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.”