WAITLIST MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE 101
Waitlist management software plays a crucial role in improving patient access. Patient access is at the top of health systems’ initiatives because patients are acting more like consumers than ever before. If there is a long patient wait time, patients can more easily choose to go to another physician. Solving patient access can be done by waitlist management software, so we put together a guide on choosing the right one.
WHAT IS WAITLIST MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE?
Waitlist management software is a tool that health systems and medical schedulers use to get patients’ earlier appointments and fill last-minute cancellations. The technology organizes waiting patients, gets them in earlier, and increases physician utilization. Below we will discuss the different forms waitlist management software can take including paper waitlists and autonomous, AI waitlists. We will discuss why manual waitlists do not work, but autonomous waitlist management software does.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE WAITLIST MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Longer Patient Wait Time
By 2030, the percentage of Americans over 65 will grow by 55%, which makes the projected shortage especially troubling. As patients get older, they need two to three times as many services, mostly in specialty care, where the shortages are particularly severe. This problem worsens patient wait time. Thus, health systems started doing the only natural thing…adding patients to a waitlist.
Consumerism in healthcare
HFMA says it best in their strategic analysis of 2018 initiatives, “For 2018, there will be an increasing focus on consumer engagement, with the winners being consumer-centric organizations that are able to build positive “touchstones”’.
Long patient wait times can indicate a good physician. However, patients wait for all types of physicians, not just those with good ratings. That’s because patient access can also arise as a result of the demand and supply imbalance. This imbalance can lead to prolonged patient suffering and dissatisfaction, physician burnout, and an increase in revenue at risk.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF WAITLIST MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
When considering waitlist management software, it’s important to know the different types so you can ask the right questions.
Manual “Waitlist Management Software”
The original waitlist software is sticky notes and Microsoft Excel. This is what most physician offices use.
- A manual process is better than having patients call in. In this instance, staff notifies patients about earlier appointments.
- Schedulers can account for patient time preferences. For example, a scheduler can write that “John” prefers Friday after 4 pm before of his work schedule.
- There are no direct software costs. However, there are opportunity costs for staff time and lost physician revenue.
- Best practices are not shared across offices.
- There is no tracking of patients on the waitlist.
- Offices do not know if the waitlist is being used.
- Manual processes increase staff call volume.
- Schedulers cannot see all the patients on the waitlist. As a result, patients get missed and appointments get double booked.
“Hacked” Waitlist Management Software
Many health systems “hack together” a waitlist. Schedulers will schedule appointments far in the future with a fake provider. For example, you may see Dr. Waitlist on the schedule. Other health systems will schedule patients for a time when the office isn’t open. Finally, some will add certain text in the comment section (e.g. #waitlist) to denote a waitlisted patient. This process is more organized than waitlist management software not integrated into the EHR but leaves room for improvement.
- Staff only need to look at their practice management system.
- It is quicker to add patients to the waitlist than if the waitlist is on a third party software.
- Requires staff to change their workflow.
- This is time-consuming. The staff has to schedule two appointments every time, not just one!
- Staff must still call and reschedule those appointments manually.
- New hires must be taught this workaround.
- There is no waitlist performance data. How many patients are on the waitlist? How many got off?
Waitlist Management within your EHR
Some scheduling systems have waitlist management where schedulers can add patients to an e-waitlist. Each system is different. They all require patients to be added to a waitlist, patients to be notified, and patients to be removed.
- The staff is not required to manage multiple programs. Goodbye to post-it notes.
- All the required patient information is right in the scheduling system. As a result, staff reduces the number of clicks to find and reschedule patients. This shortens the amount of time staff spend on rescheduling patients.
- Some EHR systems capture information like patient time preferences.
- Schedulers can access the waitlist in real-time. As a result, schedulers don’t notify patients multiple times. Patients won’t be offered appointments that have already been filled.
- Waitlist management inside the EHR is still time consuming. Schedulers will save time not having to switch to another program. However, they will spend time adding patients to a waitlist. This process also requires manually notifying patients and rescheduling of appointments.
- Patients now have the expectation that they will be called for earlier appointments and will be more upset if they are not.
Autonomous Waitlist Management Software
It is no secret we love automation. We wrote a whole guide on why true automation is the future for health systems. The same goes for waitlist management. Autonomous waitlist management software requires no staff input. Did you know that filling one cancellation takes roughly 45 minutes of staff work? That’s with a waitlist in the EHR!
- Autonomous waitlist management software requires no waitlist. The solution will identify eligible patients to be brought up.
- It also requires no change to staff workflow.
- Furthermore, staff do not need to manually reschedule a patient from one slot to another.
- Patients see improved patient access, while providers experience higher utilization.
- The IT procurement process is daunting. Many health systems have had poor experiences with healthcare technology before. As a result, they are hesitant to implement a new solution. That’s why this guide exists!
- Automation can seem like a black box. Don’t underestimate how important customization capabilities are.
FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN SHOPPING FOR AUTONOMOUS WAITLIST MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
1. Full Automation
Your health system should demand fully autonomous waitlist management software. Want a working definition of automation? Check out our guide for tips.
2. Full Customization
Customization is vital for a health system that has unique needs for each provider and visit type. Specifically, investigate the ability to set rules not just by visit type, but by visit type and provider. Providers may use the same visit types quite differently.
3. Bi-Directional Integration
A solution that has a bi-directional API integration with your scheduling system. HL7 and custom integrations will be expensive and are not reliable.
4. Think of the Entire Patient Journey
Look for a solution that influences the entire patient access lifecycle (features include appointment reminders, appointment management, transportation coordination, and schedule balancing)
5. Ease of Use
Finally, make sure the software is easy to use for patients. You need a solution that meets the demands of your patients in a consumerist healthcare environment.