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Match Day: Behind the scenes at CaRMS

By: Irving Gold, Vice President | March 26, 2015

I joined CaRMS shortly before the first iteration Match Day for the 2014 R-1 match. That Match Day, for the first time, I saw firsthand how hard everyone at CaRMS works to deliver the match; but I did not yet have enough understanding of the intricacies of the match process to get a full appreciation of the sheer scope of what’s involved.

This year I had a much better sense of the activities leading up to Match Day, and with the big day now behind us I’d like to take the opportunity to share my reflections on what I consider to be an extremely successful match.

With two R-1 matches under my belt, it is clear that every single person at CaRMS understands what an important time Match Day is for our clients – applicants, programs and the medical education community at large. Gearing up to and delivering a successful Match Day is truly a team effort at CaRMS. To this dedicated and professional group of people, it isn’t just another day—it’s the culmination of an incredible amount of planning and effort.

With this in mind, here’s a behind the scenes look at some of the events leading up to that important day.

Six months before Match Day

  • IT performs an analysis of CaRMS Online requirements in preparation for the match.
  • The development team begins adding new features to CaRMS Online based on stakeholder feedback collected throughout the last match cycle.

Four months before Match Day

  • IT develops a comprehensive testing plan to validate system performance and functionality for Match Day.

Three months before Match Day

  • IT begins internal quality assurance tests on CaRMS Online to identify and correct any unforeseen bugs resulting from ongoing improvements.

Two months before Match Day

  • A system-wide code-freeze is put into place, ensuring no new functionality is added to the system.
  • Test plan is initiated – system-wide checks begin.

One month before Match Day

  • CaRMS staff start mapping out a Match Day contingency plan we hope we don’t have to use. We prepare a detailed crisis communications plan and set up an alternate method of delivering match results and communicating with our clients in case of a technical problem or other unforeseen issue.

Two weeks before Match Day

  • Test plan completed – system-wide checks end.

One week before Match Day

  • CaRMS’ communications department circulates the Match Day crisis plan and checklists to staff to ensure everyone knows what to do in the event of a problem with the distribution of match results.
  • IT and the operations department (the team responsible for the administration of our matches) do final checks of the data before the match is run.
  • The communications department works with client relations to prepare all match-related messaging (website content, email communiques, social media posts) so when the time comes we just need to hit ‘send’.

Five days before Match Day (Friday, February 27)

  • CaRMS senior staff have a final Match Day planning meeting to ensure everything is in place for a successful match.
  • The communications department works with client relations to update our online user manuals with information about how to access match results.
  • IT runs a script to verify that what every single applicant sees on the screen when they log in to access their match results corresponds to the match results in our database.
  • Communications posts a notice on the website reminding people that match results will be available on March 4 at 12:00 (noon) ET.

Three days before Match Day (Sunday, March 1)

  • Our IT department runs extensive load tests on our system. Past Match Day traffic patterns have revealed that at the peak of Match Day (from 12:00 ET to 12:01 ET) CaRMS Online experiences roughly 120 simultaneous requests per second. In order to ensure a successful match day, load tests are performed to simulate 5,000 simultaneous requests—or roughly 40 times the expected system load.

Two days before Match Day (Monday, March 2)

  • The operations department completes manual verification of match results in advance of the release.

Wednesday, March 4 – Match Day

Our internal countdown begins seven hours before match results are released.

  • 05:00 ET: A temporary splash page is added to directing website visitors seeking match results to CaRMS Online
  • 06:00 ET: Communications launches our Match Day social media plan starting with match results reminders on Facebook and Twitter
  • 09:00 ET: Client services sends out communiqués via email reminding applicants and programs that match results will be available at 12:00 (noon) ET.
  • 11:30 ET: CaRMS’ managers of client services and compliance and operational services initiate an open-line conference call and are available in case participating programs have questions about match results.
  • 12:00 ET:
    • Match results are available on CaRMS Online to authenticated users
    • Client service representatives are at their desks, receiving calls from applicants and programs about match results.
    • The communications department monitors social media, responding to any incoming questions or comments about the match.
  • 13:00 ET:
    • We breathe a collective sigh of relief that all our planning has resulted in a successful match, eat lunch, and move on to working toward second iteration Match Day.
    • Help desk staff begin fielding questions about second iteration.
    • We begin to synthesize data from Match Day, leading toward our annual presentation of match trends at CCME and the release of a full report on the first and second iteration of the match.

I hope this walk through will show that far from being just a moment in time, 12:00 ET on Match Day is the culmination of 354 days of work at CaRMS. Each and every staff member at CaRMS takes enormous pride in the job they do and in the critical role they play in the transition from undergraduate medical education to postgraduate training.