Apple Computers has made a big success with their iPhone over the past few years and now, to build on that success, they are introducing it’s bigger cousin the iPad. These advanced, ultra-easy-to-use mobile devices are going to have a significant impact on the daily operations of large organizations, especially in the area of labor management. Their “location specific” features and extraordinary user interface (every function effortless to perform) breaks through many of the obstacles that have blocked the full adoption of computers in many large enterprises, and this translates into less paper and lower costs.
For example, let’s look at hospitals. Physicians and nurses have been adopting the iPhone at a rapid pace, and integrating it into their daily professional work. There is every reason to assume that the iPad will be even more popular because of its larger size.
Why is this important for labor management, timekeeping, scheduling, and even more important, for the reduction of paper in general? Well, consider the clipboard.
When you think of a doctor in a hospital, what do you picture that doctor carrying? A clipboard of course. It has been the indispensable tool of medical personnel for decades. Hospital operations require an extraordinary amount of paperwork, forms, charts, guide-books, reference manuals, charge sheets, and a thousand other documents. The functioning of the human body, and the vast array of diseases and treatments, form a complex and ever-changing mass of information which a typical hospital must manage constantly. So the clipboard is the universal symbol of medical providers for the very simple reason that medical providers are constantly juggling vast amounts of information, which they carry on a clipboard.
With all our computer technology, why haven’t providers switched to digital tools? Well, they have tried. But medicine is also by nature a mobile job. Doctors and nurses don’t sit in one place, they move around constantly, and furthermore they move and work fast, under constant time pressure with no time for balky equipment. And until now, few of the computer terminals, laptops, or tablet computers have been good enough for these mobile professionals to use.
Enter the iPhone. The iPhone, for the first time, offered a device so fast to use, so effective, so reliable, and so portable that it could effectively support the work in a real hospital environment. Hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses have jumped into this mobile realm, and we can take this as a “vote” that this technology has finally crossed the threshold of usability for them.
Now there is a tool that can replace the clipboard and that means less paper…a lot less. These mobile tools are being used for a rapidly expanding set of medical applications, including medical references, charts, patient info (subject to privacy laws of course) and every other type of information that developers can fit into that format.
The net result: hospitals are going paperless, slowly but surely, and as a side benefit, they’re providing better care at a lower cost.
How do scheduling, timekeeping, and other types of workforce management fit into all this? Physician and nurse scheduling is one of the most important markets for workforce scheduling and timekeeping software. The scheduling and timekeeping process traditionally requires an enormous amount of negotiation, bidding, volunteering, shift sign-ups, tracking, printing of paper schedules, sign-up sheets, and so on, mostly on printed forms distributed on – you guessed it – clipboards, or printed and posted on the departmental bulletin board.
Even with the most popular workforce management software, this printing and form-filling is still very popular, so that the employees can carry copies of the forms. Paper is still used routinely, even in a computerized system. Again remember these workers are mobile and busy. They are used to grabbing a piece of paper and snapping it into those clipboards.
With the iPhone and iPad, however, we can now arrange for the doctors and nurses to view their schedules, clock in for the day, sign up for shifts, volunteer for work, and so on, using their mobile devices. They are already happy and familiar with these mobile devices, we simple add the workforce management functions on “top” of those other tools they use every day, and the user interface of the iPhone is so effortless, that this system really does surpass the convenience of paper.
Thus we give people what they need to abandon paper for good. And at the same time, we can support mobile devices as the “all purpose” tools used by mobile medical professionals, which makes it all the more likely this wonderful paperless trend will grown and continue. We make workforce management software easier for employees to access, which means they are more likely to enthusiastically support that software, and support the vendors and IT managers who wrote and installed it. In the past, workforce management software has not been popular with employees with very low rates of adoption. With the new mobile tools, we have an opportunity to dramatically improve user adoption and employee satisfaction with these systems.
About the Author:
Tom Benson, former CEO of Timepoint Corporation, designed one of the first “enterprise level” workforce scheduling systems, and has nearly 20 years’ experience in enterprise software for healthcare, manufacturing, and workforce management. He is also the Founder Emeritus of Applaise, which adds iPhone, iPad, and Blackberry support to timekeeping and scheduling systems.