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Written by: Darlene D'Altorio-Jones (1959-2015) on Monday, July 4, 2011 Posted in: Inpatient Rehab

One of the greatest values a rehabilitation manager can appreciate is the ability to synchronize needs to resources.  The ability to wring precious time against right staffing and patient availability is an ever ending battle for both rehabilitation units and outpatient practices alike.  There are no fonder memories for me than the day I had the ability to lick this battle and that day began the day I purchased and deployed an electronic centralized scheduling system.  Above all, my appreciation and adoration was for my right hand, otherwise known as my lead scheduler, Ann.   As adept as a dozen air traffic controllers, the scheduling nightmares and many wasted hours vanished, or at least became manageable.

Time is money; we all know this more than anything when managing rehabilitation departments.  Time lost can never really be regained and the opportunities to lose time are enormous when you’re unable to coordinate resources with needs.  Resources, what are they?  Resources are staff, specialized talents, equipment, rooms, programs and the like all needed to coordinate specific allocations in matching the desired to the patients’ present needs.  Balancing resources on paper in an era where the tightest margins are being squeezed day after day by “budget neutral” with higher demands ever looming is near ludicrous.  If you  manage 10 beds in an inpatient unit it may be possible; but why waste any dollars if the return on investment can virtually stomp out time wasted?

When managers and staff can “at a glance” capture the demands of a specific day, reallocating where necessary or tracking specific data that lends insight to patterns, they begin to harness control over a seemingly impossible task. Scheduling is complex.  Ask a scheduler that sits at a kiosk who only has staff available at certain times or days and then must match a series of appointments to a patient requiring specific staffs talents.  If you have multi-services with compressed needs or specialized programs, again, without clear visual or searchable options, bringing the entire picture into view is difficult to manage.

Finally, if you are managing a regulatory requirement, where three hours no less than five times a week signals a mandated ceiling to warrant continued stay for the patient, and is proof that you follow the minimum requirements to operate as an inpatient rehabilitation facility, the risks are far greater than how much time didn’t we manage well.

Scheduling in rehabilitation is core to the basic premise of starting and stopping your day.  You can manage it well by being efficient and cost effective, or you can “wing it” and hope you meet all the required demands.  In my 21 plus years of managerial experience, I know when I finally pinpointed a solution.  A decision I never regretted was my investment in electronic centralized scheduling – and for better or worse, my love of Ann!  She magically made my bottom dollar look sweet.

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