Watch for territoriality, work to build trust

Consider potential sensitive areas up front

A proposal for an enterprisewide scheduling software system can be a "very political hot potato," says Barbara Wegner, CHAM, regional director of access services at Providence Health System in Portland, OR.

The status quo is that the department performing a procedure, such as X-ray, physical therapy, nuclear medicine, or surgery, does all its own scheduling. "It's very, very avant garde to take that and move it [to a central location]," Wegner says.

Individual departments might view centralization as a loss of control, "but it's really not a control issue at all," Wegner says. "It just provides an excellent clerical service for physicians, patients, and those departments."

Assuring departments they will maintain control of the parameters of an enterprisewide scheduling system, with the ability to block out periods of time when appointments can't be scheduled, is the main selling point in gaining their cooperation, says Tabitha Warner, MHA, project manager for seamless access at Providence.

"It's not real simple," Warner concedes. "We're still in the middle, and this is the tough part. We've been able to gain a lot of support, but it doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and building trust with those departments."

To gain that trust, it takes education and involvement in the implementation, she adds. "We show them how the system works, and we get them involved from step one so they are completely aware of how it's being developed."

Providence is planning to implement an enterprisewide scheduling system as part of its ongoing Seamless Access initiative, Wegner says. As a development partner with Atlanta-based HBOC on Encounter Management, an enterprisewide registration system, Providence also will use the HBOC product for enterprise scheduling, she says. (See the source box on p. 85 for contact information.)