Trimming Fat from the System
"Some applicants are spending between $10,000 and $20,000 just on the interview process in terms of travel costs," says Reminick, who eventually chose Stanford University Hospital and Clinics/Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and just completed his second year of combined residency in pediatrics and anesthesiology there. Reminick cites an estimate from Forbes that the entire process wastes between $300 and $400 million.
Considering that medical residents don't exactly rake in the big bucks in terms of salary— another controversy entirely—anything that can cut costs of these programs is obviously good for those programs in light of widely reported physician shortages.
And those wait lists? Thalamus handles them automatically as interview candidates change their plans and interview slots open up. "They actually get an email saying this date just opened, would you like to move your date to here?" Matenaer says. "So it's more of an automated system, versus the manual going back and forth and everything like that."
"There's fat in the system, and some of the fat in the system is the administrative cost of running these residency programs," Karan says. "Being able to take a third of one person's job and cut it into minutes is a huge time and cost savings for our department. So I was thrilled, my chair was thrilled, and my other program director friends were thrilled."
Another Thalamus believer is Brian Tse, a 2015 UCLA Medical School graduate who began his anesthesia residency at Stanford last month.
"Several of the programs I interviewed at started to use Thalamus, which didn't take away the anxiety of emailing back ASAP, but did eliminate the lag time of emailing back in order to confirm dates," Tse says. "I started to look forward to those programs that sent out interview invitations through Thalamus and loved how simple the process is."
This fall, Thalamus continues to gain traction, much of it by word of mouth. There is also the possibility of integrating it with travel services, or even analyzing prior application data and telling applicants what their probability of matching at a particular program might be, Reminick says.
AAMC also deserves some credit for freely sharing necessary data with Thalamus and other programs while it works on enhancing ERAS' own capabilities in this regard. Such openness and cooperation is admirable, and could be better emulated throughout the healthcare IT field.
Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.