A practice’s patient scheduling processes is a big part of the patient experience and contributes to overall satisfaction. According to one study, “positive patient care experiences are associated with greater adherence to recommended care, better clinical care and health care quality outcomes.” When patients can’t get appointments when they need them or experience long wait times, they’re likely to seek care elsewhere or worse, not seek care at all— leading to negative health outcomes and reduced revenue for your practice.
In other words, how patient scheduling is handled in your practice has a direct impact on health outcomes and your bottom line. Further, having a seamless patient scheduling process boosts your reputation with patients, who will be more likely to refer your practice to friends and family.
Fortunately, there are tools that can make scheduling a smooth and enjoyable experience for patients, while minimizing your staff’s workload. Here are four technologies that you may want to implement:
- Online booking. Your practice should give patients the ability to book or request appointments online. Online booking lets patients choose the times that are most convenient for them (which goes a long way in reducing no-shows). You can offer online booking via your patient portal or any other platform through which you engage with patients. However, not all patients will book online, so your staff must make sure that appointments booked over the phone are synchronized with those booked online. Finally, booking systems that allow patients to pre-check-in online (in addition to online patient input forms that patients can fill out and send in advance) help to decrease wait times. Instead of giving patients a pen and paper to fill in when they arrive, they can provide those details online before they arrive.
- Online Patient Intake Forms. Online forms allow medical practices to remove manual and redundant steps from the entire patient intake experience. By having patients fill out these forms online on their own ahead of their appointment, it helps reduce errors caused by manual entry and saves time for the front office and billing staff. The patient also has time to recall needed information instead of feeling rushed while waiting to see their provider. Kareo’s online patient intake form solution, for example, captures demographic information, basic insurance details, emergency contact, payment information, pharmacy and referral source. Kareo has also recently added consent form capabilities to their online form solution. It sets forth the purpose, benefits, risks and other information necessary for your patients to make an informed voluntary decision to move forward with a procedure.
- Automated appointment reminder systems: Auto-reminder systems send out appointment reminders to patients at pre-scheduled times via text or email. Incorporating this functionality into your practice is essential to eliminating no-shows, as no-shows result in poorer health outcomes for patients, affect your organizational workflow and impede your ability to provide healthcare at optimum efficiency. Additionally, automated appointment reminders free up precious time you and your staff would otherwise have spent manually texting or calling patients to remind them of their appointments.
The Medical Group Management Association reports that 88% of healthcare organizations already use automated appointment reminders and that its usage among practices results in higher revenue, lower no-show rates, better patient adherence and increased capacity to see patients. Please note that when you set up your auto-reminders, you should give patients cancellation and rescheduling options.
- Patient recall systems: Automated Recalling systems are great for patients who require recurring or regular appointments. This is because not all patients that require periodic appointments will reschedule. You can also use patient recall systems to take advantage of healthcare-focused national observances and reach out to patients to get their various screenings done throughout the year. Send automated email and text to your patient base to come in and get their immunizations, screenings or annual shots. This way you can congregate patient appointments for similar/identical healthcare services into a specific time period, which can streamline your schedule and workflow.
- Establish a scheduling policy: Your practice should develop a scheduling policy and communicate it to patients. The policy can contain details like what happens when they miss appointments or cancel less than 24 hours prior, and no-show fees if any. The policy should then be communicated to patients at check-in, through newsletters or welcome emails to new patients, and during registration appointment bookings.
- Train and educate staff: Your staff should be given training on how to use and manage appointment booking and reminder systems. Additionally, they should all be conversant with your scheduling policy.
For more timesaving tips, check out our newest Kareo Guide, Streamlining Your Care Delivery Workflow to Minimize Time Wasters in Your Practice, available in the coming month. In the meantime, if you missed our latest webinar on Avoiding the Burnout of Owning Your Own Practice, you can view the webinar on demand here.