Best Practices for Patient Scheduling

Best Practices for Patient Scheduling

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In a continually evolving medical landscape, an adaptable approach that adequately responds to patient needs is necessary. Clinicians who want to serve their patients need to critically evaluate their existing operation and determine if it is doing that.

In specific, scheduling is an often-overlooked aspect of clinical care, but its importance cannot be overstated. It is the first barrier to entry, and antiquated systems can leave many patients out in the cold. You can’t help patients who can’t get in the door. 

To alleviate that problem, we’ve prepared three ways you can best overhaul your scheduling practices.

Use a Digital Self-Scheduling Client

Senior Patient Using Health Monitoring App
Senior Patient Using Health Monitoring App

Going digital is the biggest thing you can do to make a positive impact on your scheduling practices. Phone appointments have been the traditional approach for years, but they have failed for various reasons.

According to data collected from PatientPop, an online appointment provider:

● Only half of the patients who call for an appointment can book over the phone on their first try.

68% of patients say they’re more likely to choose medical providers that offer the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online.

● The demand for online scheduling is rapidly growing: 38% of patients in 2020 outright prefer it, an 11% increase from 2018.

Online appointment scheduling also reduces strain on your practice. According to that same survey, over 50% of clinics spend 10+ hours each week scheduling appointments, confirming appointments, and responding to patient correspondence.

If scheduling is automating, you can maximize your operational efficacy. A problem many practices face is having people work at the top of their scope. Those working in a clinic should be focusing their efforts on the highest level tasks they are qualified to do.

Consequently, if your employees are less occupied with contacting patients at all hours of operation, they’ll be able to handle additional administrative tasks more efficiently, allowing the clinic as a whole to run more smoothly.

Most importantly: patients want this. Not only do 97% of patients outright expect some form of self-scheduling, but more than 60% of patients would switch providers if it would speed up the appointment process. 

The aforementioned PatientPop survey found that the average wait time for physician appointments in the top fifteen metro areas was 24.1 days. Conversely, for appointments booked via their online scheduling system, the average wait was between 5 and 8 days.

An online self-scheduling client gives patients more opportunities to make an appointment with your practice. If you want to maximize patient satisfaction, it should at the very least an option for them.

Implement Strategic Booking

There are many “scheduling hacks” one can do that may not be immediately apparent. One of these is the practice of consecutive booking, a scheduling technique wherein clinics book patients for particular blocks of time.

For instance, say you are booking appointments for June 3rd, and you recommend appointments between the hours of 1:00 to 5:00. If you work backward from 5:00, you’ll often find that you don’t have to book patients for the earlier bloc. 

In this instance, the team can come in late or use that time to catch up on other tasks, all without having to close the clinic for those hours. If you’re continuously finding certain days of the week are interspersed with fewer patients, consolidate allocation blocking times.

In a similar vein, double-booking patients, while once considered unprofessional, is something one should at least consider. More specifically, the differing lengths of certain types of appointments should be accounted for.

For example, if a new patient is coming to your clinic, there is typically additional paperwork for them when they arrive. If they’re scheduled to come in at 2:15, booking a returning patient at that same time could be advisable. 

Assuming it’ll take them approximately 15 minutes to complete it, it’s entirely possible that (depending on the purpose of the visit) the other patient could finish. In a circumstance like this, booking two patients at 2:15 instead of one at 2:15 and one at 2:30 is strictly better, as it minimizes everyone’s wait time.

While strategies like these may not seem intuitive on the surface, practices like these save a monumental amount of time and effort in the long run. Minor tweaks to your scheduling approach are the difference between a well-run practice and a booming one.

Wherever Possible, Embrace Innovation

virtual reality innovations
virtual reality innovations

Something all clinics should be asking themselves is:

“What can I do better? How can I help more patients? What is on the rise in my industry?”

For example, in 2020 — for obvious reasons — telemedicine technology saw an incredible boon. Many clinics were overloaded with requests for online visits, and many did not have experience with the technology. Read Telemedicine Benefits

Medical Practices such as these experienced growing pains in scheduling telemedicine visits, whereas those who had already put their feet in that water were able to handle the caseload more adequately.

A similar principle applies to the best scheduling practices. Digital scheduling may be the latest innovation, but it’s crucial to continue to keep an eye out for the next. Being an early adopter can give you a competitive edge and, more importantly, help you help more people.

The next innovation could be anything. Data is being published every day on new ideas, practices, and techniques that clinicians should consider. They won’t all be amazing, but if you use your best judgment and adopt promising ideas, you may find immense value.

Conclusion

Scheduling is an often overlooked aspect of running a successful practice, and particular attention to development and intricacies. We hope you found this article helpful and informative in deciding what direction you want to take your clinic.