You are growing faster than you expected, this is great news! But with it comes a number of new challenges. Patient wait times are steadily increasing, your calling support needs are growing, you have more technology solutions to manage and yet physicians are seemingly are less productive and have more downtime. Although you are busier than ever, this is a critical time to look at some of the business fundamentals of your organization, one of them being appointment types within your medical practice management software.
Appointment types are the foundation for your business, set up correctly they help schedulers schedule more efficiently, they help physicians manage their time better, they help patients to be seen earlier and they result in more revenue for the organization.
Why Start With Appointment Types?
Appointment types are set up when you know the least. Think about it, one of the first items you are taxed with when setting up your EMR was to establish your appointment types. The problem is, this is often before you fully understand how the system is going to work for you. So naturally, some organizations go very vague and lump a number of appointment types together. While others, go incredibly specific. The key is to find a balance. However, fixing your appointment types or visit types can seem like an insurmountable task. That’s why we’ve put together a framework to make the task more manageable.
Four Reasons Why Appointment Types Matter
As you can read in The Definitive Guide to Patient Access, a patient booked more than five days in the future are 2-3x more likely to no-show for their appointment. What is more, new patients can generate 3-5x more revenue than existing patients. So why are new patient appointments often booked so far out? A lack of supply of new patient appointment types which can be fixed by well-defined appointment types and templating to decrease that wait.
If appointment types are unclear, being too generic or too specific, there is a high risk of mislabeling an appointment type These appointment type mistakes then flow through to billing causing revenue to be missed.
A happy provider is a productive provider. Most providers have preferences when they like to see certain types of patients. Planning a provider’s day by specific appointment types allows your providers to be at peak productivity and happiness.
The longer the process to onboard new schedulers, the more wages are wasted on unproductive time. Having too many appointment types creates a steeper learning curve for new hires, while ill-defined appointment types create daily friction as confused schedulers aren’t sure which to use.
Three Steps for Fixing Your Appointment Types
We worked through this process with hundreds of practices and have boiled it down to three steps.
Schedule time to review and fix your appointment types – make sure to invite your schedulers and doctors if possible. Try to select a day of the week that is generally quiet and commit to getting it done. Friday afternoons are a good time for this.
Pull all the appointment types your practice has ACTUALLY used in the last two months including the Comments/Notes sections commonly used for each of these. This will help you understand what appointment types are needed and what can be deleted.
Review all appointment types and agree as a team which are the most important per provider. Assign one scheduler to update appointment types.
Reviewing Your Appointment Types
Your appointment types need a little work, where do you start?
At this point, you might be getting cold feet, intimidated by the daunting task of reconfiguring your appointment types. The most successful medical organizations took a pilot approach that emphasizes continuous feedback. Here’s how you do that.
1. Start with just a few providers
Choose a handful of providers in a single office and specialty to start with. It’s better to choose an office with involved providers who are willing to be guinea pigs and are tolerant of some bumps along the way.
2. Let your changes be live for a few months
After implementing the changes, wait. Let them be live for a few months to see how they play out. Don’t overreact in the first week when you get pushback. People do not like change, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
3. Expand deliberately
Now that you know what works and what doesn’t, expand over the course of a couple of weeks, not all at once. The roll-out does not need to take months, but shouldn’t all happen in one day. It’s best to start at the beginning of a new month, 3-4 months in the future.