Patient scheduling is one of the most important components of clinical practice management. When handled effectively and efficiently, it can result in improved patient experiences, enhanced staff productivity, decreased no-shows, increased revenue, and a streamlined medical practice. According to Market Data Forecast, in 2022, healthcare providers spent approximately $390 million on medical scheduling software. Industry trends show no signs of these expenditures decelerating, as the market is forecasted to value almost $740 million by 2027.
This data demonstrates how patient expectations are shifting as a result of the “consumerization of healthcare”—a trend that has only continued to rise in popularity in recent years. Providers are now expected to offer convenient, digital patient scheduling over traditional, phone-based appointment scheduling.
How can patient scheduling be more effective in this ever evolving healthcare landscape? This is a topic providers know they need to address, so many have pivoted to technology and medical scheduling software. But providers need to know what to look for in a scheduling solution if they want to meet the demands of patient-consumers.
How to Schedule Patients Effectively
1. Implement Patient Self-Scheduling
Encouraging your patients to self-schedule their appointments will bring impressive improvements to the overall efficiency of your practice. Offering a user-friendly online portal (through your EHR (Electronic Health Record) or a similar patient data platform) will streamline the scheduling process and increase patient satisfaction, while reducing your staff’s administrative workload, as well as time spent scheduling, rescheduling, reminding patients, and confirming appointments over the phone.
Self-scheduling systems easily integrate with your EHR and patient communication platforms for proactive patient engagement and can automatically suggest new appointment times to patients who wish to reschedule their appointments. Offering patient self-scheduling also improves patient acquisition because new patients no longer have to deal with appointment anxiety—they can easily make their first appointment themselves.
2. Send Automatic Appointment Reminders
Sending reminders is a critical part of the patient engagement process. Today’s patient journeys often require multiple touchpoints and reminders to keep patients engaged. Utilizing an appointment reminder system, such as Acqueon’s Epic EHR Connector,
will improve appointment adherence and reduce the number of costly, inconvenient no-shows. Both providers and patients are disadvantaged when no-shows happen. Patients don’t get the treatment they need, and providers miss out on potential revenue.
3. Track Cancellations
Remember, appointment scheduling isn’t just about setting up appointments. It’s also important to keep track of cancellations. Using patient engagement solutions, you can take notes on individual patients and keep track of which patients regularly cancel appointments and what reasons they cite. It could be that some patients can’t get to morning appointments, while others may cancel an afternoon appointment due to a full day.
Everyone misses an appointment now and then. One best practice for handling cancellations is to contact the patient, show concern, and reschedule their appointment to a more convenient time. By proactively following up with them, you’ll ensure that patients better adhere to their scheduled appointments in the future.
If cancellations are a frequent occurrence for your practice, it may be a sign that your cancellation policy needs to be updated or adjusted. A smart approach is to reevaluate your practice’s policies on an annual basis and adjust them as needed.
4. Create an Automated Patient Wait List
Frequent cancellations are frustrating for any medical practice. However, when you have an automated patient waiting list in place, you’re ready to swiftly fill any openings that do occur and keep revenue flowing.
Many medical scheduling solutions have the ability to alert waitlisted patients of open appointments. Some vendors even offer to manage these wait lists automatically for their clients. This is another practice that reduces administrative work and the need to fill an appointment by calling individual patients.
5. Use Automated Patient Recall
Being able to automatically call patients through an EHR connector keeps your healthcare practice on track for success. An automated patient recall system ensures that your patients will return for their regularly scheduled appointments. Common uses of this feature also include sharing instructions, post-appointment surveys, and referrals.
All of these proactive, automated communications benefit your practice by bringing back patients who may not have had their annual appointments in years. Reengaging these patients also helps to ensure that they’re able to live healthier, happier lives and improves their overall satisfaction and quality of life.
6. Leverage Analytics to Understand Your Patients
Leveraging analytics is another great practice to better understand your patients. Where are they dropping off during the appointment scheduling process? What is your conversion rate? What percentage of your patients actually adhere to their scheduled appointments?
These are all important questions to ask if you want to better gauge the effectiveness of your medical scheduling process or software. The answers to these questions should be used to improve the scheduling process, and any modern self-scheduling software solution or app should provide you with real-time analytics and data so you can continue to improve your appointment scheduling process.
You can also use any included reporting or analytics capabilities to track your practice’s capacity and utilization rates so providers can better manage their calendars and any necessary referrals. Analytics can give you insight into where referrals are sent to, so you can identify any bottlenecks and modify the process as needed.
Set Your Practice Up for Patient Scheduling Success
Every medical practice has room for improvement. There are countless ways you can increase your office’s efficiency, and these are just a few best practices to follow to set your practice up for appointment scheduling success. Use these tips to establish a scheduling system that works for you and reduces workloads, ensures easy booking experiences for patients, and streamlines your practice operations.
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