Path Forward BlogRate Your Patient Scheduling
How Does Your Patient Scheduling Capability Stack Up?
One thing all healthcare organizations have in common is the need for efficient patient scheduling. It sounds seemingly simple and straightforward, but it’s quite the opposite.
Every healthcare practice has a specific way of scheduling their patients, a process unique to their organization, and their providers’ preferences.
More practices are beginning to realize that the patient scheduling process is one of the biggest opportunities for improved efficiency, profitability, and stronger patient loyalty.
The Consumer Mindset of Healthcare
Patients today are evaluating their healthcare experience with a consumer-like mindset.
What does this mean? It means the patient is assessing the practice and provider based on the entire patient experience – not just the medical expertise provided.
An excellent patient scheduling experience makes a difference.
3 Criteria for Benchmarking Your Patient Scheduling
How would you rate your patient scheduling function against these measures?
Do your patients have options for connecting with your practice outside of business hours to schedule appointments?
Lack of convenience is cited as a reason that patients will decide to leave a provider or practice.
Not only that, for some specialties like orthopaedics, an after-hours booking option can prevent a patient from rushing to the ER unnecessarily if they know they can see their preferred doctor first thing in the morning.
- A few options for expanding access to patient scheduling include using a patient portal, adding a self-scheduling functionality to your website, or engaging patient call center services.
- Be careful that the solution you choose doesn’t add new work or potentially create rework for your staff.
- A common mistake is using software or an after-hours answering service that doesn’t connect with your current scheduling system.
What to look for:
- Integration capabilities with your EMR, ideally with real-time updates to prevent double-booking
- Technical capabilities that ensure adherence to scheduling protocols to avoid rescheduling.
2. USE OF TECHNOLOGY:
Do you offer your patients the opportunity to contact your office using text or online chat to change, cancel, or confirm an appointment?
According to one study, nearly 20% of patients prefer to connect via secure text if a phone call isn’t possible.
HIPAA rules once prevented the use of text or online chat to connect patients and providers, but there are many ways to still meet HIPAA guidelines while providing patients these alternative methods of communication.
- Secure healthcare SMS-text-based messaging is one of the fastest-growing market segments, and there are a lot of providers to choose from as a result.
- A secure online chat functionality can be purchased independently and added to most websites.
- Adding single functionality solutions in a piece-meal fashion can eventually bog down your IT environment and create unnecessary complexity.
- Tracing and capturing multiple communications from different channels can be challenging for keeping patient record current.
- These solutions do not necessarily replace or off-set phone calls. These should be thought of as complimentary methods of communication, not replacements. If you are understaffed for phone calls, adding additional communication methods will not solve that problem.
What to look for:
- HIPAA compliance and security are the first requirements. Look for a solution that already has customers in the healthcare space.
- Integration capabilities are also important.
- Make time to read user reviews, especially about a vendor’s customer support services. That’s an area that seems to differentiate a solution in a crowded market.
Do you have processes built-in to your patient scheduling workflows that help improve accuracy and efficiency?
When appointments aren’t booked properly, it can become a real nuisance for patients. Patients are often notified the day before or the day of the appointment, requesting to reschedule with a different doctor or for a different time slot.
Mistakes in appointment bookings are common due to the complex workflows and decision trees that inform a single scheduling task. There are hundreds of data points, including types of symptoms, insurance, location, referral status, previous care, and employer, to name a few.
To add to the complexity, each provider within the same practice has different preferences relating to each of those data sets. No two practices or providers are alike.
Often, this means the office staff has a lot to learn and then remember to be successful and training new staff can take months
- Consider adopting centralized patient scheduling.
- Centralized scheduling can mean adopting a more standardized process, or it can mean outsourcing your patient scheduling function to a trusted partner.
- Sometimes the decision to move to a centralized patient scheduling process can create discord among staff members. Providers don’t want to sacrifice their specific preferences. Front desk staff can feel threatened by the idea of sharing or outsourcing a job they have worked hard to master.
- Be transparent with your employees on the intent and the problems you hope to solve by implementing changes to patient scheduling.
What to look for:
- Look for solutions that automate the patient scheduling process, including the data sets and variables, while upholding the aspects that make your practice unique.
- Ensure that the solution is flexible and easy to change. As practices grow and evolve, scheduling processes do too, you need a solution that can be rapidly adjusted.
- Solutions like iVY SaaS maintain preferences while also providing a streamlined, guided workflow for phone staff.
Embrace New Options
It’s more important than ever to pay attention to the patient experience and the efficiency of the processes. The riskiest thing a healthcare organization can do is to stick with their current patient scheduling process because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
At the end of the day, patients are consumers and will increasingly evaluate their healthcare providers based on how well their experience delivers on their expectations.
Now is the time for healthcare practices to understand that the impact of the patient’s experience when they are outside of the walls of their practice can have major implications on the perception of the care they are receiving inside the walls of their practice.