8 questions to ask your clinical scheduling supplier

18th February 2021

How scheduling software can help NHS organisations safely move more clinical services out of hospital and into the community

Whereas Electronic Patient Record (EPR), e-rostering and e-job planning systems have been widely adopted across the NHS, e-scheduling remains a relatively new concept. This new type of clinical system is rapidly becoming an essential tool in enabling the NHS to safely manage and schedule capacity and demand in a community setting.

So, what should you look for when selecting a clinical e-scheduling software partner for your organisation?

Here are the eight most important questions you should ask:

1. Is it clinically safe?

There is a significant inherent clinical risk in using software to safely manage and schedule capacity and demand in a community setting. Your e-scheduling software is critical for ensuring the right visit is given to the right clinician with the right skills to visit the patient’s home every time. Therefore, to be classified as fit for purpose and clinically safe, it is essential that your e-scheduling software is compliant with NHS Digital’s clinical safety standard DCB 0129 and should be registered as a Class I Medical Device. These regulations and clinical risk management standards must be adhered to as well as the specifications for IT security set out in ISO27001.

2. Does your software integrate with your existing systems?

NHS England and the Secretary of State for Health have stipulated that all systems used within the NHS must be interoperable and work to open standards and the Technology Code of Practice. Your e-scheduling provider must be willing to integrate with other systems. Integration with EPR systems like SystmOne and EMIS is critical. Integration with Business Intelligence systems (data warehouse), e-rostering system and e-expenses system will enhance the user experience within your organisation.

3. How experienced are you at implementing this new type of clinical system?

The change management challenge of adopting a new clinical system can be huge. It is often the difference between success and failure. It is therefore important when you chose a supplier, to understand how successful they have been at managing change when implementing a new type of clinical system. Ask them about their implementation approach and their clinical experience. For example, do they have clinicians who support the implementation? How many successful implementations have they had? What have they learnt? In the COVID era what examples can they give of successfully implementing their software remotely?

4. How easily can we access and share our data?

Firstly, you should never, EVER, be prevented from or charged, to share and access your own data. If your organisation has a data warehouse, data from your e-Scheduling system should be free and easily obtainable via an open and published API. Local reports that can be custom built and accessed by clinicians for the day to day running of a service should also be easy to generate.

5. Can you include all your clinical rules when assigning caseloads and scheduling clinical care?

Capacity and demand e-scheduling systems needs to mimic the way a clinician would assign caseloads and schedule patient care. The system must be able to handle these clinical use cases when auto-scheduling. For example, a service would never send five different nurses to see five different patients in a residential home over the course of a day, if a single Healthcare Professional could see all those patients in one visit.

6. How customisable is the software?

No two NHS organisations work the same way. Your e-scheduling system should be based on the clinical rules your community services have developed to deliver safe and high-quality patient care. It should not require you to alter your way of working to suit the system. Look for a system that allows you to safely customise rules not only to your organisation, but also within different services and teams using the system. Ensure the system allows you to schedule clinical and non-clinical activity (lunch and breaks). This will ensure it seamlessly becomes part of your working practice.

7. Can the system be used by multiple services, e.g., Specialist Nursing, Therapies, Children’s Services, Unplanned Care Services?

As Integrated Care Systems take shape, it is vital that your e-scheduling software allows you to join up care across multiple different community services. Visibility of capacity and demand across multiple services, and the ability to intelligently co-ordinate care around a patient who has open referrals with multiple services, is essential.

8. Can you provide details of your NHS reference sites?

As any clinician will tell you, evidence-based practice is best practice. Make sure to ask for contact details of at least three NHS organisations successfully using the system. And can those three sites manage and schedule both Nursing and Therapists services in the same system? If you can speak to teams providing similar services, of a similar size and geographical location, you will get vital insight into whether the software is going to work for you.

Find out more about Civica Scheduling.