One thing all healthcare organizations have in common is the need for efficient patient scheduling. It sounds simple and straightforward, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Every healthcare practice has a specific method of scheduling their patients, a process unique to their organization and their providers’ preferences.
More practices are beginning to realize that the patient scheduling process is one of the biggest opportunities for improved efficiency, profitability, and stronger patient loyalty.
Healthcare’s New Consumer Mindset
Patients today are evaluating their healthcare experience with a consumer-like mindset. This means patients are assessing the practice and provider based on the entire patient experience – not just the medical expertise provided. This is where an excellent patient scheduling experience makes a difference.
3 Criteria for Benchmarking Your Patient Scheduling
How would you rate your existing patient scheduling software against these measures?
Do your patients have options for connecting with your practice outside of business hours to schedule appointments? Lack of convenience is cited as a reason patients often decide to leave a provider or practice.
Not only that, for some specialties like orthopaedics, an after-hours booking option can prevent a patient from rushing to the ER unnecessarily if they know they can see their preferred doctor first thing in the morning.
- A few options for expanding access to more convenient patient scheduling include using a patient portal, adding a self-scheduling functionality to your website, or engaging outsourced patient call center services
- Be careful that the solution you choose doesn’t add more work or create rework for your staff
- Make sure your patient scheduling software connects seamlessly with your current communications systems
What to look for:
- Integration capabilities with your EMR, ideally with real-time updates to prevent double-booking
- Technical capabilities that ensure adherence to scheduling protocols to avoid rescheduling
2. USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Do you offer your patients the opportunity to contact your office using text or online chat to change, cancel, or confirm an appointment? According to one study, nearly 20% of patients prefer to connect via secure text if a phone call isn’t possible.
HIPAA rules once prevented the use of text or online chat to connect patients and providers, but there are many ways to conform to HIPAA guidelines while providing patients these alternative methods of communication.
- Secure healthcare SMS-text-based messaging is one of the fastest-growing market segments, and there are a lot of providers to choose from as a result
- A secure online chat functionality can be purchased independently and added to most websites
- Adding single functionality solutions in a piece-meal fashion can eventually bog down your IT environment and create unnecessary complexity
- Tracing and capturing multiple communications from different channels can be challenging for keeping patient records current.
- These solutions do not necessarily replace or off-set phone calls. These should be thought of as complementary methods of communication, not replacements. If you are understaffed for phone calls, adding additional communication methods will not solve that problem.
What to look for:
- HIPAA compliance and security are the first requirements. Look for a communication solution that already has customers in the healthcare space.
- Integration capabilities are also important
- Make time to read user reviews, especially about a vendor’s customer support services. This is a helpful means of determining a stand-out solution in a crowded market.
Do you have processes built-in to your patient scheduling workflows that help improve accuracy and efficiency? When appointments aren’t booked properly, patient frustration increases and satisfaction drops. Patients are often notified the day before or the day of the appointment, requesting to reschedule with a different doctor or for a different time slot.
Mistakes in appointment bookings are common, due to the complex workflows and decision trees that inform a single scheduling task. There are hundreds of data points, including types of symptoms, insurance, location, referral status, previous care, and employer, among others. To add to the complexity, each provider within the same practice has different preferences relating to each of those data sets. No two practices or providers are alike.
Often, this means the office staff are required to memorize multiple unique protocols, and training new staff can take months.
- Consider adopting centralized patient scheduling
- Centralized scheduling can mean adopting a more standardized process, or it can mean using an all-in-one patient scheduling software solution
- Sometimes the decision to move to a centralized patient scheduling process can create discord among staff members. Providers fear that the switch will mean sacrificing their specific preferences. Front desk staff can feel threatened by the idea of sharing or outsourcing a job they have worked hard to master.
- Be transparent with your employees on the intent and the problems you hope to solve by implementing changes to patient scheduling
What to look for:
- Look for solutions that automate the patient scheduling process, including individual data sets and variables, while upholding the aspects that make your practice unique
- Ensure that your solution is flexible and easy to change. As practices grow and evolve, scheduling processes do, too. You need a solution that can be rapidly adjusted.
- Seek out a patient scheduling solution that enables you to input your own practice-specific preferences while also providing a streamlined, guided workflow for your patient call center staff
Embrace New Options
It’s more important than ever to pay attention to the patient experience and the efficiency of the processes. The riskiest thing a healthcare organization can do is to stick with their current patient scheduling process because “it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
At the end of the day, patients are consumers and will increasingly evaluate their healthcare providers based on how well their experience delivers on their expectations.
Now is the time for healthcare providers to understand that the impact of the patient’s experience outside of the practice’s four walls can have major implications on their ultimate perception of care.
Consolidate patient scheduling and communications onto a single, powerful platform. We’ll show you how.