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OmniRota is a sophisticated rota software package developed specifically for use by GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes, where many varied but specialised staff work an often complex shift pattern. The software was originally developed by Australian HR IT specialist Andrew O’Connell whose wife, a junior partner in a thriving Edinburgh GP practice, was given the task of managing the practice rota.

She was unable to find ‘off-the-shelf’ software that was both flexible and powerful enough to manage the myriad variables within her rota, and yet was priced within her limited budget. Faced with this challenge, and with his background in creating bespoke HR IT solutions for large clients, Andrew developed the original software for his wife’s practice and hence the OmniRota system was born. Read more here.

A new partnership for OmniRota was formed in 2013 when Andrew Bernard and Bala Murugan joined the team and the software was re-platformed on the cloud.

Since then there has been significant investment in the development of the software with a new mobile app on the way.


Andrew O'Connell
andrew.oconnell@omnihrs.co.uk

Andrew Bernard
andrew.bernard@omnihrs.co.uk

Bala Murugan
bala.murugan@omnihrs.co.uk

Here's Dr. O'Connell's story.

Dr Fiona O'Connell
MbChB MRCGP DRCOG DFFPGP

Juggling the multiple demands of modern day general practice can be a full-time job in itself, even without the medical management of patients. Trying to coordinate the fluctuating demands of day-to-day clinical care, with chronic disease management, training, audit, IT, financial management, employment law, Agenda for Change and the ubiquitous chase for quality and outcomes framework (QOF) points can be a challenge in any practice. Try that in a practice with five partners, one of whom is a trainer, another of whom is a GP with a special interest and another who is routinely out of the practice three days a week at the local LHCC. Add in a part-time registrar, a retainer and four part-time GP assistants and you soon have a real headache when coordinating medical staff and ensuring that the practice is covered at all times. Not only does cover for clinical care need to be consistent and flexible enough to cope with the individual emergencies and mishaps that happen every day, but we, as a practice, had to find a way to coordinate room allocation, annual leave, training and study days in an equitable, fair and flexible way.

Manual shortcomings
Needless to say, the responsibility for coordinating leave and the GP rota fell to the newly appointed junior partner. To my dismay, I found the old manual rota system was fiddly and took hours of otherwise precious time. On average, a three-month rota had taken the previous partner 10 to 12 hours of checking and adjusting to ensure that all the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of our particular practice were being catered for. For example, it was hard to remember that one partner couldn’t do “on call” on a particular day because of the school run and also cater for the fact that half days on a Friday were sought after and should be shared equally. Allowances also had to be made to cover the varying clinical and non-clinical demands of each individual doctor. I had to keep in mind differing priorities for all the various chronic disease clinics, tutorial times, visits and audit times while trying to juggle shifts around annual leave, part-time working hours and absences from the practice.I was trying to calculate the rota manually and kept needing to check and recheck to avoid omissions. A single mistake could mean a clinic time that wasn’t covered or a huge shortage of appointment times. Imagine arriving one morning to realise there is no on-call doctor and the rest of the staff are fully booked all day; very difficult to cover for and potentially extremely stressful for the whole practice team.
Over the years, our practice had grown and evolved and it was apparent the old rota system couldn’t cope with the new face of “new contract” clinical care. Luckily, all the partners were in agreement that the allocation of annual leave and the rota allocation of duties should be fair. Not for us the “first come first serve” mentality, necessitating a race for annual leave requests during school holidays. Nor did we want one person to be unfairly lumbered with too many Friday afternoons on call, nor with the busiest on call days.

Fair approach
We were united in wanting a fair allocation of more enjoyable aspects of practice care, such as Friday afternoons off and teaching medical students and our registrar. Clinicians would be allocated time set aside for their own areas of chronic disease management and audit, but the timing for these sessions would suit the practice. Finally, we were keen to ensure that there was always a partner available on the premises in the afternoon to support our clinical and non-clinical staff in the day-to-day running of the practice. We therefore developed a series of “rota rules” (or to give them their more appropriate political name, “guidelines”). These aimed to ensure the practice could function seamlessly with an agreed minimal amount of staff each day, regardless of the ebb and flow of annual leave and outside commitments. We tried to do this as a practice team, and involved reception staff, the nursing team and, of course, the practice manager. We even tried to incorporate feedback from patient questionnaires and ensure that we had addressed the political demands of 24-hour access. I asked my husband, a software developer and programmer and the managing director of his own HR software company, to find us a rota system that could cope with variable hours and duties that we could use in our practice. I assumed that there must be a more efficient way of planning the GP rota than by doing it by hand. After all, the challenges posed by creating our rota are hardly unique to doctors in general practice. Surely there were computer programmes that could manage the coordination of staff that we could use, or at least adapt? Unfortunately, after much researching and detective work, we realised that there was nothing available that suited our needs or that we could adapt and change with the evolving demands of our general practice. Luckily, after a bit of wifely persuasion, my husband agreed to write a programme for us.

A new rota system
Writing a programme from scratch that can deal with the rather eccentric demands of a group of disparate individuals can be difficult and time consuming, and we soon realised why it appeared not to have been attempted before. A period of testing and retesting, and of staff changes in the practice due to maternity leave and a new GP assistant, then followed. Eventually a computer system that could be flexible, fair and easily adjusted with future practice changes evolved. It was so easy to use, that even I could input annual leave and adjust the working times of each clinician. It also let me know with specific alerts if the practice was under-staffed on any particular day or if any of the pre-agreed guidelines were not being met. It could be adjusted and edited according to last minute changes and also let me see graphically when inputting leave that we would be short-staffed on any particular day. It would also print out individual rotas for each doctor. After discussion with our practice manager, the software was further developed to include annual leave allowances, so that this data only had to be entered once. The system automatically prints out a leave allowance form that can be signed by the practice manager. Using a computer system to plan the rota for the clinical staff now took minutes and I could add on or edit individual changes as they became apparent, even at the last minute. A task that was a laborious chore to perform by hand now became much easier when the donkey work was performed by a computer programme. It meant that as a clinician, I could concentrate on what was more important, ie, patient care. Word of mouth recommendations meant that the computer system was adapted and started to be used in more and more practices.

It can now be used by any sized practice with any particular set of individual circumstances. With all the rules built into the system itself there is no longer any need for anyone to be the "one" who knows how to put the rota together and the job of managing the rota is now just a small part of a junior admin person's role.

In retrospect, using a computerised rota system, instead of trying to do the same job by hand, seems as obvious as using a computer programme to run searches on individual read codes or contract points, or to generate routine prescriptions.

Since writing this originally, I've moved to Australia with my husband and family and the software has developed in leaps and bounds. It now lives in the cloud and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere. Support is amazing as it's all handled within the system itself and they now have people who can help in 3 continents and 3 time zones. They've recently been approached by a very prestigious hospital to assist in managing the enormous intricacies of the emergency care rota and are soon releasing an App for doctors to manage their own leave requests, shift preferences and changes as well as allowing the system to manage emergency cover.

That wifely conversation all those years ago has led to the development of a world class bit of software, quite a journey from the day I felt a little queasy feeling in the stomach when told "congratulations, you're now in charge of the rota"!

FIONA O'CONNELL MbChB MRCGP DRCOG DFFPGP is a full-time GP working in a practice in Nelson Bay. Her interests include women’s and children’s health, and acupuncture treatment for pain. Outside work, she enjoys running and keeping fit, as well as hill walking and having a glass of red wine by a real fire.

Testimonials


Michelle Carroll at the Abington Park Surgery explains why they took the plunge with computerised rota system, OmniRota and explains how it’s helped them to make better plans.

  
Michelle Carroll, Administrator,
Abington Park Surgery,
Northampton

A task too far

For a medium sized GP practice with 7 partner GPs, the Abington Park Surgery has an impressively complex rota, largely driven by the GP partnership share model, registrars and a nine-week rota period. This meant that it was taking Michelle 3 days every nine weeks to prepare the next rota. "As the jobs mounted up, something had to give", says Michelle, when describing what prompted her to look for rota software.

A personal pressure

Abington Park Surgery started using OmniRota in 2013. Apart from the obvious benefit of saving time, (the rotas now take 20 minutes to run), Michelle Carroll cites the fact that all the complex rules are no longer stored only in her head and she alone doesn't have to try to remember them all whenever she draws up a rota; a big personal advantage of having the software and avoids a key man dependency for the practice.

It also makes planning much easier. Whilst changes are inevitable, the fact that the changes can be processed using OmniRota means that all of the impacts of a change can be considered and planned for; a huge plus for her GPs' workload.

“It makes it easier to plan - for example, when we have a registrar we might have found that we didn't have enough cover but now we can properly plan for it - it makes the workload easier for the doctors. Omni is really easy to change and it's much more comprehensive now.”

Let the computer do the hard work

A rota is now just four clicks away, Michelle explains. She can then make manual changes or make plans to deal with any exceptions or gaps. Michelle then emails the rota out and the doctors see the final rotas through their iPhones.

“The doctors see it through their iphones. That works really well and I print off a pdf file.”

Taking the plunge

Michelle believes that people often shy away from taking the plunge into rota software because they can't quite believe that it's capable of doing the job.

“At first I didn't trust it. I didn't think it would work. Now I've got it though, I love it and wouldn't do without it."

Support when you need it

OmniRota support is at the end of a phone or on email if needed to help answer questions or make any rule changes for future rotas.

“The support is amazing. Even if you ask a stupid question, they come back really quickly and are really helpful.”

Geoff Dennis, Practice Manager at the Falmouth Health Centre explains why he took the plunge with computerised rota system, OmniRota and describes how much time it’s helped them save.

Geoff Dennis is Practice Manager for the Falmouth Health Centre.
  
“I really do not know how we managed before Omni. It is now an integral part of our process.”

A complex rota challenge

The Falmouth Health Centre has six partners and seven other clinical staff. Their rota complexity comes from the fact that most of the GPs have other interests and activities – surgery, specialist clinics, occupational health, involvement with CCG, LMC etc. This can result in frequent variations to the ‘standard’ week. They also have a number of part time GPs and they need to ensure fairness on allocation of sessions and duty days. They have a high demand population and need to make sure they have sufficient sessions especially during holiday periods.

Time-consuming and problematic

For the Falmouth Health Centre the daunting task of drawing up the rotas fell to Geoff Dennis, Practice Manager, and one of the partners. The rota could take the equivalent of a full day each, recalls Geoff.

“We were fed up with rubbish paper rotas. We also had endless grumbles about fairness and veiled accusations of favouritism!”

So you can get on with the day job

Geoff believes that using OmniRota is significantly quicker and estimates a time saving of almost 2 weeks per year of both GP and admin time just to draw the rotas up. Additional benefits include a much more readable rota, the ability to update and re print, rooms allocation, iPhone versions to update users calendars.

Getting set up

“Set up is only as complicated as the work pattern. We took time to include all the possible variations.”

“Omni is now significantly quicker”, says Geoff. “The investment in initial set-up is well worth the small effort involved”.


Geoff also highlights that, by allowing other admin users to access the program, this has helped spread the workload and they have found the training for new users quick and easy.

“Omni is universally welcomed by all users. Doctors especially find the addition to their iPhone calendar a huge benefit. ”

Matthew Parsons at the Department of Gynaecology, Urogynaecology and Obstetrics, explains why he took the plunge with a computerised rota system, OmniRota, for their on call rota.

  
Matthew Parsons,
Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist,
Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust
Matthew Parsons, Consultant at Birmingham Women's NHS Trust Foundation, uses OmniRota for the on call rota for 24 consultants within the Department of Gynaecology, Urogynaecology and Obstetrics, a small, highly specialised trust. Here the rota complexity is driven from the different specialisms of the consultants and different working arrangements (fixed days and amount of on call).

Matthew moved from using Excel 3 or 4 years ago when there were fewer doctors. It was becoming time-consuming as he sought to give a fair proportion of on call to everyone and it was "inaccurate". He believes that he now couldn't do it manually, or if he did, it would give him a migraine!

"If I have a query, the guys get straight back to you. They provide great support. They fix it for you and also explain what was going wrong so that you can do it for yourself next time. That's pretty good.”

"OmniRota is brilliant. What's very popular is being able to send it to people's phones. That's pretty cool."


Priced to fit your staff count

The initial cost of the software will vary depending upon the complexity and size of the rota; please contact us for a quote. The initial cost covers the software licence and the creation of your first rota, a task which will be completed by our technicians.

We will never charge you a penny until you are completely satisfied with the product.

We are also happy to create additional rotas for other clinical and administrative staff such as nurses, HCAs and receptionists. On an ongoing basis there is a monthly cost of £5 per doctor on rota (£1-£3 for other staff) which covers:

  • Full technical support
  • All software updates and technical upgrades
  • UK based hosting
  • Cloud backup of your data

All prices exclusive of VAT




Contact us

Please contact us via any of the channels below to discuss your rota requirements or for a free no obligation quotation for your practice rota.

Phone:

O845 094 1995 UK / +61 487 932 143 Australia