Using Automation During a Crisis
With the ebb and flow of COVID, the start of cold and flu season, and the natural disasters wreaking havoc in parts of the country, digital health is transitioning from a need to have instead of a nice to have.
While COVID-19 has disrupted healthcare operations, our customers have said that being ahead of digital transformation puts them in a better position to succeed during the crisis and coming out of it.
Here’s what we learned from helping customers navigate the pandemic with automation:
The first step is realizing there is a problem
The Amount of Manual Work is Only Increasing
COVID-19 has added the time it takes to do almost every task in a medical organization. For example, doctors and staff need extra time between appointments to sanitize exam rooms. In the scheduling realm, screening patients prior to their appointment has become an all-encompassing task for schedulers. Each patient must be called up individually and screened for COVID symptoms with additional paperwork to fill out. Each call can take upwards of ten minutes while clogging phone lines and lengthening patient on-hold times.
The Resources at Your Disposal are Only Decreasing
COVID-19 has also laid bare the fact that workers are also people. Customers have seen a marked decrease in staff productivity for multiple reasons. Early in COVID, furloughs and layoffs meant there were fewer staff. To avoid furloughs, many medical organizations repurposed employees (like nurses) to be schedulers. This helped increase the number of staff members, but meant that “new” people had to be onboarded during a crisis!
Now, many medical organizations have brought back all their employees but face a different challenge. A combination of remote work, parenting while working, and mental health drains have caused an understandable drop in worker productivity. For example, if you have three kids at home distant learning while you are trying to work, there is no chance you will be able to be as productive.
Before COVID-19, many customers adopted automation as a way to save their staff the time of completing specific scheduling tasks. Now, automation is essential. It is no longer a matter of how long it will take staff to complete a task. Without automation, the tasks do not get done.
The second step is automating what can be automated
With these constraints, our customers took stock of what essential tasks would not be completed and could be automated. They did not try and automate tasks that needed to be done manually like patient screening.
Here are a few tasks our customers automated to manage the workload during the worst of the crisis and to emerge faster:
Rebuilding patient volume has become the number one operational goal for our customers and most medical organizations. A key tenant to making that happen is making sure that no slot goes unused. Prior to COVID, many schedulers didn’t get to the waitlist, but now almost none do. That represents patients left behind and slots unfilled.
Customers saw 7-15 extra appointments per doctor every month by automating their waitlist process.
Another important scheduling task that has gone unnoticed, is rescheduling missed appointments like no-shows and cancellations. During the crisis, offices were forced to cancel thousands of non-essential appointments. Using automation, customers were able to rebook these patients without having to call each patient individually. Prior to COVID, schedulers frequently ran monthly no-show reports for a list of patients to call and reschedule. Now, with time tight, schedulers can’t do that. Customers have used QueueDr to rebook those no-shows and provider cancellations automatically so that patients aren’t left behind.
Switching to Telemedicine
At the onset of COVID, QueueDr developed a new feature to swiftly move patients from in-person visits to virtual visits. Customers can choose patients with appointments who are scheduled to see specific providers for appointment types during specific dates. QueueDr automatically can offer those patients a virtual appointment at the same time slot via text.
Don’t be exposed as a naked swimmer during a crisis! Scrambling to stand up telemedicine was tough on practices and systems that weren’t already there, but you did it! Have faith that you can rapidly adopt essential automation to help your medical organization grow and recover quicker.
Technology and automation should help you during a crisis. If it is developed like QueueDr, it requires no training, minimum set-up to get started, and limited maintenance to keep it running. It works in the background, so your staff can focus in the moment.