How Ochsner improved its scheduling and provided satisfaction with PerfectServe's Lightning Bolt solution

Lack of work-life balance, unpredictable schedules and being understaffed are key drivers of provider dissatisfaction and burnout, all of which were exacerbated during the pandemic. By revamping its scheduling system, New Orleans-headquartered Ochsner Health has improved its anesthesia management program, resulting in increased provider satisfaction and better patient care.

In a July Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by PerfectServe, Mary Piepenbrink, SVP of scheduling at PerfectServe, and George Gilly, MD, anesthesiologist at Ochsner, shared the issues that Ochsner faced, how the health system addressed these challenges and the results that followed.

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Inconsistent and unpredictable scheduling fueled dissatisfaction among Ochsner's anesthesiologists. According to Dr. Gilly, in 2018 Ochsner's anesthesiology department was facing difficulties. "The continuous sub-specialization of the group left everyone feeling like they were siloed," he explained. "One sub-specialty felt like it was doing more or less work than another, which contributed to this idea of an unequal workload distribution. We had no data to show whether we were treating everyone fairly or not. The group felt there was no work-hour transparency, which caused a lack of confidence in our leaders. On top of that, we had an outdated vacation and compensation system. And it was really all stemming from unpredictable, inconsistent scheduling."
  2. Ochsner made changes by understanding the anesthesia department's coverage needs, redefining work expectations and implementing advanced technology. Although the department had a plan for operating room utilization, the reality was much different. "Due to the complexity of our cases in this high-volume, transplant acute care center, we have very unpredictable cases," Dr. Gilly said. "We started looking at the most important part of the day at 7:00 a.m. to figure out how much staff we needed to cover that period. From there, we mapped out every hour."

Second, the department looked at work expectations. On average, anesthesiologists work about 55 hours per week. "Everyone was on a level playing field; whether you are a cardiac anesthesiologist or a pediatric anesthesiologist, we're all working about the same number of hours," Dr. Gilly said.

Finally, Ochsner implemented Lightning Bolt, a provider scheduling solution from PerfectServe to create and manage transparent, predictable block scheduling. "Autogenerated OR assignments match the supply and demand in the OR, particularly around anesthesia providers," Ms. Piepenbrink said. "That means fewer transitions of care, which helps with continuity of care, fewer delays, cancellations and provider satisfaction.

  1. This scheduling solution generates a host of benefits for Ochsner providers and patients. These benefits include:
  • Increased efficiency. Automated schedule creation saves about 720 hours annually.
  • Reduced provider burnout. Besides providing a predictable schedule to improve providers' work-life balance, Ochsner revamped its vacation scheduling system. Vacation request approval improved by 55 percent, which helped boost provider satisfaction scores from 3.3 to 4.17 in under one year.
  • Fewer care transitions. "The literature shows that about one in every 20 transitions of care will result in a harm event, such as a re-intubation or an ICU stay," Dr. Gilly said. "By reducing our care transitions by 15 percent in the first six months, we took out 400 transitions of care and potentially saved an estimated 26 patients from a harm event. If the average cost from surgical complications is $12,000 per case, we estimate we saved about $600,000 in that first year." 
  • Solved CRNA staffing crisis. By applying the same solution to CRNA staff, Ochsner was able to improve cross coverage; adjust to travelers, PRN and part-time staff and get creative with scheduling options.

By implementing Lightning Bolt from PerfectServe, health systems can reduce scheduling workload and burnout, increase provider satisfaction and improve patient care.

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