In an ideal world, every patient shows up on time and schedules are kept to the minute, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Some patients run a few minutes behind, others call frantically with a medical emergency, requiring immediate attention. And of course, there are some patients who simply forget their appointments.
All of these scenarios are real and costly. One study found that no-shows cost individual physicians an average of $200 per unused time slot.
Using technology, and maybe just a bit of psychology, to schedule patients and quickly reschedule other patients into slots that open up because of cancellations can help you keep wait times to a minimum while improving the care you deliver and patient satisfaction. All of this improves both your practice’s bottom line and your employees’ job satisfaction.
JotForm offers a robust solution to medical professionals in appointment widget which makes it really easy to arrange patient appointments.
Here are five tips for scheduling patients effectively
Offer patient self-scheduling
The average phone call to schedule an appointment takes around eight minutes. Multiply that by the number of appointments your staff schedules by phone each day, and it’s clear that a lot of valuable time is spent on the phone scheduling appointments. Fortunately, there’s an easier way and one that more patients prefer — online scheduling.
One study found that 42 percent of patients would prefer to schedule their appointment online rather than calling the practice. The same study found that 26 percent of patients who schedule their appointment online choose appointments the same day or the next day, often filling spots left vacant by last-minute cancellations.
Investing in online scheduling software improves administrative efficiency and patient satisfaction.
Implement patient prioritization
The easiest way to schedule patients is first come, first served, but that’s far from the best approach. An urgent situation might require an immediate appointment, while many other patient issues can be taken care of with an email or a brief phone or video chat chat to determine if they even need to come to the office.
Have a qualified member of your staff screen patient calls to assess whether the patient needs an in-person appointment, or if a nurse or doctor can address the patient’s concern via a phone or video consultation.
Prioritization assures that patients in need of urgent care can get those critical same-day appointments, while patients who don’t need to be seen have their issues addressed remotely.
Use text and email to confirm appointments and send reminders
Appointment reminder software that sends texts, emails, and calls to your patients strategically before their appointments can drastically reduce no-shows and late cancellations. Patients can cancel or confirm their appointment without taking up staff time.
It’s a good idea to include your cancellation policy in patient reminders.
Manage a patient waiting list
Last-minute cancellations are frustrating, unless you use a patient scheduling platform with a digital patient waiting list to fill late appointment cancellations and no-shows with patients eager to see a doctor.
When you get a cancellation, simply access your stored digital patient wait list and send out a quick message informing your patients of an open appointment. This fills those open slots, saving time and resources in the front office while maximizing time spent with patients.
Automate patient recalls
A patient recall is a follow-up appointment, perhaps for a routine physical exam or treatment of a chronic condition. These visits are usually scheduled at the conclusion of an appointment. An automated patient recall system can schedule patients for their next visit and periodically remind them of the visit, which keeps your schedule full and your patients properly treated.
A patient recall system sends texts, calls, or emails on an appropriate schedule (weekly, monthly, annually, etc.), streamlining patient scheduling through improved patient communication. While these systems are good for working with patients you need to see frequently, they are indispensable for keeping track of reluctant patients who haven’t been in for months or years and need frequent reminders to see the doctor.
Overcoming scheduling challenges
Scheduling will always be a challenge, even if you use all of these techniques. Patients will get delayed in traffic, urgent cases will take priority, and some patients won’t show because they forgot. Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system around $150 billion each year, but you don’t have to be part of that statistic.
Scheduling patients effectively is important to delivering care. The steps you take now will have a dramatic effect on how efficiently you run your practice and on how satisfied patients are with the care they receive.