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Improving Patient Scheduling in 2019

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The Future is Here: Improving Patient Scheduling in 2019

How easy is it for patients to make an appointment?

Access and availability are the keys to a positive customer experience in services outside of medicine. Michelin-star restaurants book months in advance, but how about emergency plumbers?

Healthcare organizations aren’t fine dining or plumbing, though. As many as 1 out of 3 patients fail to show for their appointments.  What kind of impact does that have on your patient flow?

Improving patient scheduling and optimizing resources use are just some of the goals of successful patient relationship management. Patient scheduling, reminders, and follow-ups are part of overall patient engagement. Better patient engagement equals fewer no-shows.

And who doesn’t want that? 

Do You Want High Patient Satisfaction?

Ultimately, patient engagement is the key to better outcomes. So, healthcare organizations seeking value-based approaches to care must begin with patient satisfaction in mind and develop deep relationships with patients to promote this new model. One of the greatest frustrations for patients is the inability to schedule a convenient appointment. 

The most recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes that about 10% of patients couldn’t access the appointments they need or want.

For healthcare providers patient flow is a key driver for profitability so patients being unable to get an appointment affects the bottom line. The number of daily patient visits needs to cover the expenses of the providers. But healthcare is notoriously unpredictable. Though rigid schedule blocks maximize resource use on paper, in reality late appointments, patient no-shows or emergencies frequently mean over and under-optimized time.

Apply Customer Relationship Management Model to Patient Management

Health systems aren’t hotels or retailers, but there’s no reason to ignore lessons learned from these consumer driven industries. Even for health systems it is important to understand that patients are customers. Especially in a digital-driven world patients are going to shop around for convenient care options.

Given that the average patient wait time keeps rising improving patient scheduling means improving patient value. For example, reducing the time between the call for an appointment and when a provider sees the patient. With a same-day appointment, a patient doesn’t end up going to an emergency room for their sore throat.

Autonomous Patient Access Solution On-Demand Schedule Management

Embrace a customer-first perspective. Autonomous patient access solutions are a tech and process combination to manage patients from the time they schedule an appointment to the time they are seen by a provider. 

Office processes like waitlists, provider cancellations (bumps), late/no-show/cancellation recaptures, etc. are combined with on-demand technology to optimize resource utilization and maximize revenue. These processes take an undue proportion of staff time, so using automation for these tasks allows staff time to interact meaningfully with patients.

Improve Patient Access By Improving Patient Scheduling

Unscheduled provider time is a wasted resource. It frustrates people and reduces revenue.

To optimize patient retention, give patients appointments as soon as possible. The longer a patient waits for an appointment, the more likely they are to no-show or cancel

A few things that can help reduce no-shows or last-minute cancellations are:Avoid Cancellations and No-Shows

  1. Book patients earlier to avoid cancellations and no-shows
  2. Reschedule patient no-shows and patients booked months out into earlier slots 
  3. Balance provider utilization by sending patients to less busy providers
  4. Optimize your schedule by bringing the most valuable visit types in sooner

Again, some of these tasks are labor-intensive unless automated. Automatic waitlists fill cancelled appointments and bring patients booked out months in the future into earlier time slots.

Front office staff time is focused on patient engagement instead of busywork. Shuffling slots manually introduces more chances for errors. Automated waitlists mean these tasks are handled in the background with no staff interaction.

Avoid Cancellations and No-Shows

Start the patient experience by giving them what they want– to see a provider! The easiest way to reduce cancellations and no-shows is to get people an appointment as close to the time they call as possible. A patient booked more than 5 days in the future is up to three times more likely to no-show.

Once a patient makes an appointment, prevent missed appointments with text and phone-based reminders. Make reminders and confirmations actionable to engage the patient and send them 24 – 48 hours in advance.

RELATED: The Definitive Guide to No-Shows

Reminders and confirmations more than 48 hours in advance are of little value and encourage people to not respond to the reminder the day before an appointment.

If the patient cancels, make sure to reschedule the appointment as soon as possible. Automated scheduling controls the amount of dedicated staff time needed to move appointments around. 

Reschedule Missed Appointments and Move People In to Fill

Use automated, actionable messaging to reschedule bumps. If you let people know that the office wait time is longer than expected and give an option to reschedule, people tend to feel more satisfied than people who wait without information. Use automated messaging to offer available options, such as seeing a different provider or rescheduling for a different day and time. 

An old-fashioned waitlist only captures a small percentage of patients who would take an earlier appointment. It also depends on a scheduler to call in a patient to fill an empty slot or a patient to request and accept an earlier appointment via an app or portal. Open access scheduling solves some of the no-show challenges but rewards/prioritizes same-day appointments over those who plan ahead. 

This also runs the risk of losing revenues on days that appointments aren’t filled. Automated actionable messages can fill open slots and recapture patients before they move on to a different provider.

Balance Provider Loads

Many patients would rather be seen sooner than later. Automated provider load balancing offers appointments in the same specialty or health organization with a less busy provider. You can add PA and NP appointments to the mix for certain appointment types.

A satisfied provider is a fully productive provider. You can cater to individual preferences for time to see certain types of patients. Create specific appointment blocks to take advantage of provider peak productivity. 

Optimize Revenue by Scheduling the Most Valuable Appointments First

The first step is creating the right appointment types. They impact scheduling, provider efficiency, patient satisfaction, and revenue optimization. If correctly balanced, patients are satisfied, providers are happier and revenue is higher.

Too few appointment types and you have generic information that can’t be categorized. Get too specific with appointment types you create an interface nightmare. People have to struggle to find the right one.

The right appointment types also inform billing, so the wrong types of appointment categories can trigger errors.

New patients generate 3-5x more revenue than ongoing patients. Prioritize time spent on new patients by increasing the supply of new patient appointments.

Ready to See How QueueDr Can Improve Patient Experience?

Improving patient scheduling is just the first step in improving overall patient satisfaction and experience. Reduced wait times mean happier patients. Productive days mean happier providers. We can help you:

  • Avoid missed appointments and cancellations
  • Reschedule your missed appointments and fill forward future appointments
  • Balance your provider load 
  • Prioritize your most valuable appointment types

Everyone wins by using autonomous patient access solutions. Providers are happy to have full schedules with less wasted resources, patients are happy because they can get a convenient appointment, and most of all, schedulers are happy because the most tedious and mundane tasks are completely automated.

QueueDr integrates seamlessly with your practice management system. Schedule a demo to see how autonomous patient access solutions can change the way you manage your schedule.