UltraGenda Pro | Frequently Asked Questions

General/functionality

Q: We are a hospital with several sites (locations). Can UltraGenda handle scheduling across these?

UltraGenda Pro does indeed support the notion of campus or site. While searching for a free slot, the user may indicate which site(s) the patient prefers. Also, when a patient is selected, UG Pro will show on which sites the patient has previously had other appointments.

Q: We are a group of rehabilitation centers where patients come after discharge from hospital. Is UltraGenda suited for this kind of activity?

UltraGenda Pro is suited for all healthcare environments with the exception of the individual or small practice. UltraGenda Pro can be set up in such a way as to contain a group of -even small- rehabilitation centers. Access rights will then determine which users have access to which center. Call center operators for their part could book appointments for the entire group.

Q: We often have to make appointments for patients not yet registered in our current patient administration system. How is this handled?

There are several options for this, depending on the type of integration that has been selected. The most current option is as follows: if you make an appointment for a patient that is not known, then the patient identification is stored in UltraGenda Pro and is not passed on to the central patient repository (MPI). If and when you wish to register that the patient has arrived for his visit, UltraGenda will request you to validate the ‘temporarily’ identity. You will then search again in the (replica of) the master patient index and will then link the temporary identity to the validated patient. As outlined above other options are viable, particularly so when web services are used in conjunction with an eMPI.

Q: Our physicians have the bad habit to cancel their clinics a day or two in advance. How would this affect UltraGenda?

UltraGenda Pro has a manual as well as an automatic ‘move’ function. If a session is canceled then you can either reschedule (or indeed cancel) each appointment individually, or you can reschedule the entire set of planned appointments according to criteria and parameters which you will have to specify (same day, same resource, how much earlier or later, etc.). Obviously, you will be able to produce the corresponding letters for the entire group of patients.

Q: We have a department of nuclear medicine that often needs to book a series of 12 sessions in one time. Is this possible?

Certainly. All you need to do is book the first appointment (even when this is a so called ‘multi-resource’ appointment!) and then select the ‘repeat’ function. You then need to enter the repeat parameters (number of sessions, frequency, resources, etc.) and confirm. If certain appointments from the requested series cannot be booked then you still have the possibility to look for alternatives for these appointments –from within the same repeat function.

Q: Does UltraGenda support waiting list functionality?

Yes, we do. Instead of booking an appointment for a patient, the appointment can also be ‘requested’ –if needed with a previously defined ‘guaranteed’ date. The request (or waiting list entry) can be converted directly into an appointment by an authorized user without the need to double-enter data. All the stages of the request and waiting process can be recorded and are therefore available for inclusion into management reports.
As an alternative to the direct registration of waiting list entries, requests can also reach UltraGenda Pro via a third party system (see further integration with order entry/order management systems).

Q: Do you support episodes?

Yes, we do. See further Q/A regarding integration.

Q: We have a question as regards reports. Can you explain the reporting mechanisms of UltraGenda Pro?

UltraGenda Pro uses the commercial tool Crystal Reports to produce reports. UltraGenda Pro offers a number of views on the database which customers can use to define their own reports with the help of Crystal Reports. The data sets provided enable the production of all ‘routine’ letters and reports such as appointment confirmations and cancellation letters, routine counts and –summaries, etc. Very specific, ad hoc reports or statistics are not generated from UltraGenda Pro but rather from UG Contacts Store which is being fed in real time by UltraGenda Pro.

Q: Recently I heard someone talk about your ‘rules engine’. Can you explain this?

The rules engine or search engine is a function that enables you to look for free slots. These can be slots in one schedule (of doctor X for example) or for an entire clinic or department, but also for complex sets of appointments. For example you could use the search engine to look for so-called ‘multi-resource’ appointment slots (for example a surgeon, an operating room and an anesthetist) or for order sets (for example a pre-op exam, an operation and a post op check). Or –as mentioned in an earlier answer- for serial appointments. The search engine is thus a powerful tool since it stores all the parameters and constraints of every ‘resource’ for which you want to look. Besides the search engine has so-called ‘load balancing parameters’. They regulate the amount of free slots that will be offered by the ‘owner’ of the resource concerned (for example always keep 10% free for urgencies).

Q: What is meant by ‘rules’?

Appointment scheduling relies on countless rules that are stored in the minds of booking assistants. These rules have grown over the years and are often very complex, although not chaotic. UltraGenda Pro offers a parameterization model that enables you to approach those rules in a systematic way. Once that model is under control, the actual parameterization of the rules (which UltraGenda will apply while searching for free slots and booking) is pretty straightforward –it is essentially a matter of methodology. In other words: it is not so much UltraGenda Pro that is complex, but rather the rules that it needs to store and apply.

Q: Can our physicians see their appointments on their PDA’s?

All the appointments booked in UltraGenda Pro can be shown in the PDA’s of the respective schedule owners. Please note that this is a one way communication, i.e. from UltraGenda to the PDA.

Q: Why are access rights in UltraGenda so much more sophisticated then in other systems?

UltraGenda believes that appointment scheduling is not only a matter for booking assistants. Other actors in the hospital –physicians, receptionists, nurses etc.- have a role to play. Obviously, not everybody needs ‘to be able to see and do everything’. The power of UltraGenda lies precisely in it being able to calibrate access to information and functions according to the profile of every single user. As a result, everyone can play its role, efficiency and service are guaranteed, but at the same time the confidentiality of schedules and patient information is saveguarded.

Q: I suppose you use the principle of ‘user groups’. Do we need to create a new user group each time an individual user has a specific right?

No, you can define individual ‘exceptions’ for every single user in a user group.

Q: Some of our physicians want to show only their free slots, not their booked slots. Is this possible?

This can be achieved via simple setting in the parameters of the resources concerned.

Implementation

Q: We are a general 800 bed hospital. How much time will we need to roll out UltraGenda hospital wide?

The two main factors for this are leadership and availability of staff. Leadership: it is important that a person or a committee ‘drives’ the roll-out. Hence, a project organization is helpful. Availability: UltraGenda trains the ‘application administrators’, i.e. those that will undertake the actual parameterization of the system (generally, one or two pilot clinics start, followed gradually by other clinics and departments). We always advise our new customers to make sure that they always have a trained staff at hand. On the average hospitals such as yours will roll out 80% of their departments within 6 to 8 months and the other 20% in the year thereafter.

Q: What does a typical implementation track looks like?

Grosso modo a standard implementation track consists of the phases installation, integration and data take-on, training and roll out. Installation: UG Pro being a web application it is only installed at server side (we advise separate environments for testing, training and production –specs are provided by UG). Integration and data take-on: the integration needs and methods are generally defined together with the customer. See further Q/A concerning integration. Training: UG provides the training of the application administrators (generally twice 3 days), as well as sessions for system management and reports. Roll out: generally by the end of the training the parameterization of the pilot department(s) is ready and the system is very soon taken into production. Our experience shows that the average time between acquisition of the hardware and going live is 4 months.

Q: Does UltraGenda also train end users?

Generally end user training is given by the application administrators. The use of UltraGenda Pro is so simple that training time is restricted to just one hour.

Q: Our ICT-department is a strong supporter of the concept of cross-departmental bookings. However, our physicians oppose. What would be your advice?

The initial ‘fear’ of physicians for bookings made directly by another department is normal –it is the fear for the unknown. However, after the initial resistance we very often see acceptance and even enthusiasm. It is very important to show and even prove to your physicians that UltraGenda will only apply the booking rules that they have defined. Nobody will ever be able to see information or book appointments without their consent –in the form of parameterization. Once your doctors will have understood that principle then you will see interest increase, the efficiency benefits being hard to ignore.

Benefits

Q: We have to justify our choice for UltraGenda for our investment board. Based on direct, measurable savings, we can prove a payback period of 18 months. However, I remember you speaking also about ‘less tangible’ benefits. Can you explain these? Thank you.

There are chances that the ‘less tangible’ benefits that you state are more important than those which you have included in your present formula. There are many of these and some of them are very difficult to express in financial terms. A better working atmosphere is a good example of a ‘priceless’ benefit. Also the fact that you can easily rely on outsourcing in periods of understaffing. Quality and traceability are also important. A better service, the possibility to offer 24/7 services, to be able to take into consideration patient preferences when looking for free slots, to involve the GP in the process, the sound management information that UltraGenda provides and that is so desperately needed in the hospital enterprise -each of these are important benefits though difficult to quantify. One of our customers once put it this way: ‘the amount of time and frustration that we have saved is just… immeasurable. After all those years I still wonder how we have ever been able to run this hospital without UltraGenda’.

Q: We have the intention to collaborate with an external call center for the appointment booking. However, some of our heads of department claim that central bookings don’t work. What is UltraGenda’s opinion?

Our opinion is that the discussion around ‘central’ vs. ‘decentral’ scheduling is outdated and that only hybrid forms really work. By analogy to what happens in other areas of the economy, distribution is the key word. That distribution can only be achieved in an enterprise wide, web native system that can be accessed by different actors, each according to their role. More concretely we suggest that via close cooperation with the various departments and clinics you decide which appointment types can be handled by the call center and which others the call center will not be able to schedule and will need to pass on to the booking assistants in the departments or clinics concerned.

Technology

Q: How many (concurrent) users can your system handle?

UltraGenda Pro is a web-native application, a solution ‘born on the internet’. There really is no limit to the number of users and neither is the number of users relevant for the sizing of the hardware. For your information: our largest customer has approximately 6.000 users.

Q: What platform does UltraGenda use?

UltraGenda Pro is only available on the Windows Server platform.

Q: I know that UltraGenda uses MS SQL Server. But do you also support Oracle databases?

No, UltraGenda Pro is only available with MS SQL Server. The reason is that we strive towards generic solutions. We do not invest in technical diversity but rather in the development of new functions. This of course also contributes to easier and more effective support.

Q: Which browsers/versions does UltraGenda Pro support?

UltraGenda Pro supports MS Internet Explorer version 6.0 and more recent.

Integration

Q: With what other systems can UltraGenda Pro be integrated?

There are many, but no single customer puts in place all integrations -it’s all a matter of business perspective. Also the way of integration can vary (asynchronous messaging, visual integration, web services, LDAP…). The following integrations make a lot of sense and are put in place by us on a regular basis:
- Patient repositories
- Other master files such as episodes, physicians, users, etc.
- EPR’s
- PAS systems, billing systems and/or coding or reporting systems
- Order entry and order management systems
- Operating room systems
- RIS en RIS/PACS
Once again, each of those integrations can be achieved in various ways. Please contact us case by case.

Q: We have an order entry system that we developed ourselves and would like to integrate it with UltraGenda. What ways would you suggest?

We suggest to discuss this with you in your or our offices. Basically there are two ways to achieve this integration. The first, more ‘traditional’ way is to let the order entry system send us the order via an HL7/ORM message. As soon as the order is scheduled in UltraGenda we will send back an HL7/SIU message. An alternative way (that actually generates much less traffic) is that the order is kept in your order entry system until ‘someone’ (the delivering department) wishes to schedule the order. At that moment a context switch takes place to UltraGenda, and after the scheduling of the order an HL7/SIU message is again passed on.

Q: How can UltraGenda interact with the RIS?

Also in this case, there is no one single way. Whatever the road chosen, the principle is that UltraGenda is in charge of the scheduling –the specificities of the imaging department can perfectly be defined in UltraGenda. Every ‘event’ (appointment confirmation, cancelation, rescheduling, editing, etc.) is passed on to the RIS via HL7/SIU messages. In this way the work list in the RIS is filled and kept up to date. When the end of an exam is registered in the RIS, an HL7 message is sent to UltraGenda so that UG can ‘close’ that appointment (the same goes for DNA’s). Last minute or ‘walk-in’ patients can either be registered in UG or in the RIS, and each time the other application is informed via a message. We have integrations in production with a dozen of RIS and RIS/PACS systems among which global players such as Agfa, GE and Carestream (Kodak).

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