To help the nation fight Covid, the NZ Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment awarded Core Schedule a grant to support the development of this module through its Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund.
The Core Contingency module is an add-on system to facilitate development of multiple parallel contingency schedules ahead of time that can be deployed on demand. These alternative schedules make full use of Core Schedule’s schedule development tools including Safety Scan rules to ensure shift placement abides by predefined rules, and scaling tools to quickly add or remove shifts from the schedule. The alternative schedules can be developed ahead of time, and, when necessary, be brought forward and deployed.
Being able to plan and manage several different versions of the same roster within Core Schedule saves days of work in contingency planning and allows for instant activation of a plan when needed.
Being able to plan and manage several different versions of the same roster within
Core Schedule saves days of work in contingency planning and allows for instant activation of a plan when needed.
Core Contingency Features:
Make and save multiple versions of the same roster.
Hot swap a contingency roster making it live.
Make copies of schedules that can serve as templates.
Analyse cost in terms of FTE changes across different versions
As it happens… Core Schedule live from NextCare Health Conference 2021 in Brisbane
We made it!
Celebrating just how lucky we are to be out n about and able to mingle and meet fellow healthcare enthusiasts at NextCare’s Conference in Brisbane, Australia. Really great to see so many of your faces so far, with special thanks to Metro North HHS for bringing this all together.
Every quarter Punakaiki Fund principal Chris Humphreys does a deep dive into the backstory of one of their founders. Last quarter, it was our very own Founder and CEO, Stephen Pool‘sturn. The following article was published to the Punakaiki Fund website late last year:
Let me introduce to you Stephen C. Pool: entrepreneur, Alaskan Malamute owner and the founder of Core Schedule. But that’s not all, Dr Pool is also an Emergency Medicine Specialist. You know – the guy that patches you up when you have an accident, or in my case, when your oldest son accidentally guillotines the end of your youngest sons finger in a door (I won’t go into the gory detail, but we did need a helicopter ride to the hospital).
It’s not a job that I could ever do – I have a thing about needles. Apparently, you also need some type of qualification and apparently a finance degree just won’t cut it.
But let me take you back to the start of the Core Schedule story. To do that we need to go back to late nineties New York, a place of crime, grime, and bulletproof glass in taxis. It was in this setting that a fresh-faced Stephen had just come out of New York University and started his emergency medicine residency at Bellevue Hospital.
Sleep is Optional
We’ve all seen the TV shows – residency is gruelling work. Long shifts, 100+ hour weeks and being at the bottom of the pecking order are all part of the job. Most people in that situation would usually just put their head down, focus on the job at hand and get on with it. But not Stephen. With an interest in computers and programming that can be traced back to his childhood in Mobile, Alabama, Stephen continued to tinker and learn new programming languages, and was continuously on the lookout for ways to apply his knowledge. In the end, he decided that it would be a good idea to set up an internet start-up partway through his residency.
It sounds like sleep was obviously an optional nice-to-have for Stephen back then! Medical Web Solutions specialised in developing websites for GP offices. Back then the World Wide Web was still in its infancy, so there was plenty of opportunity to grow and Stephen made the most of it. It started with basic websites for friends and colleagues who were willing to pay for it, and then got more sophisticated and attracted new customers. The company’s software got better too, and Stephen started looking to building in billing functionality, where he saw a lot of potential. The business was growing really well, even to the point where Stephen was having advanced discussed with US venture capital funds about raising money to expand the business. Then it happened.
Bubbles Always Burst
For those of you that are old enough, you will remember the terms like “dot-com bubble” and “tech wreck” that were in common usage at the turn of the millennium. They refer to a period when there was a lot of speculation in internet-related businesses and those companies’ valuations were sky-high. In 2000, those valuations crashed and sent those businesses out of business. For Stephen it meant a double whammy of no venture capital funding and sales drying up. Medical Web Solutions was dead in the water. That hurt. Stephen had been funding the business up to that point out of his own pocket and found himself in a serious hole. Stephen took stock and decided that it was time to refocus purely on medicine. He completed his residency and then worked in a number of hospitals around New York.
Things We Love to Hate
It was at one of these earlier jobs that the painfulness of hospital rostering was made clear to Stephen. He wanted to take leave and when he asked how to go about it, he was handed a transparency (that’s a clear plastic piece of paper used for overhead projectors, for those born more recently than Lance) that had a bunch of red lines on it and then another form which had some sort of calendar on it, along with a two-page list of instructions. It worked by holding the calendar up to a window and moving the transparency across it in a certain way until you find a spot on the calendar that lines up with a certain line on the transparency. This represented the days when you could actually take leave. So Stephen took it home and it took him and his husband 30 minutes to figure out how it was supposed to work. Not much later at work there was a discussion about their leave system and Stephen mentioned that the current system was really embarrassing. Their response was “well, if you think you can do better, have at it…”
Oh… It’s On!
That single comment made eleven years ago was a red rag to a bull. The system was about to be computerised and Stephen had the right programming skills and the medical experience to do the job. This overhaul started as an online system to request leave, which was followed (after requests) with work scheduling outputs so staff could see more easily when they were rostered on to work. Over the next two years, Stephen built the first iteration of what would become the Core Schedule software. Stephen treated this as a hobby project in the early days. Initially the software was only used in his department, but pretty soon the doctors that were using it at his hospital would ask Stephen about building a system for other hospitals where they also worked.
With organic demand increasing, the amount of time that Core Schedule required became too much for Stephen to manage alone, so he engaged a developer from a firm in India to do a lot of the basic programming and software updating. By this point Core Schedule was being used by single departments across a dozen hospitals.
A Year of Big Decisions
2013 was a pivotal year for Stephen. He had just married long-time partner Neil and they were deciding where to go for their honeymoon when they saw an ad the weekend after the wedding for a South Island action adventure/white-water rafting tour. It was an easy decision to come to New Zealand for a holiday and when they arrived they fell in love with the country. They had no thoughts of living here at that point, thinking that it wouldn’t be possible. After the honeymoon, Stephen went back to work in New York and was raving to a colleague about like how much he loved New Zealand, how much fun they had and how great the people were. His colleague responded that it is actually really easy for American doctors to go and practice in New Zealand. Stephen’s immediate response was that he was too old to re-sit his medical exams again, but his colleague said that wasn’t an issue. New Zealand would recognise his American certification as being equivalent to the New Zealand certification, and all he would need to do is pay the fees and jump through a lot of administrative hoops.
That was news to Stephen, and he later found out that of all the other countries in the world, only New Zealand and Australia has this recognition arrangement for American doctors in place. He looked into it and found there were a lot jobs available in emergency rooms in New Zealand, with many of them for six month terms. So a plan was hatched to come to New Zealand – a sort of a six month working vacation. A position in Wellington became available and once the decision was made to take it up, they had 32 days to sell all of their stuff in New York and make the move.
Stephen didn’t really know what he was getting himself into with the New Zealand health system. He wasn’t expecting it to be as modern as the US system, but he what he actually found was actually on a par. He was shocked by his first day working in the Wellington Emergency Department. He recalls that apart from the accents, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Wellington Hospital and any other ER in the US – the skills and the training were probably better and we have all the equipment you would expect to see in a US emergency room. The set up was also very similar in terms of how it was equipped and how it was operated – right down to the staff rostering system.
The only things that were different was the lack belligerent patients on PCP, the heroin overdoses and the people threatening to shoot you, which was a daily occurrence in New York.
It’s All Good
The six months in Wellington was a great experience. So good in fact, that Stephen and his partner pondered why they ever would go back to the US. Sure, the pay was about 50% lower in New Zealand, and the cost of living was about the same, but Stephen had long paid off his student debt in the States, so didn’t need to earn a whole lot. And Stephen was ready for a change. The constant stress, lower staffing levels and the sicker patients in the US weren’t worth thinking about (not to mentioned that he would be up to his eye-balls in COVID-19 patients if he had stayed). So as you do, they bought a house, got dogs and went through the immigration process. This raised a question of what to do with Core Schedule.
By that point, the ER department at Wellington Hospital was their only non-American customer (Stephen was in charge of the roster there and said if he couldn’t use Core Schedule, he wouldn’t do the rostering). Up to then, Stephen had never marketed Core Schedule, so they decided that they should go to a medical conference as a vendor to do so. So Stephen and his husband went to Australasian Emergency Medicine Doctors conference, got a table, and handed out flyers that they had made up the night before.
In that single conference, they doubled the size of the business overnight and started thinking, wow, we actually might be on to something here. They went to that same conference the following year and the exact same thing happened. It was at this stage that Stephen realised that Core Schedule was now too big and running too fast to operate as a hobby business anymore. Eight years in, Stephen knew that he needed to decide what to do with the business. It wasn’t going to work to put a manager in the business, so it was either sell it or fully commit himself.
Realising that he was having more fun doing Core Schedule than clinical medicine, it was time to go into pure start-up mode. Their first New Zealand hire was software developer Richard, who Stephen’s husband had first met in a bar. When they worked out that Richard had php programming experience, he was invited in for an interview. Richard wasn’t sure what he was turning up for – he thought maybe some casual or contracting work. Immediately after the interview he was offered a permanent full-time job on the spot and has been with Core Schedule ever since.
The Build Up
At this stage Stephen was spending most of his time on sales. The next two hires for the business where Vaughan, a business development manager, and Nicole, a finance manager. They found Vaughan through a friend of a friend. And they knew a partner of a doctor that Stephen worked with that had a finance background – that was Nicole. The company had that team for the next year as the business continued to grow. Soon after, they hired a fulltime support person and another software developer. At that stage, there were seven people in total, all working out of Stephen’s home, which kept the costs down. That arrangement lasted for a year before they bit the bullet and moved into their current office. That was two years ago, a time when the company was generating around $200,000 in annual revenues. Since then revenues have more than doubled and in June Core Schedule took its first round of external funding, lead by Punakaiki Fund, along with investment from K1W1 and the Aspire NZ Seed Fund (part of the Government’s NZ Growth Capital Partners). In these COVID times, the company has a unique opportunity to help manage health workers through these stressful times. While selling the Core Schedule software has become harder in the short-term (because of travel restrictions), the future is looking bright for this ex-US start-up.
Core Schedule is committed to keeping our countries safe and we want to support our public health services in any way we can to help manage the COVID-19 Vaccine programme in a meaningful way. For that reason, we are making our standard Vaccine Clinic Rostering Module available at no charge to help teams manage the public COVID-19 vaccination hubs.
This comprehensive yet uncomplicated system includes many features that provide assistance to administrators and managers of our essential healthcare specialists involved in COVID-19 vaccination clinics. These key features include, but are not limited to:
the ability for people in your wider team to self register and indicate their availability
confirming team members have the appropriate training,
organizing shifts based on people’s credentials and availability,
team members being able to view their personal roster in one place while operating across multiple clinics within your vaccination hub.
Further information on this initiative available here:
What most people think of as a Roster is really only a Timetable. It is why so many people invest endless hours of processing, juggling, and double-checking everything to ‘run the roster’ to make sure the timetable is right.
Many people who manage the roster to build the timetable have ended up with the responsibility for everything from compliance, to finance, to human resource management and don’t have the right tools to help them do it. It has been a very slow unintentional migration of responsibility in an environment of increased pressure and competition for resources that has for one reason or another not been recognised.
That’s where Core Schedule comes in.
In this webinar we discuss this and share a little of our approach.
The latest update to Core Schedule Attributes means you have the ability to include any relevant information for your unit and team members. There is no limit to the number of data points, format, the kinds of information you need or the way it can be used in the system.
There are multiple ways attributes are used and appear in the system. For example, they can be shown in the roster, applied to rules, used for reporting, inform contingency plans, track call balances, identify compliance set or exceptions, automate process, place icons, inform unit and organisational risk analysis, or be combined with other data and used for calculations or projections with our advanced analytics tools, to name just a few.
Whether you need to track credential expiry, record every qualification and sub-specialty for every person, need to implement a leave reduction program, capture personal roster preferences, record and manage contract KPIs, or perhaps you want just to want to keep track of the birthday of the pets of the people on the team who have brown eyes and can pilot a helicopter. If you need it, we can include it to any level of detail or hierarchy across any category.
When used in conjunction with our rules, alerts, templates, safety scan, dashboards, reports, analytics and workflows, this information then helps with everything from identifying the person with the exact skill you need to SMS right now, forecasting the cost of your next roster, or knowing who needs to have their Working with Children Certificate renewed in the next 2 months.
Every roster, person, and team are different, and so is Core Schedule. We believe that people should determine what matters to them, not software. It’s essential.
“Why I have a thing for New Zealanders… In particular, 9 reasons why I think New Zealand based companies are great to work with”.
I love working for Core Schedule. They are an NZ based company, founded by a New York expat living in Wellington. Now, it’s not the first time I have worked for a successful NZ start-up. A few years back I worked at Xero, a little Accounting SaaS company you might have heard of. Ok, not that little, in fact, Xero has gone on to be one of the most successful Startups of all time and with over 2 million subscribers globally there are no signs of it slowing down. Legend has it that Xero, which was founded by Rod Drury, was done so in an apartment with a dodgy solution for accessing wifi from a nearby café. Running his own business gave Rod insight into just how clunky traditional accounting software was, and after his money arrived from the sale of AfterMail the founding Xero team set out to develop a cloud accounting platform with the first multi-perspective general ledger. And the rest is history.
Core Schedule tackles the challenging and complex areas of healthcare rostering to improve the lives of people working at all levels in the sector. It is another successful company to come out of the thriving New Zealand tech industry. So it got me thinking, why is it thriving? AND why is it that I get drawn into working for NZ tech companies? Well, it probably comes down to aligning to my own personal values of Creativity, Innovation, Love (Care/People First), Adventure and Fun.
So based on that, here is a list of 9 reasons why it is awesome to work with Kiwis:
People First- Well this starts from the top. With a leader like Jacinda Ardern who actually can combine the qualities of empathy and leadership into her role and was also the first world leader to actually take maternity leave whilst in office just proves that people come first in New Zealand.
Pride stems from culture and community rather than from the self, for Kiwis. Culture is respected and honoured in every gathering so there is a distinct sense of collective responsibility.
I am one of those Aussies who follows Jacinda Ardern on Facebook and I think it is partly because I feel like I am part of a tribe with a tribe leader that is approachable, and that I am part of the family. “Evening everyone, thought I would jump online and just check in with everyone as we all prepare to hunker down for a few weeks,” said the New Zealand leader via Facebook Live as the country prepared for its month-long Covid-19 shutdown. She pointed to her grubby sweatshirt. “It can be a messy business putting a toddler to bed.” There certainly is less ego in the hierarchy and I have felt that across both companies.
Everyone plays in the band, especially leaders. Singing and dancing are part of life. Both are proven to have positive impacts on mental health and well-being. Xero even had a band for many years and at Core Schedule I have lost count how many times I’ve been asked if I do Karaoke.
Companies care about purpose. The ‘Why’ factor over profit. Which I believe has much better long term effects for business.
There is a balance between having fun and being productive. Which leads to even more creativity.
The country is crazy beautiful, like almost unreal, a work of art perhaps. This seems to flow through into everything. Quirky, colourful, creative people and places.
Emotion is celebrated in New Zealand. Feelings have value and you are not discouraged to share. I have had several male leaders across both companies get quite emotional at times which once again just highlighted true compassion, empathy and love.
New Zealand is progressive. As a member of the Aussie LGBTQI+ community, this is something that I have watched with envy from afar. Keep leading the way NZ!
So there you have it, with a list like that why wouldn’t I want to get amongst it. You should too! You don’t need to quit your job or book a flight. There are a bunch of NZ tech companies already doing great things here in Australia and you should definitely consider them in your tech stack.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board uses Core Schedule to help COVID-19 response
During one particularly memorable Sunday for staff at the Bay of Plenty District Health Board in Tauranga, New Zealand, an immediate COVID-19 response was demanded. It would involve standing up a drive-through community-based assessment centre within three days.
Helen De Vere, Programme Manager – Innovation & Improvement, was given the unenviable task of staffing the testing centre. Calls were put out via various networks for healthcare volunteers to staff the new services and the applications came pouring in.
“A lot of people replied, volunteering to do various shifts,” she says. “We’d be running seven days a week, 8am to 8pm, so we needed a lot of people over multiple shifts per day, with various specialists required to undertake specific roles.”
“I was left with a massive spreadsheet that had people’s names and phone numbers and email addresses and what roles they could undertake and their registration details and all of that. People were telling me, ‘I can do a shift this Tuesday, and maybe next week I could probably do Wednesday.’”
“When you’ve got 400 people emailing and calling you their specific preferences, it becomes a bit of a nightmare. I’d almost clear the emails by 8pm each night, then nearly cry the next morning as there were already another 80 emails to plough through. I was constantly on the phone confirming shifts and begging people to do extras. It was brutal.”
The scheduling solution
Once she came up for air, De Vere discussed with her senior management colleagues the need for scheduling software, especially given the anticipated and ongoing logistical exercise of the coming COVID-19 response. Presently the process relied too heavily on manual input, making it hard to forward plan and roll shift patterns forward.
Her colleagues agreed and partnered her with a specialist from the IT team in order to explore various software options.
“He proposed a couple of solutions, but they didn’t do what I needed them to do. Then he introduced me to Core Schedule, and I got on a Zoom meeting with the co-founder, Dr Stephen Pool,” De Vere says.
“As I spoke to Core Schedule, it became apparent that they could make their solution function as I required. They were very responsive and candid and responded positively to about 95% of my requests. I sent them my spreadsheet of horror, and they created something I could interact with and showed me how to use it.”
De Vere now had a system that automated many of the previously manual tasks, which allowed her to communicate with various groups easily, and that gave staff some control and complete visibility over their own rosters. It meant a reserves bench of staff could also be filled, so if people dropped off the schedule, there were always more staff ready to automatically take their place.
Implementation of the software, including training, took just one week.
“The rostering was more than a full-time job when I used a spreadsheet,” De Vere says. “Now it’s maybe one hour a day, and even that is generous – many days it’s just half an hour.”
Technology brings adaptability and functionality
When De Vere approached Core Schedule, she was trying to manage around 20 shifts a day on a spreadsheet, says Dr Stephen Pool, Core Schedule’s co-founder and CEO. She was managing the process admirably, but clearly it was an overwhelming task that allowed no room for error, or for vital contingency planning.
COVID-19 means all medical workforces have had to be split into various groups, including those that can work in ‘COVID hot zones’ and those that must stay clear, Pool says. Contingency rosters have had to be drawn up for every shift. Staff scheduling, already an extremely complex process, has become more so as a result of COVID.
“Core Schedule has been built, and rebuilt, to be extremely modular,” Pool explains. “We can easily add features and reorganise functions and change the way information is stored to match the needs of a specific client. The modular nature of Core Schedule offers flexibility and the power to become customised and bespoke to a client’s needs.”
“I don’t know of any other scheduling software with this modularity, capability and functionality. And the best part of it for our clients is the speed with which we can get them up and running, automating the dull, manual tasks and freeing up their talented staff to do far more important work.”
Easier, more effective staff schedules coming right up!