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WHY APPOINTMENT TYPE NAMES MATTER
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
- William Shakespeare                                           
We hear it all the time, healthcare systems wondering how they should be organizing their appointment types. What should they call them? What procedure or visit is worthy of an appointment type? How many appointment types are too many?

Appointment types sit at the center of scheduling, provider efficiency, patient satisfaction, and revenue optimization. Correctly organizing them can drive more revenue, happier physicians, and satisfied patients. Get too generic with your appointment types and your schedule becomes indecipherable. Have appointment types that are too specific and you soon find yourself with too many – creating havoc for your schedulers struggling to find the right one. The wrong appointment types can even make onboarding new hires last months longer, costing thousands in wasted wages.

We have worked with thousands of providers in organizations of every specialty and size. We wanted to pass along the best practices from the healthcare systems we've worked with as well as share some mistakes to avoid.

In this guide, you will learn how to approach the daunting task of revising your appointments and what red flags to watch for.
THE FOUR REASONS WHY APPOINTMENT TYPES MATTER
Revenue Optimization
A patient booked more than 5 days in the future is 2-3x more likely to no-show for their appointment. New patients can generate 3-5x more revenue than existing patients. Then 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.

Billing
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.

Provider Preference
A happy provider is a productive provider. Most providers have preferences on 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.

Staff Onboarding
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.
WHY THE PROBLEM EXISTS
Appointment types are setup when you know the least
We recently signed up for Salesforce to keep track of our communications with our customers. Salesforce, like an EMR/PM, is complex, but powerful IF you know your way around. But, as a novice to the system, we did not.

One of the first steps of Salesforce onboarding is to create your different categories of communications, called stages. For example, a stage titled "Sent Contract" allows us to know which healthcare systems we've sent contracts to. With the glee of a kid with a new toy, we jumped right in. Two weeks after setting up the product we had to delete all of the stages and start from scratch. Why? When we created the stages we had no idea how the team would use the product! In fact, we didn't even know how the product really worked. The same thing is true when you implement a new EMR/PM system.

You Just want to get it live
Setting up a new EMR/PM is a lot of work! Appointment types are only one facet of the setup. While you try to give appointment types the attention they deserve, there are only so many hours in a day. Most organizations we encountered end up with appointment types that are "good enough for now."

With that said, almost every customer who has come to us about fixing their appointment types has had "fixing appointment types" at the top of their to-do list for years, but don't know where to start.
THE FRAMEWORK FOR FIXING YOUR APPOINTMENT TYPES
While broad, this framework can help you stay organized and moving forward. We worked through this process with hundreds of practices and have boiled it down to three steps.

    1. Schedule
    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. 

    2. Prepare
    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.

Identifying the most common annotations in appointments types can make scheduling and maintaining consistent patient flow easier.

    1. Follow-ups
    Identifying the most common annotations in appointments types can make scheduling and maintaining consistent patient flow easier. 
    ex:. "3-month follow-up" or "6-month follow-up"

    2. Post-Ops

    Do you see the procedure and follow-up time in the Comments/Notes section?
    ex. "Hand surgery 30-day follow-up".
    Do you see a description of the type of physical in the Comments/Notes section?
    ex. "Medicare Annual Wellness Visit" or "Chronic Care Visit"
    Professional tip:
    You should aim for six to eight appointment types per provider, but no more than ten.
    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 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.
    MY APPOINTMENTS ARE CLEAN, WHAT IS NEXT?
    In about 3 months evaluate the new appointment types, did anything fall through the cracks? Have you had any changes to your provider/staffing, locations and or services that would impact your scheduling rules? Are your new appointment types being used correctly or have they reverted to the comment/notes section and old appointment types?
    CONCLUSION
    Now that you have a solid handle on your appointment types, keep your schedule full by effectively filling cancellations, rescheduling no-shows and rebooking bumped appointments. Automate this process for additional staff efficiency with QueueDr.
    Appointment types fixed. Now solve cancellations!
    Read out The Definitive Guide to Cancellations.
    Want to automate your waitlist away?
    Schedule time with QueueDr.