Review and Place Schedule Blocks in the SAM Partner Scheduler

When you need to reserve time for sick, well, and other visit types in an appointment book, open the Provider Hours tool and adjust your schedule templates. It looks like this:

You can read about these features in the Configure the Appointment Book help article.

This article refers to the SAM Partner scheduler, PCC’s original tool for scheduling.

Introduction

Most medical offices schedule appointments weeks or months in advance. As a result, providers may be booked solid for weeks ahead of time. While keeping providers busy is vital, it is important to leave some time available in a provider’s day.

What is a Scheduling Block?

Since you will always receive surprise sick calls, you need to reserve time throughout the day for a provider to see same-day patients. To accomplish this, you can place sick call blocks strategically in your Partner schedule. The block will prevent any appointment from being scheduled in the specified time. On the morning that the block expires, the time will automatically become available to the scheduler.

Your office could block out an entire hour in the morning and in the afternoon. You may block more sick time for one provider over another. You can also configure your blocks so they expire a day (or two, or three) ahead of time. Read below to learn how to control these options for fine-tuning your schedule.

Block for Sick Visits, Rechecks, Newborns…

You can use more than one block type for more control over your schedule. Some offices use recheck blocks that expire two weeks ahead, permanent blocks that never expire (catch up time for the provider), or newborn blocks that hold time for physicals that need to be set up quickly.

The Partner scheduling system allows you to have as many as eight different block types, though most offices find sick and recheck blocks are sufficient. If you are a new practice with a low patient population, you may not need any blocks.

Whatever your scheduling needs, you should consider how using blocks can control what times the scheduler offers. Read the sections below to learn about your options. Contact PCC for further help or to talk about your blocking needs.

Evaluate Your Schedule Blocking Needs

To add effective blocks to your schedule, you need to understand your blocking needs. Partner has several different tools for manipulating blocks. Once you have decided how you want your providers’ schedules blocked, you can choose the block types and blocking programs that best suit your needs.

Consider the following questions:

  • How much sick time should be saved for each provider?

  • Would you like the sick time first thing in the morning, grouped into hours, or alternating with your physicals?

  • How long are each provider’s sick visits and physical appointments?

  • Other than sick visits, what other visit types have you had difficulty scheduling?

Some offices find it useful to write out their schedule and plan what each provider’s day should look like. They create a notebook that looks like this:

SUMMER SCHEDULE
        Doctor Smith       Doctor Green         Doctor Blue 
8:30    Sick Time          Physical Time        Rounds 
9:00    Sick Time          Physical Time        Rounds 
9:30    Physical Time      Sick Time            Catch-Up Time 
10:00   Physical Time      Physical Time        Sick Time 
10:30   Physical Time      Sick Time            Sick Time 
11:00   Physical Time      Physical Time        Physical Time 
11:30   Sick Time          Sick Time            Physical Time 
11:45   Sick Time          Physical Time        Physical Time 
12:00   LUNCH              Sick Time            LUNCH …

Other offices plan their alternating blocks by filling out a clock face to show what time during the hour they would like blocked for each type of visit.

Partner has scheduling reports that can help you figure out how much sick time you need. The Appointment Summarizer (appts) report, for example, totals the number of visits of each type for a given date range. Contact PCC (<support@pcc.com>, 800-722-1082) for more information.

Note: While designing your schedule, remember that blocks only hold time until they expire. Once a recheck block disappears, sam will offer the time to any visit that can fit in the open slot. A block holds time, it does not enforce a visit reason for a specific time. When time is open, sam will try to use it.

Finally, remember to plan ahead. If you wait until June to revise and place your summer blocks, your staff may already have booked dozens of appointments. You may end up double-booking a block on top of an existing visit. The sam program will still try to handle the conflict intelligently by soaking up adjacent time, but your schedule will be cluttered and difficult to understand. Place your blocks several months ahead of time in order to avoid overbooking and confusion.

Create and Configure Block Types

Before modifying your blocks, you should make sure your block types are set up correctly. To do this, you will use the Table Editor (ted) and the Configuration Editor (ced). If you are not familiar with these tools then you should refer to your office’s system administrator or contact PCC for assistance.

Blocks in the Table Editor (ted)

Block types are listed in ted along with the visit reasons in the Reasons for a Visit table. A block is basically a place-holder visit. You should see an entry for every kind of block you use. You may see entries for block types you do not currently use. Here is an example of some block entries:

26) Permanent Block       N   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0  
27) Recheck Block         N   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0 
28) Sick Call Block       N   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0

If you need to add a new block type, press C to clone one of the existing block types and change its name. Notice that the time length for all blocks is set to zero minutes for every provider. This is because the blocking program or the block template file will set the length of the block. It is also important that you set the “Print Encounter Form” option to “N”. You do not want an encounter form for every block.

Blocks in the Configuration Editor (ced)

Next, you should review the block type definitions in “The Scheduler” section of ced. The definitions are controlled by the following questions:

 
58. What is the name of the first disappearing block type?
          Sick Call Block
59. How many days in advance should this block type be ignored?
           1
60. What is the name of the second disappearing block type?
          Recheck Block
61. How many days in advance should this block type be ignored?
          14

The name of the disappearing block type should be the same as the block name in the Reasons for a Visit table. The days should indicate how many days ahead of the scheduled date of the block you want the block to disappear. You should have an entry for every block type you use except for permanent blocks. You do not need to add permanent blocks to this list because they do not disappear.

Place a Schedule Block (addblock)

The addblock program adds single blocks to your schedule. Is a provider going to be out of the office for an important meeting? Enter the date and time into addblock to block scheduling at that time. You can also review existing blocks, read block notes, and remove blocks from within addblock.

The instructions below will teach you how to use addblock and take full advantage of its features. Call PCC software support with any questions at 1-800-722-1082.

Run addblock

You can find addblock in the “Scheduling” section of your Partner Windows. PCC Support can add it to any window, such as Daily Operations. You can also run it from a UNIX prompt by typing, “addblock“.

Fill Out Block Information

As shown below, fill in the date, provider, block type, time, and location of the block. If your office only schedules for a single location, you can leave that field blank. If you would like to add more descriptive block types, such as meeting blocks or new-parent blocks, ask your system administrator or talk to PCC support.

Provider Groups: Do you need to place a block for all of your providers, or all of your nurse practitioners? You can use a provider group, like “male” or “any” to place a block for multiple providers. Use the same provider groups you use when scheduling. PCC support can add new provider groups for any group of providers for whom you commonly place blocks.

Optionally, Add a Note

You can enter a note describing the block’s purpose. See the example above. The note you enter will be visible in the scan report as well as the “Block Inquire” screen.

Press

F1 – Add Blocks

As soon as you press F1, addblock will place the block in your schedule. A message on the screen will tell you that the block has been placed.

Add More Blocks or Press F12 to Quit

Errors: If you see an error message, you may have forgotten to enter a date, block type, or start or end time. Press F1Go Back to fix your error and try again.

Function Keys in addblock

F1 – Add Blocks

Press F1 to place a block for the date, time, provider, and location you have selected.

F4 – View Appts

Press F4 to run scan and view your schedule for the date you have selected. Use this function when you want to see currently scheduled appointments for your chosen day.

F5 – Block Inquiry

Press F5 to review blocks, change block notes, or remove blocks. From the block inquiry screen, you can review all of a provider’s current blocks. You can also change the note attached to a block and remove unwanted blocks.

Edit and Manage CSCB Block Template Files

The Consistent Sick Call Blocker (cscb) is the most commonly used tool for placing blocks. It takes a list of blocks and places them for the dates you enter. Before you run cscb, you should review and revise the template file that contains the list of what blocks will be placed. First you edit the file that describes the blocks, then you run cscb to place those blocks.

While you can edit the template files from a command prompt, PCC recommends you ask us to set up a window with all of the blocking commands. This will help eliminate error and simplify the blocking process. A sample window is below:

Use the “Edit” commands, shown in the sample window above, to edit the templates for both sick and permanent blocks. If you also use recheck blocks, you will see options for editing rechecks in the same window. If you have different sets of sick call blocks for the summer and the winter, PCC can add options for each season, as shown above.

When you select an option to edit a block file, you will see a file filled with lines you can add to, edit, or delete:

mccoy,spock~mon,tue,wed,thu,fri~1:00pm~1:15pm mccoy,spock~mon,tue,wed,thu,fri~2:00pm~2:15pm mccoy~mon,tue,wed,thu~3:00pm~3:15pm mccoy~mon,tue,wed,thu~4:00pm~4:15pm

The format for each line is very straightforward.

provider~day~start time~end time

Each line has four fields separated by tildes (~). These four fields represent, in order:

Provider Names Enter provider last names, separated by commas
Weekdays Enter days of week, separated by commas
Start Time Enter either standard or military time
End Time Enter either standard or military time

In the example above, you can see that Dr. McCoy reserves the first fifteen minutes of each afternoon hour (1:00pm to 1:15pm, etc) for sick time. Dr. Spock only needs sick time reserved at 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Dr. McCoy does not want 3:00pm and 4:00pm times on Friday reserved, however, as the office has experienced fewer sick visits on Friday and decided to keep the afternoon open for any visit type.

Note that the provider and weekday fields can contain more than one item, separated by commas. This saves time when configuring for several providers who plan to have the same blocking times everyday.

As you edit your own templates, remember that any unit of time that is not blocked will be available for any visit type. If no physical is scheduled in a unblocked physical time, the slot will be available for a recheck or sick visit. The sam program strives to use all of the provider’s time in the most efficient way possible.

Note: If you leave time open between blocks, and the time is shorter than your smallest visit reason, then nothing can be scheduled there until one of the adjacent blocks disappears.

Place Schedule Blocks (cscb)

After you edit the list of blocks in the template files, you must run the Consistent Sick Call Blocker (cscb) to put the templates in place, creating the blocks.

Before you place your newly revised blocks, you should run the Block Removal Program (rmscb) using the options in the block window shown below. Otherwise, you run the risk of placing blocks for dates that already have blocks.

Follow this procedure to remove your blocks and then place them:

Select Option to Remove Blocks

Choose the “Remove…” option that is appropriate for the blocks you are running.

Enter Dates

Enter the start and end dates for when you plan to place blocks. In the following example, the user is removing blocks for the summer so they can place their newly revised summer sick blocks.

Welcome to the Block Removal Program!
Please type the start date: 06/01/04
Now enter the end date: 09/01/04

Press Enter after typing each date.

Choose Providers

Select the providers for whom you wish to remove (and place) blocks. You can press F3Select All to choose all providers, or you can use F2Select to mark each provider individually.

Review and Confirm Choices

The block remover will warn you before continuing:

OK, Here’s what I have:
I’m going to remove all of the following block types:
Sick Call Block
between 06/01/04 and 09/01/04 for the following providers:
Beverly Crusher, M.D.
Victor Von Doom, M.D.
Leonard McCoy, M.D.
Is this OK?

Review your choices and type Y if you wish to continue.

Run Blocking Option

Next, select the Consistent Blocker option that is appropriate for the blocks you wish to place.

Choose Providers

Enter the providers for whom you wish to place blocks.

                         Consistent Sick Call Blocker
Sick Call Block
Enter one or more Provider IDs: c d m

Be sure and enter the same providers you selected when removing blocks. You can type “all” for all providers. You can abbreviate and add multiple providers by using a space between each initial, as shown.

Enter the Same Dates

Next, enter the same start and end dates you used when removing blocks.

                         Consistent Sick Call Blocker
Sick Call Block
Enter one or more Provider IDs: Dr. Crusher, Dr. Doom, Dr. McCoy
Enter the start date: 06/01/04
Enter the end date: 09/01/04

As soon as you press Enter, the computer will start placing your blocks. It may take a few minutes if you are placing blocks for an entire season or have many providers.

Review Log

The cscb program will print a log to your default printer that shows all the times you blocked.

Check Results in the Schedule

Run the scan report for each provider and confirm that the blocks were placed correctly. If they were not, review the block files and repeat the process. You can also run sam and try scheduling within the blocked dates to see if your blocking plan is working.

Place Schedule Blocks (escb)

Use escb to handpick times you want blocked for each week. Enter a date, a time frame, and the provider’s name, and escb will block that time for you. This is convenient for offices whose blocking times change quite often, because escb allows you to personalize the blocking schedules on a daily basis.

Some offices use escb in combination with cscb. This allows them to quickly insert the bulk of their sick blocks and then fine tune those days on which they need to add additional blocks. If you use both cscb and escb, remember that running rmscb will remove all blocks of a specific type, regardless of which program you used to place them. PCC can set up a version of escb for each block type, if needed.

Note: As with cscb, you should place your extended blocks several months in advance to avoid conflicting with scheduled appointments.

The following procedure will show how to add additional blocked sick time for three providers. For example, if one provider has vacation planned, you might want to block extra sick visit time for the other providers.

Run ESCB

Start the escb program from the SAM Setup window shown above or from the command prompt by typing escb.

Review Default Times

The following screen will appear:

The blocking times that appear in the left-hand column may differ or may not appear at all. These times are defined for your office in the Configuration Editor (ced). If no times appear, you may enter your own custom times for the blocks you need.

Enter Date of Relevant Week

Enter the desired date in the first date field underneath the day of the week. Partner will automatically populate the dates for the rest of the week.

Enter or Edit Default Times

If there are no times in the left-hand column, add the block times you need. Or, you can revise the times that do appear. As you enter block times, escb may try to guess whether you mean a.m. or p.m., so be attentive to what appears.

Enter Provider Name on Grid

Move to the field in the grid that matches the time and date of the block you wish to create. Enter the provider’s name or initial.

In the above image, one-hour blocks will be placed in the mornings for three different providers on three different days.

Enter Blocks for Other Providers on Other Days and Times

Fill in each of the fields that correspond with the blocks you need. Enter a provider’s name in each one. You can only use a single provider in each box. If you need to give two providers the same block time, use an empty line at the bottom of the screen to re-enter the block time.

Press F12 to Quit Without Saving

If you decide you do not want to place any blocks, press F12 and follow the screen prompts to quit escb without placing any blocks.

Press F1 to Save

Otherwise, press F1Save to save all the blocks you have entered. escb will insert the indicated blocks into the providers’ schedules immediately.

Return to Add More, or Quit

escb will then ask if you want to go back and add more blocks. Answer Y or N.

Review Log, Check the Schedule

After you quit the program, escb will print a log to your default printer that shows all the times you blocked. You can also check the scan report or samview to see the blocks you have placed.

Place Schedule Blocks (sscb)

The Standard Sick Call Blocker, or SSCB, is the original sick call blocker designed for sam. The SSCB automatically places blocks for you, and it can vary the amount of sick call time to block based on the number of doctors scheduled to work on any given day. Once configured, Partner makes sure your providers’ schedules are adequately blocked several months ahead of time.

You can configure blocks to occur consistently at specified times (i.e. at 9:00am), or randomly during a specified time range (i.e. at any time between 9 and 11am).

Watch a Video: Want to watch a recorded web lab, in which Lynne describes PCC’s blocking solutions and sets up the Standard Sick Call Blocker? CLICK HERE. (16 minutes)

Automatic Block Adjustment

SSCB is the only sick call blocking program that is capable of re-blocking a day. Whenever you change a provider’s hours in scrod, SSCB will add or cancel blocks accordingly. If it adds blocks, SSCB works around any existing appointments.

As opposed to the Consistent Sick Call Blocker (cscb) or Extended Sick Call Blocker (escb), you only need to set up and configure the Standard Sick Call Blocker once. You office manager does not need to re-run a blocking program or adjust configuration unless you want to set aside more or less time.

The Standard Sick Call Blocker is perfect for an office that needs a specified amount of sick time blocked, wants some variety in when the blocks occur, and does not want to hand-select times and re-run programs to place blocks.

Get Started with the Standard Sick Call Blocker

Follow the procedure below to set up the Standard Sick Call Blocker for your Practice.

Use setaside to Edit Your Blocking Rules

First, run the setaside program from a command prompt and enter parameters for SSCB.

For each month, enter the block length and the number of total minutes you would like blocked when a certain number of physicians are working. In the example above, whenever 3 providers are on duty in January, the SSCB will block a total of 400 minutes each for sick time.

Optional: Customize Precise Times for Blocks

If you wish to specify precisely when blocks are allowed to appear, press F5Edit Times, and adjust open windows of time during which a block may be placed.

Adjust Providers and Locations

Press F6Edit Providers or F7Edit Locations to adjust for which providers and locations blocks should be placed. For example, you may not want blocks placed for your nurse practitioners.

Set Configuration Options

SSCB maintains blocks in your schedule and will place blocks every evening. You can adjust question 51 in The Scheduler section of ced to set how far in advance SSCB will place blocks.

Call PCC Support

Contact PCC Support to turn on the Standard Sick Call Blocker. They will review your setaside choices, and can also discuss the options in question 52 through 55 in The Scheduler section of ced.

If you wish to work with multiple block types, PCC Support can also help set up the setaside program to edit multiple block types.

If everything is ready to go, PCC Support will turn on a program on your server that will start automatically placing and managing your blocks.

Check Your Work

Once blocks are in place, you can check your blocks in any scheduling report or by looking at your schedule in sam. You can also run the whatblocked program at a command prompt to see all the blocks placed and review any errors.

Remove Partner SAM Schedule Blocks

If you are trying to schedule for a busy day next week, you may decide to remove some of the upcoming sick blocks early. If a previously scheduled meeting is canceled, you may want to remove a block that was placed to prevent scheduling during the meeting. How do you remove scheduling blocks?

There are three ways to remove blocks:

  • The Remove Sick Call Block (rmscb) program

  • The Detailed View in sam

  • Block Inquire (binquire), run from scan or addblock

The rmscb program removes all blocks of a certain type for a certain date range and provider. To remove only a few blocks, however, you should find them in the Detailed view of sam or use binquire. Both methods allow you to see blocks in the context of your schedule and the doctor’s IN and OUT times, and they allow you to remove only the specific blocks that you select.

Note: Read the Partner Scheduling Manual to learn how sam can remove blocks. To use binquire, follow this procedure:

Remove Blocks With binquire Through scan

Run scan or addblock

Run scan from the Daily Operations window or by typing scan at a command prompt.

Choose a Provider and Date

Enter a provider and a date for which you wish to remove blocks. You can type T for today’s date.

Review the Schedule, Press R

While viewing a day in scan, press R to remove blocks, and then press Enter. You will see a list of the provider’s blocks for that day:

  1) 15 mins. at  3:15pm, for a Sick Call Block   2) 15 mins. at  4:45pm, for a Sick Call Block

Press F3 to Confirm

Press F3Delete Appts.

Select Block

Enter the number listed next to the block(s) you wish to remove. You can enter several numbers separated by a space or a range of numbers with a hyphen.

Press Enter and Review Results

Press ENTER to redraw the screen and see the blocks you have deleted.

  • Last modified: October 14, 2020