Scheduling tool a big help in healthcare
Healthcare managers spend hours and hours puzzling together their staff rosters. Schemagi, a Linköping-based start-up, has developed a tool that increases healthcare quality and staff satisfaction.
The company started as Elina Rönnberg’s graduation project in optimisation. Gradually she realised that her project could deliver real-world benefits to the healthcare sector.
Which it did.
”Start a company? The idea never occurred to me. Absolutely not!”, says mathematician Elina Rönnberg. And she has a good laugh at the question, because she had never seen herself as an entrepreneur.
But the idea didn’t go away. Her graduation project concerned finding an efficient mathematical system for scheduling in the healthcare sector. The system worked well in theory, and Elina Rönnberg, now a researcher in optimisation at Linköping University, realised it could have benefits in the real world – in the quality of care as well as for the work-life balance of healthcare workers.
”This realisation in itself started the ball rolling. Several people in my family work in healthcare, and I’ve seen up close the importance of having well-functioning rosters. They’re vital for operations as well as for the staff’s well-being and job satisfaction.”
While studying engineering at Linköping University, she worked summers at a retirement home. Here she experienced first hand the importance of good timetabling.
”Because I couldn’t let go of the idea, my supervisor Torbjörn Larsson and I continued to work on it while I did my doctorate. Then we contacted the university’s Innovation Office. They, actually the whole innovation system at the university, supported us brilliantly right through the process, and held our hand during the start-up period.”
In 2010 Rönnberg established Schemagi, a combination of the Swedish words for schedule and magic. Schemagi customises scheduling for healthcare workplaces all over Sweden. Once operations got rolling, Elina Rönnberg and Torbjörn Larsson handed over the reins to people with more experience in running a business.
Today Schemagi has 15 employees, of which 13 are trained at Linköping University – engineers, mathematicians, nurses and HR experts. (Pictured at right are some of the Schemagi team.)
Viktoria Lundin is one of these LiU graduates. She studied human resources in the late 1990s. As business manager and project manager, she recruits new customers and maintains contact with existing ones. These are in sectors like local and regional government, as well as healthcare, including private providers of home care, different types of housing and hospital care units.
”Everyone who works with scheduling knows how difficult it is to create good schedules. Now managers can give us a list of requirements, both in terms of operations and individual staff wishes. The optimisation engine selects the options that best match all the constraints,” explains Viktoria Lundin (left).
Schemagi’s customers can be found throughout most of southern Sweden, and in two years the company has added ten employees.
”Healthcare managers no longer have to puzzle together their staff timetables. This frees up a huge amount of time for them – resources are utilised better and patient security increases. We’ve also had positive feedback from trade union organisations which we’re very happy about,” she adds.
Marie Yoo, a LiU-trained nurse who now works at Schemagi, thought a lot about scheduling when she worked at a hospital:
”Scheduling controls people’s lives to a degree, so it’s immensely important to get it right – both for quality of care and quality of life for the staff.”
In her role at Schemagi, Ms Yoo works together with healthcare staff, providing a link between Schemagi’s technology and the actual healthcare work.
”For instance I can challenge entrenched traditions regarding scheduling at hospital units. With my nursing background, healthcare managers know that I’m familiar with the field, so they listen to me. This in itself can result in better schedules for everyone involved.”
Elina Rönnberg, Schemagi founder, has continued with her research in optimisation:
”I don’t want to run a company. But we’ve found people who are passionate about doing just that. For me personally, hopefully I’ve helped improve something in our society. While also undertaking an extremely rewarding, challenging journey.”
Text: Eva Bergstedt
Photo: Vibeke Mathiesen
17 Dec 2014
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Last updated: 2017-02-13