2018 Year in Review

After a busy close to the year, the holidays provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our progress over the course of 2018.

The theme of 2018 was growth – growth in our team, growth in our customer base, growth in our platform and growth in our desire and understanding of how NC Smart Call can further help the partners we serve.

By the numbers – in 2018 NC Smart Call:

  • sent over 11 million text messages to our employee partners
  • filled over 500,000 shifts for healthcare institutions across Canada
  • grew the team by over 33% in development, support and product management
  • increased our development velocity and launched Annual Vacation, Incoming Call Routing and added new business logic to our Shift notification rules engine.

Most importantly, and outside of the numbers, we began to truly understand what being a vested partner means. A number of the institutions we serve faced difficult challenges in their communities, and we were proud to help to support them in overcoming these challenges.

The Year Ahead

As we turn to 2019, there are a number of new developments we’re excited to build on and further explore with our partners.

  • Predictive Analytics – with a vast amount of data at our disposal, we’ll be working with our partners to better understand and predict what factors lead to a shift not being filled
  • Automating Processes – we’ll further advance our industry-leading function of automating the time consuming task of creating call-out lists
  • Smart Leave – further streamline take the pain away from arduous annual vacation processes

Throughout the course of the year, we’ll deep dive into these topics in more granular blog posts. If you have feedback on additional trends impacting the industry and functionality we should include in our product roadmap, please reach out to our team. We love hearing from our partners and folks in the industry.

As always, we’re keenly interested in connecting with those change agents at hospitals and other institutions who want to improve the operation of their shift management processes.

Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous 2019!

Tom & the team at NC Smart Call

Methods of Communicating to Employees

Manual callout processes are time and resource consuming. The manual callout process generally follows these steps:

  • Record absence
  • Build appropriate call-in list
  • Phone first name on call-in list
  • Ask employee if they want to work shift
  • If yes, process stops, if no call next employee
  • Repeat step 4 until an employee says yes
  • Inform department of employee change

Not only is this method resource and time consuming on the person/persons who are performing it, but also for the department who is experiencing the absence of an employee, as they have the greater pressure to delivering quality care while short staffed. The good news is, this pressure can be relieved by automating some, or all, of the above steps. More good news is the method of communicating unfilled shifts to employees can be done by not only a phone call, but also through SMS text messaging, email, and employee self-service through integrated websites. Even more good news, all these methods can communicate unfilled shifts to employees within a few minutes of each other and without the need for a staff scheduler, scheduling clerk, or employee to be on the call-out end.

Phone Call/Interactive Voice Recording (IVR)

As mentioned previously, with automated callouts, there no longer has to be a staff scheduler, staffing clerk, or an employee, on the callout end. This task can now be performed by the Interactive Voice Recording (IVR) system. The IVR computer generated voice reads unfilled shift information to the employee from pre-written script and the employee has the option to:Hear the shift againApply for the shiftMove on to next unfilled shiftEmployee responses are recorded through the phone call and automatically entered into the system.

Short Message Service (SMS)/Texting

As more and more people move towards SMS/texts as the primary means of communication, it is important for work opportunities to also be communicated via the same method. When looking at streamlining communication to employees, distributing information via SMS text messages is a must. The accessibility and convenience of SMS text messaging makes it much easier to get feedback from employees on time sensitive matters such as expressing interest in picking up a vacant shift. Additionally there is an audit trail of interactions that can be easily reviewed at any time.

Although email is not the fastest form of communication and not given the highest priority, not all unfilled shifts are urgent. Unfilled shifts, urgent or not, may be emailed to employees with all the shift details included. Links included in emails allow employees to be immediately directed to the employee self-service webpage to apply for the shift.  Which brings us to our next point...

Employee Self-service/NC Smart Call website

Employees may login to their self-Service website to view and apply for unfilled shifts of all priorities. This information is accessible to employees 24/7 via computer terminals, tablet devices and mobile phones. Integrated self service systems can also display  the employee scheduled work calendar, so they can see what upcoming shifts are on their schedule. Advanced systems provide employees with the option to apply for annual and general leave requests.

Four methods of communicating to employees. All Automated.

When unfilled shift data enters the system, the programming handles all the old methodology from the manual callout and contacts the employees with the unfilled shifts according to employee preferences. If your employee prefers texts over phone calls, then there is an option for your employee to select this preference. The employee is happier with being contacted for shifts via their method of choice. Conversely, the organization is happier because their scheduling staff/staffing clerks are now free to do more value-add work. Automating callouts saves time, resources and improves employee satisfaction with scheduling.

When it comes to automatically notifying employees of available shifts NC Smart Call has been doing it for years.  Manually communicating available shifts to employees is an error prone, labor intensive process that does not scale and costs healthcare organizations every day.

Find out how much money can be saved by using NC Smart Call here: NCSmartCall.com/#estimate

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Managing Incoming Calls

Effectively managing incoming calls is a very important process.  Information needs to be recorded properly,  forwarded to the right people and then followed up on in a timely fashion. Now do it thousands of times each day with hundreds of possible call routes and the ability to efficiently navigate this process becomes quite challenging and nerve wracking.  

The good news is there are tools available that can help streamline and automate many of the processes around effectively managing incoming calls.  Keep reading to gain practical tips in evaluating your current process as well as ideas for improvements.  

Evaluating your Incoming Call Process

First we need to determine if the existing incoming call process is meeting your needs. Understand your incoming call environment by assessing your organization's incoming call volume, the time commitment to process these calls and whether or not existing resources are keeping up with demand:

  • How many calls are received each day?
  • What is the average duration of each call?
  • Do callers ever wait on hold?
  • If so what is their average wait time?

Map out the existing workflows for managing incoming phone call by answering the following questions.  

  • Who is the first point of contact: help desk or the intended department?
  • Is there a consistent process for answering and directing incoming calls?
  • Are people answering calls subject matter experts?
  • How are messages recorded and shared?
  • How are subsequent actions followed through on?
  • Do you have visibility into the accuracy of your current incoming call process?  How many times do errors occur from messages being recorded incorrectly, misplaced, or not passed along in a timely manner?

Once you have an understanding of your incoming call volume and work flow you can get an idea of the specific areas ready for improvement.  

Improving the incoming call process.

NC Smart Call Quick Dial revolutionizes the way organizations receive and route incoming calls. Gain visibility into the type of call you are receiving and have it direct to the appropriate area without any intervention.  Instructions are left by the caller and subject matter experts can engage in the messages when their schedule permits eliminating interruptions from incoming calls.  

Free to use for employees and they never have to wait on hold when using NC Smart Call Quick Dial.  Staff can engage the most important calls as calls are triaged and organized automatically for them.  Incoming calls are supplemented with additional information which is automatically captured as soon as the call is connected.  Actions are logged and made available in an audit trail so both the caller and managers can easily review should a discrepancy ever occur.

Not only does NC Smart Call Quick Dial manage your incoming calls, but it provides a platform to communicate between the organization and your employees in a manner which saves both parties piece of mind.   

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Meaningful Work: What to do with the time savings from NC Smart Call?

Healthcare organizations using NC Smart Call find themselves with an abundance of Scheduling resources at their disposal. One partner previous to using NC Smart Call required 16 Scheduling Staff to fill the 300 unplanned absences that would occur within their organizations each day.  After NC Smart Call was implemented, 4 Scheduling Staff were able to manage the workload of filling the 300 unplanned absences each day. NC Smart Call has freed up the time of 12 Scheduling Staff.  Here are a few examples of the meaningful work they are now able to focus on since using NC Smart Call.  

Strategically filling shifts with the right people

This sounds simple, and it is, but it does not make it any less important.  When faced with constant pressure to find people to fill shifts, there are times where the only factor comes down to ‘are they willing?’.  Anyone is better than no one, right?  Not always so.

In times of high stress, short deadlines and upholding patient care, the decision is made to put any warm body who can work in the staffing holes. This has been known to cause issues, as the skill sets and abilities of any warm body may not meet the requirement of daily work. With the freeing up of resources by NC Smart Call, the ability to do a thorough staffing review for departments becomes available. Proper skill assessment to ensure there is a spreading around of advanced training through the department can be completed. You may need to train up more triage nurses on the ER, or train more hazardous material handlers in Housekeeping, to keep up with staffing demands.

With more time available to review the type of employees interested in picking up a shift, Scheduling Staff can review each applicant to make sure there is a good match and the right people are doing the right work.

Fill shifts further in advance.

With today, tomorrow and the weekend needs managed, it is time to look to the future. Filling staffing needs well into the future reduces  the complexity of filling staffing in the current work week. Plan to fill the vacation left by an employee, or fill the three week education leave as soon as these needs become known.  NC Smart Call gives breathing room in the present, to make sure you can breathe easy in the future.  

Working closely with the units  

Learn what the specific scheduling trends, patterns and characteristics in your unit and begin to anticipate the effects they have on scheduling requirements and begin to proactively work to fulfill them.   

Understanding of Organizational events.  

Have an important surgery coming up?  Time to monitor staffing levels to ensure the right people are in the right position.  

Take the time to learn more about upcoming organizational events and the effects they will have on staffing requirements.  Work to proactively meet these needs before they show up on you doorstep.

Making sure the people get and take time off

Vacation payouts can become a huge liability if not properly managed throughout the year.  The challenge is that you need time to manage, monitor and ensure each member of the unit is getting and taking time off.  With NC Smart Call you get time to do this.  Additionally, you can work closely with employees to find vacation time that works for both them and the unit.

When it comes to automatically notifying employees of available shifts NC Smart Call has has been doing it for years.  Designed and developed in partnership with Canadian Healthcare Providers,  NC Smart Call  is the insider’s solution to automating call outs in Canadian Healthcare.

Find your Savings:  ncsmartcall.com/#estimate

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How NC Smart Call Automates Call Outs

Before reading this article check out the informative article:  ‘Automating the Call Out Process  

Using data and programming logic, NC Smart Call automates and facilitates the process of finding the right employee to cover a shift when a member of the team calls in sick. Based on a configurable rules engine (skill-set, seniority, status availability, etc.) eligible employees are automatically identified and contacted of available shifts with zero intervention.  This reduces  administrative costs, staff overtime, while ensuring continuity of care.

How does NC Smart Call do this?  

NC Smart Call expands the functionality of your existing scheduling and HR systems. Based on  the data in these systems, the rules engine in NC Smart Call determines which employees meet the available shift criteria. Eligible employees receive an automated email, text or call containing the available shift details. Responses are optimally organized to find the best employee to fill the shift.

Best of all, each step of the communication process is automated: selecting shifts, building call out lists and triggering notifications are all automated.  Employee responses are organized for Scheduling Staff to easily identify the employee best suited to fill the shift.  

What are the outcomes?  

The hospitals we work with found staff schedulers fill 7 times more shifts using the NC Smart Call solution. This is in addition to reducing grievances, overtime and providing a transparent process for employees and management.  

When it comes to automatically notifying employees of available shifts NC Smart Call has has been doing it for years.  Designed and developed in partnership with Canadian Healthcare Providers,  NC Smart Call  is the insider's solution to automating call outs in Canadian Healthcare.  

Find your Savings:  ncsmartcall.com/#estimate

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Going Beyond Automated Call Outs

According to StatsCan, the industry with the highest rate of employee absenteeism is Healthcare.  With Healthcare employees being essential to patient care, these absences need to be filled as quickly as possible.  Most Healthcare organization fill these absences the same way: manually calling employees one at a time to see if they want to work.  This is a very time consuming process that is prone to errors and not scalable.    

On average it takes 24-28 minutes of effort to find a replacement for an available immediate needs shift when manually calling employees one-to-one.  Scheduling Staff can fill an estimated 20 immediate need shifts per day by manually calling employees.  

Automating call outs greatly reduces the amount of effort required to fill available shifts.  Time is no longer spent dialling phone numbers, listening to ringtones or leaving messages.  Automating the call out process of offering shifts enables Scheduling Staff to fill available shifts with approx 8-10 minutes of effort.  This translates to 40-60 available shifts filled per day.  

This is good, most people would stop here and consider it a job well done, but the efficiency experts, Lean consultants, Kaizen fellows and the managers tasked with doing even more for less, would say there is more work to do. These folks would analyse how the remaining 8-10 minutes of effort it takes to fill a shift are being spent  to see if there are more efficiencies to be had.

They would be glad they did.  

50% of the 8-10 minutes it takes to fill a shift are spent on non value added activities.  These manual tasks include selecting which shifts needs to be filled, identifying and selecting the employees that should be notified for the shift and then sending that list off to be auto called.

Scheduling Staff and frontline staff do not need to do this, as NC Smart Call will do this for you.    

NC Smart Call automates the entire process of creating, sending and completing automated call outs and the results are tremendous.  Scheduling staff using NC Smart Call take  only 4 minutes to fill an available shift.  Each day Scheduling Staff are able to fill 120 immediate needs available shifts by using NC Smart Call.  

The operational efficiencies created by NC Smart Call provide tremendous savings for healthcare organizations.  Find out how much your organization will save by using NC Smart Call here: ncsmartcall.com/#estimate

When it comes to automatically notifying employees of available shifts NC Smart Call has has been doing it for years.  Designed and developed in partnership with Canadian Healthcare Providers,  NC Smart Call  is the insider's solution to automating call outs in Canadian Healthcare.  

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Automating the Call Out Process

What do you do when a member of your team calls in sick?  Pull up the shift details, create the call list and start dialling numbers hoping to find an employee willing to work?   

This current scheduling practice of manually communicating available shifts to employees is both inefficient and resource intensive. Manually calling employees on a one-to-one basis is not sustainable and not an efficient use of resources.  Finding tools to help with this process is difficult as scheduling employees in Canadian healthcare is challenging and meeting process requirements requires an in depth understanding of healthcare operations.   

A lot of time goes into manually calling employees to fill available shifts.  Most of this time is spent on non value added tasks such as creating call lists, dialling phone numbers, listening to ringtones and leaving messages.  These tasks take time away from the meaningful work your scheduling or frontline staff could be doing; such as strategically filling shifts with the best suited employees or delivering care to patients.

Healthcare organizations who have automated the entire call out process gain:

  • The ability to fill 7 times more available shifts with existing resources
  • An 80% reduction of scheduling related grievances
  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Greater call out capacity
  • Operational efficiencies of $123.20 per FTE scheduled

By automating the process for notifying employees of available shifts, healthcare organizations  have the unique opportunity to gain operational savings while expanding services to stakeholders.

When it comes to automatically notifying employees of available shifts NC Smart Call has has been doing it for years.  Designed and developed in partnership with Canadian Healthcare Providers,  NC Smart Call  is the insider's solution to automating call outs in Canadian Healthcare.  

Find your Savings:  ncsmartcall.com/#estimate

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