Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

How to Schedule Patients Effectively

Since you decided to manage a medical office, you probably encountered a lot of bottlenecks, one of them was a scheduling process. It seemed simple at first, but surprisingly turned out to be a mess. What did you do wrong? You’ll leave this article with the knowledge you need.

Patients are more satisfied when their appointments are scheduled effectively. It’s not a secret, that nowadays people have to wait for weeks to get a “next day“ appointment in lots of medical practices. Thus, providing potential patients with an opportunity to book appointments they require, gives you a huge advantage over your competitors and strengthens patients’ loyalty.

Two women are booking online

Patient satisfaction must be a concern for every strike you make. A happy client equals a generous client, a client, who is taking all of these relatives and acquaintances with him to your office.

Effective scheduling of patient appointments has two more vital benefits: increasing revenue and creating sufficient database.

When patients are satisfied with your service, your revenue increases. That’s a fact. And a good medical services starts with diverse schedules, timetables and convenient access to a patient self-scheduling.

A sufficient client database and a waiting list are two elements to consider too. Efficient scheduling means not only redirecting patients to the empty time slots, but also a forehanded communication with your current and potential clients.

Put another way, to schedule patients effectively is a challenging, yet necessary daily action. We have compiled all useful information for you to make this process a breeze, including:

  • How to introduce a correct workflow (“noon method“)
  • Implementing of online self-scheduling
  • Scheduling telemedicine
  • Appointment reminder software
  • Working out a waiting list

And more!

How to introduce a correct workflow

When automated, scheduling and rescheduling seem pretty obvious. But a good practice manager keeps in mind circadian rhythms - internal clock that shapes our energy levels throughout the day. Why is it important for scheduling?

According to the study of Christopher M. Barnes, a professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, it usually takes a couple of hours after the start of a shift for people to reach their utmost productivity. Almost immediately after lunch this level begins to decline, hitting a low at around 3pm. Generally, there is another burst of productivity - about 6pm.

Low energy level

For this reason, one of the most wide-spread scheduling system, helping to control appointment time, is a “noon method“.

It’s better to schedule morning appointments from noon backward and afternoon appointments from noon forward. Using this pattern as the bottom line of your practice will highly likely result in maintaining a high-level of productivity during the day and enabling you to stay on schedule.

Nevertheless, sometimes some time slots remain unfilled. But still, you can make the most of this time by calling a staff meeting or simply allowing staff members to check in or out later/earlier. And also, you have a great chance to manage patient flow.

To reduce the unproductivity and waste of time, a manager introduces self-scheduling.

Implementing of online self-scheduling

Recent survey says, that nearly half of the respondents would prefer online booking to a traditional call to practice. Thus, online self-scheduling is a perfect way to increase your clients’ database.

Do you know, that:

  • 34% of patients managed to make an appointment outside working hours
  • And 26% of online appointments are made for the next day, filling empty slots and no-shows.

So, it hits the lights that 24/7 accessibility of an online booking for a patient is a must for your practice.

With new advancements in software and technology, hiring an appointment scheduler is an unnecessary expense. Practices now have a function of real-time scheduling, no matter where a patient is.

Practice management software (PMS), like Medesk, has an easy to use online booking module. The clinic may place a link on the site that will redirect the patients to the online module. This will enable them to view available doctors, appointment slots, enter their details and select a convenient time for booking.

All completed online appointments are automatically included in the clinic schedule or in the patient waiting list. The clinic manager does not need to spend time processing the application. During the appointment, a confirmation code is sent to the patient's phone - this is a standard verification procedure to ensure protection against spam, etc. Additionally, there is a captcha verification option for confirming appointments.

By means of online booking, the clinic simplifies the patient's path from the Internet and gets a tool for regulating their schedule and doctors’ workload.

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So to say, online scheduling for patients reduces wait times thanks to the automatic confirmation.

And that’s another thing, don’t forget about third-party scheduling. Online booking portals and referral services have become one of the main channels for attracting patients and scheduling patient appointments. Patients increasingly compare services on the Internet, read reviews about the clinic, doctors, and call the clinic much less often.

Medesk works with the main portals for making appointments with doctors and finding clinics, so that patients get on the schedule right away and the clinic can provide the highest quality service.

Scheduling telemedicine

Many patients are taking advantage of telemedicine to ensure their health. Using this method, healthcare providers transfer patients to distance treatment, managing complex meetings and addressing patient needs.

Taking into consideration the question of scheduling, using telemedicine services can help you fill missing time slots and no-shows, especially when we talk about such types of appointments as:

  • Follow-up visits
  • Various coaching and mental health consultations
  • Discussing and sharing the results of different tests
  • A patient with the symptoms of flu, cold, COVID-19 and so on
  • Nutrition consultations
  • Birth-spacing programmes and more.

Easy online consultations

Online platforms allow you to conduct telemedicine consultations with patients via videoconference right on the platform. You can connect to the scheduled video conference from any device through a browser. The connection link is sent via text message and email.

You will be able to conduct online patient appointments directly in Medesk. There is no need to use personal numbers, employee contacts or third-party programs. Within the platform, all actions and connections are performed on behalf of your clinic.

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Patients can also connect to the appointment from the patient's personal account in the online appointment or using the appointment code. Medesk allows the doctor to connect directly from the appointment. The clinic administrator can turn any appointment into a remote one - with one click.

Appointment reminder software

Implementing an appointment reminder software system is a must for decreasing your overhead costs. Estimations show that a common healthcare provider loses over $150,000 a year due to no-shows. When a patient misses his appointment, the waitlist grows. For a busy practice this state of affairs is no good.

Put another way, using appointment scheduling software is a breeze nowadays. It aims to optimize healthcare practice by reminding patients via phone calls or text messages.

Please do not forget to train your staff members to use the software correctly for a higher level of care for your old and new patients.

Medesk has the option of integrating with one of the SMS messaging services, making the office/patients communication easier.

SMS messaging service

Alternatively, you can send your patients an e-mail reminder. For instance:

  • To inform your patients about an appointment
  • To send any documents, for example, examination protocols or test results
  • To send personal messages.

Another great thing you can implement is a recall system. Its aim is to bring back patients who haven’t attended your office recently, or even for years. One small call or an SMS, reminding them to reschedule, can fill your time and increase revenue.

Working out a waiting list

Make up a waiting list. It helps filling no-shows and broadening your client base. If you are performing your practice management effectively, potential patients from the online “waiting room“ will gladly fill your schedule.

When there is a last-minute cancellation, it’s a sound idea to text waiting patients in line. They may come earlier and fill the time, or they can use a telemedicine option and connect online. This is why an online platform comes in handy, keeping a digital list.

Use a mass SMS or e-mail notification to save time and increase revenue. In this case, your manager doesn’t make dozens of calls trying to reach the next appointment. Otherwise, the notifications will cause your clients to call, not you.

Ensure your effectiveness

Once you have implemented all of our tips, you should perform an analysis.

It’s a simple but systematic review of your scheduling information. Your fill rate is easy to calculate: you should divide your filled or double-booked slots by the number of slots available for booking.

E.g., you have 2000 slots available per month. The number of booked and double-booked slots this month is 1300.

So, your fill rate is:

1300/2000=0.65, or 65%.

Mind, that a reminder system with the option "Analysis" will make it easy for you to keep up with all other monthly reports.

The guarantee of an effective private clinic management is a constant monitoring of the key growth indicators! We have developed more than 40 ready-made reports on various options necessary to monitor the growth indicators of a private clinic.

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What else should you keep in mind?

  • Conversion rates, last-minute bookings
  • Patients’ wait time
  • Patient experience (you can find it out by hiring a mystery shopper).

Using information extracted from your everyday scheduling practice makes understanding your patients’ needs and improving your services a child’s-play. Modern digital PMSs give a full picture of your practice processes, facilitate scheduling check-ups and encourage your patients.

EHR, analysis, telemedicine and online booking are always close at hand. Just use it!

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