the best way to keep your workforce productive and maximize this time spent with patients. For example, if a series of patient visits are in close proximity, this is reflected in shorter predicted travel times. However, if a system simply used average travel time information, the schedule would not accurately reflect time available for patient care and lead to a sub-optimal resource allocation. An intelligent field service management solution continuously optimizes the actual schedule, automatically moving jobs around and assigning tasks in a way that fully utilizes resources. Ultimately, truth-based appointment booking gives care providers the ability to optimize resource usage and spend more quality time focusing on the needs of patients.

Customer expectations have never been higher: research finds that 71 percent of respondents say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. Other research reveals that poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year, up $13 billion since its last report in 2016. And healthcare providers are not immune to the need to deliver on patient expectations. This is where truth-based appointments shine. By considering the skills, experience and proximity of available caregivers to job locations, and then assigning the best available caregiver for the job, businesses are able to increase utilization and productivity. Ultimately, this allows a more accurate and realistic view into the service day and minimizes the risk of missing an appointment or showing up later than expected.

Truth-based appointment booking is the smarter alternative to the most commonly used means to add automation to appointment scheduling - the “bucket” approach. With that approach, appointments are separated into categories, such as visit type, and then designated a static amount of time for each visit. Unfortunately, when there is no real-time insight into factors like caregiver proficiency, traffic, weather or proximity of appointments, it’s impossible to make accurate commitments to patients. More often than not, the bucket approach overestimates or underestimates the number of jobs that can fit into the day. This results in wasted resources, untapped potential, and unhappy patients and providers.

Of course, this is not a new problem: developing an effective, flexible schedule that enables you to thoughtfully deploy your caregivers, handle unplanned hiccups, and maximize the number of patients to whom you can deliver quality care on any given day is one of the biggest challenges for healthcare providers. Simply put, scheduling inefficiency and the inability to predict upticks in demand, appointment cancellations, and other daily issues limits your ability to meet your goals and adapt and grow your homecare services. Insight and agility are non-negotiable.

There’s little doubt that cost-effective delivery of optimal patient care is the key driver of any homehealth organization. Creating a schedule that matches the right caregivers with the right patients, and accurately accounts for the time needed to deliver that care, is essential.

About The Author

Paul Whitelam is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at ClickSoftware.