Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

How to Spend More Time on Your Patients and Less on Paperwork

Michael May
May 18, 2021

Every clinic’s goal is to optimise the time that doctors spend with patients. There are many strategies and tricks you can do to achieve this. Today we will share some tips to help your clinic increase the number of patient visits and encourage your patients to come back.

Pay attention to your patients

One way to spend more time overall with your patients is... to have more patients to work with! Now, there are many strategies and factors that go into building a successful clinic with a queue of patients at all times. However, the most important aspect of your success will come from showing your patients you care. Before you roll your eyes at such obvious advice, it is something we all know but do not necessarily implement in day-to-day life.

There are many reasons for not paying enough attention to patients: from being overworked to having to fill in a patient’s personal data during their visit. Suppose you feel like doctors spend too much time on paperwork during appointments. In that case, you should think about upgrading your clinic management software to a platform that can automate the workflows, provide ready-made document templates and a user-friendly interface.

Templates in Medesk

Once you have removed these obstacles, your clinicians can focus on their patients. Here are some tips:

  • Take the time to chat with your patients about their hobbies, friends and family if they are comfortable sharing that. Stepping outside of their medical history and condition can help them relax and build good rapport. Sometimes it leads to patients sharing parts of their medical history which they didn’t tell you about initially due to shame, discomfort or lack of trust. Needless to say, this benefits the treatment process and improves your overall relationship with your patients.

  • Listen to patients' ideas about their condition. Many people google their symptoms before they go to the doctor’s office, so let them share their concerns and slowly guide them to the correct diagnosis. Just telling them that they are wrong is rarely helpful and creates subconscious, if not outright resentment.

  • During the visit, find the time to answer all your patient’s questions and make an effort to chat with them without typing anything on your computer. Even a five-minute uninterrupted eye-to-eye conversation can make a huge difference and make the patient return to you time and time again. Use ready-made templates in your practice management system to optimise the time you spend on writing prescriptions and completing other paperwork.

Read more: How Clinic Management Software Helps You Match Your Patients' Expectations at Every Turn

Manage your no-show patients

Patients skipping appointments is a common occurrence. However, if you check your client list and their visit history, there is a high chance that you will find that most missed visits come from the same small group of patients. One way to deal with this situation is to implement a special cancellation policy for those notorious patients. Statistically, patients are less likely to skip a visit to the doctor if they scheduled it the same day or one day before, so you could apply such a policy to this specific patient group only. You could expect to see the results in a few months.

Many practice management systems have automated reminders which we encourage you to use for all patients, especially in the case of chronic DNAs. Additionally, if you have sufficient human resources, one of the admin team could make reminder calls in the afternoon for the next day's appointments.

Another way to manage no-shows is to reach out to patients who didn’t turn up to their appointment. It is best to call them 5-10 minutes after the agreed time and ask if they will be coming or not. It will save your team from waiting in vain. Plus, you will show that extra level of care to your patient, making them less likely to skip their next visit. When on the call, remember to avoid any negativity in your tone.

Medesk goes a step further and helps you understand exactly why cancellations are taking place:

  • Check your cancellation and no-show rates easily with visual charts
  • Record and count all the reasons for cancellations for every single appointment
  • Match cancellations against clinicians, departments, appointment type and more
  • Learn what situations cause cancellations and no-shows so you can nip the problem in the bud

Read more: How Private Practice Software Helps to Improve Your Approach to Patient Acquisition

Have a written policy in place and make sure your patients know about it

Having a written cancellation policy that outlines the rules for missed appointments and delays is very important. Two common scenarios that can cause an issue are:

  • Depending on where you are based and your speciality, you might request a deposit from your patients during the booking process and keep part of the amount paid if they don’t show up.
  • The patient might arrive late, miss their scheduled time slot, and still expect to be seen by a doctor.

To avoid any confusion and negativity, we encourage you to add your cancellation policy to the standard paperwork that patients sign upon their first visit. That way, nobody can say they didn’t know the rules.

Create and keep a waiting list

Keep a waiting list to help you fill in the gaps in the doctor’s schedule should some of the patients cancel their appointments. It’s best if you include the time and days when the patients are available for a visit. This way, you will avoid extra calls and have a higher chance of taking new appointments on short notice. It is a great way to boost satisfaction with patients who were unable to schedule their visit initially, and your clinic will not be losing out on income.

Medesk helps you to run an efficient waiting list to ensure that all patients are seen as soon as possible:

  • Colour-code each patient record to understand who is on your waiting list
  • Run automated reports to see who has been on your waiting list longest
  • Create a triage system so the most urgent cases are seen as a priority
  • Send out recall messages with online booking links for specific services to aid patient retention

We hope that these tips were helpful and you will use them to build stronger doctor-patient relationships. With the right mindset and medical software in place, you will be able to optimise your business processes and build a much more successful clinic.

Read next: How to Keep Your Patient Communications on Track

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