Medical organizations face obstacles with patient access and physician shortages so they need to be smart with how they manage their schedule. Unscheduled Provider Capacity (UPC) is defined as open appointments in a provider’s schedule where a provider is available to see a patient but no one is scheduled.
These open times on your providers’ schedules result in unrealized revenue, and cost healthcare companies roughly $150B annually. They also represent a lost opportunity to shorten patient wait times, one of the biggest patient complaints.
There are two ways UPC happens.
No appointments were ever booked in this slot due to a staff oversight, lagging demand, or provider preference.
An appointment was booked in the slot but was cancelled or moved.
Four Ways to Reduce UPC
The "waitlist" – this is the most manual process to fill UPC and requires staff to call patients who want an earlier appointment. The idea is simple, but the execution is hard. Asking an already overworked staff to call patients (who don’t answer their phones) to try and fill appointments with a short lead time. If your staff does get a patient on the phone it takes an average of 8 minutes to reschedule their appointment. Moving that patient earlier, just created another appointment that needs to be filled, you can see how this process is not scalable. Some EMR’s offer options to help alleviate the burden of managing a waitlist by flagging patients who want to be seen earlier but 90% of practices who have waitlists, do not use them effectively.
The "No-Show" List – another manual process designed to fill UPC. The no-show lists is a manual list kept after patients no-show. Practices attempt to fill the UPC with no-show patients. We have found this to be the most inefficient way to fill UPC because requires the same time commitment from your staff as calling a waitlist, but the patients are generally not as eager to be seen when compaired to those who request to be on a waitlist.
Patient Requests – this is what I would consider the most passive way to reduce UPC, when patients call to schedule an appointment, always check to see if there is any UPC available and when patients request an earlier appointment, ask them to call back each morning to see if anything has opened up. This can cause a big increase in call volume and creates a extra work for both your staff and your patients.
OnDemand Schedule Management – OnDemand Schedule Management (ODSM) solutions will manage the patient in the time between when the appointment is scheduled and when the patient comes in for their visit. ODSM reduces UPC by monitoring your scheduled 24/7 and identifying UPC. ODSM solutions will query all the patients booked further in the future and find the patients that are the most eligible to fill the open appointment. Then, eligible patients are texted and the first patient to respond claims the appointment. The ODSM solution will then move the original appointment into the new appointment opening in your PM and send a confirmation to the patient. ODSM solutions do not require any staff involvement, automatically improving patient access.
Your schedule should be fluid. When patients are dropping off or moving there are patients to fill that UPC. With the nation facing a provider shortage and patients demanding more, you need to make sure you are maximizing every minute of the day.