Trending Topics

EMS scheduling software: 9 must-have features

Maximize efficiency gains from an online scheduling application by making sure software has these capabilities


Photo courtesy of eCore Software

In today’s technology-driven climate, online scheduling has gone from becoming a luxury to a necessity for any EMS agency serious about being efficient.

With many different platforms for online scheduling to choose from, here are nine features that every EMS agency should make sure that they have to maximize on the experience.

1. Mobile ready
According to the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone. Chances are your providers access their schedules primarily from a mobile device. Trying to use a non-responsive web page on a mobile device can be clumsy at best and downright unusable at worst. Make sure that the online scheduling system provides mobile optimized access — a responsive design — for both providers and managers.

Having an online scheduling system that provides native apps for both Android and iOS phones is a huge plus. Native apps automatically size correctly to screen size, regardless of the device it is installed on, and allow users to go directly into scheduling functionality without having to perform a login every time they use the app.

2. Different jobs or roles
The online scheduling platform needs to differentiate jobs or roles within the schedule that are user defined. This allows you to create specific slots for EMTs and paramedics, helping to ensure that an ambulance is staffed correctly to its level of service. You can further delineate the roles function by creating a driver slot and only selecting personnel qualified to operate the vehicle. The ability to assign more than one job or role to a user profile is an essential feature in an EMS environment.

Along with delineating jobs or roles, there are some systems that also allow you to track expiration dates for the certifications required for eligibility to hold a position such as paramedic. This is also a useful feature to track completion of job-specific training.

3. Private schedule building
The online schedule should be viewable by employees assigned to shifts, but the manager should do the building and pre-assignment of shifts privately. The build and any changes made on the schedule should not be viewable until the manager makes it public or publishes the schedule. This prevents unnecessary and potentially false notifications for providers as changes are made prior to the schedule’s finalization.

The system should allow you to create schedules behind the scenes either from previous weeks or from a template file. In creating a future schedule from a past schedule, the system should provide the option to carry the assigned provider with the shift over to the new schedule. This will greatly reduce the amount of time needed to do scheduling, especially for agencies with full time permanently assigned providers on shifts.

4. Shift trading
Trading shifts is not unique to EMS or even the greater realm of public safety. An online scheduling application needs to have a mechanism that allows this, whether it be through one-on-one offers or preferably a system-wide shift or trade posting bulletin board. The system should also allow an option to either automatically perform the switch when both individuals agree or require a manager’s approval of the shift trade.

5. Automatic notification of schedule, changes and open shifts
One of the best uses for online scheduling software is notifying personnel of their schedules. The system should automatically do this, either through app notification or via email, whenever a new schedule is available.

Some advanced platforms allow you to confirm that the employee has viewed their schedule. This is informative and helpful in ensuring that everyone knows where and when they are due for their next shift.

6. Schedule change logging
The platform you choose should log all changes to shifts or schedules, when the change was made and who made it. This is incredibly important in case of a discrepancy that needs to be investigated.

Some online scheduling systems also log the activity of the providers when they log in to the system. For hyper-dynamic scheduling agencies, where there is a deadline for providing availability, this can be incredibly useful in ensuring providers are adhering to the deadline for submitting availability and picking up open shifts.

7. Multiple manager login access
The ability to change the schedule, while primarily the responsibility of one person, should be available to anyone in a supervisory or administrative capacity. EMS agencies that operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week cannot expect one person to keep up with all the changes that may occur.

Some platforms allow assigning managers with different levels of access. While the primary manager may reserve hold the majority of administrative rights, ideally there would be at least two other users with those same or similar privileges for times when the top manager is not available.

8. Automatic hour tracking
Keeping track of how many hours personnel are scheduled for can be a chore, so an online scheduling system should be able to do it automatically. The system should allow setting the threshold for a number of hours an employee can be scheduled for and warn when they are being scheduled past that limit.

Additionally, the system should be able to set a minimum number of hours between shifts that an employee can be scheduled for. It should provide a warning, but also allow overriding if necessary. This will help eliminate situations where employees do not have enough time off between shifts which can lead to fatigue and its associated dangers.

9. Payroll system integration
One of the keys to realizing efficiency gains from online scheduling is system integration with other software applications. Some online scheduling systems are able to integrate with a payroll database. If that is not an option, most can export a data file that can then be imported into the payroll system. Depending on how your payroll system is set-up, this can greatly decrease the amount of time needed to make manual entries or adjustments and will help identify the exceptions from the schedule.

Does your agency use online scheduling? What are the efficiency gains you have realized? Share your experiences in the comments.

Dave is a New York City based EMS provider working in the field since 1994. He has worked in the private sector, as a 911 provider, and as a volunteer. Since 2005 he has been involved in Social Media aspects through the current major services as well as some defunct ones. He blogs about EMS, Social Media, and Event Medical Services at and maintains for other writings including updates on the books he authors.