4 Tips for Effectively Using Scheduling Software for Healthcare
We have all been there in the past. It’s 12 pm, lunchtime. You don’t even dare venture outside to the waiting rooms, as you know the sight that will await you.
Throngs of patients, waiting for their turn to be seen by one of your providers. Looks like a packed lunch was a good option after all.
On the face of it, patient scheduling shouldn’t be more than a straightforward task. Schedule them in, make sure they’re seen, and book them in for another appointment.
Why then do missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion every year?
The good news is that scheduling software for healthcare can transform the way that your patient’s book appointments. This prevents missed appointments and allows you to better utilize staff time.
Are you curious about the benefits of scheduling software for healthcare but don’t know where to begin? If so, here are some tips that will help you on the way.
1. Send Reminders to Patients
At one time or another, we’ve all missed an appointment for something simply because it ‘slipped our mind’.
It may have happened because we forgot to add it to our phone calendar, or got distracted before we could pop it down in the diary.
This happens all the time with patients, meaning that they can miss an appointment and create an unexpected gap in the schedule for the day.
It’s not a major problem if it happens once or twice a day, but consider the knock-on effect. Patients will have to book again, putting more strain on your appointment schedule later in the month or week.
Furthermore, you won’t be taking in any money for the missed appointment, and also still have to pay the money for your health providers’ time, despite them not seeing anyone.
All it takes is ten missed appointments per day to create a major problem for your healthcare business.
The good news is that scheduling software for healthcare can eliminate this problem completely these days.
Because they have integrated settings which can send either a text or a phone call to a patient ahead of an appointment, you can drastically cut down on the number of missed appointments that your organization suffers from throughout the week that result simply from forgetting. Automating appointment reminders is one of the easiest ways to improve patient access while ensuring that you are not overburdening staff. Most medical scheduling software solutions have an appointment reminder offering.
Over the course of the year, this simple feature could save you thousands of dollars. Healthcare is worth over $3 trillion to the US economy, so you don’t want to be missing out when a simple text and call reminder solution is available.
2: Manage a Priority List
Sickness has a bad habit of creeping up on patients when they least expect it. Last year was one of the highest on record when it came to cases of flu virus in the United States. Creating a waitlist or a priority list allows you to offer patients with more urgent medical needs to be seen earlier.
When looking for software for healthcare, consider solutions that will allow you to prioritize and manage patients for more urgent need. This allows you the flexibility to help patients at short notice should the need arise.
Things to watch for when incorporating a waitlist into your scheduling software:
Burden on staff
Although waitlists can be completely managed without any complex scheduling solutions, excel or patient flags will work but the burden on staff is tremendous. More often than not, manual wait lists are not used. If you are going to offer the convenience of a waitlist for your patients, you need to have the process in place to follow for your staff to follow through. Too often these processes are not followed resulting in failed attempts at a waitlist.
Burden on patients
Waitlist solutions that require highly engaged patients are also extremely inefficient. Few electronic medical record (EMR) companies offer a semi-automated waitlist solution and often require your patients to login to a portal, request an earlier appointment, continually check for openings, then request the earlier appointment once available. Patient engagement is already hard enough, asking a patient who is frustrated they cannot be seen earlier to follow this process will not improve patient access scores.
So what should you be looking for in different types of healthcare software to manage last-minute appointments? Opt for solutions that require little to no work from your staff or your patients. There should also be a native integration directly into your electronic medical record or practice management system and be customizable to fit the unique scheduling needs of your healthcare organization.
3. Use Noon Appointments as Your Reference Point
One of the most important factors when it comes to scheduling appointments is creating a focal point for all of your appointments to focus around. By far the best time to do this is noon.
Noon is a natural split during a day. It separates the morning from the afternoon, making it a perfect way of dividing up your appointments each day.
A key principle to stick with here is to not allow your patients to schedule afternoon appointments until at least 80% of your morning appointments have been taken. Or, you could do this the opposite way round, allowing afternoon appointments to become full before you open up the morning appointments.
If you don’t work like this, you could end up with a sparsely filled schedule of appointments throughout the day. This is the last thing that you want for your business.
Having unfilled time throughout the day leads to much lower productivity amongst staff, as staff members don’t use the downtime between appointments effectively.
If you ensure that either the morning or the afternoon is fully scheduled, you can use the larger blocks of downtime for productive reasons.
You could either call staff meetings to discuss best practices. Or you could ask the staff to complete some admin tasks that have been put off.
This is one area where scheduling software can really provide full visibility into your scheduling practices and help your business operate more efficiently.
4. Give Priority to the Neediest Patients
To add to the complexity of schedule management in healthcare, depending on the condition of the patient, they will require different levels of care, which is something that you should always keep in mind.
With your scheduling software, you should be able to account for patients who need more time, and you will also be able to schedule a series of appointments for high priority patients who will need treatment over a period of time.
This is beneficial for both parties. It provides important peace of mind to patients who are in desperate need of care.
On the other hand, it will enable you to make arrangements for any special medicines and equipment that they might need during the course of their treatment.
Of course, it may be difficult initially to decide who needs to be given priority. This is where you can use over the phone consultations or an initial face-to-face appointment to decide on the level of priority that a patient will need.
This is easily achievable using patient appointment scheduling software. This emphasizes again just how important scheduling software can become to the smooth and efficient operation of your business going forward.
Once the system is up and running, you should have a nice selection of regular priority patients, low-risk patients coming in for periodic check-up appointments, and emergency appointments each day, too.
Scheduling Software for Healthcare is a Life-Saver
When it comes to scheduling software for healthcare, there can be little doubt about the benefits that it can bring to a healthcare organization.
It allows you to cut out significant amounts of red tape and run your business more efficiently. Not only will patients benefit from less missed appointments due to timely reminders and improved patient access, your business benefits from higher rates of patients visits.
Don’t hesitate to request a demo to see the full breakdown of how scheduling software for healthcare can positively impact your organization in both the short and long-term.