Does this happen to you that no matter how hard you try to schedule appointments effectively; you just cannot do it?
Scheduling is one of the most essential tasks in the healthcare field, which has a major impact on your success. With the consistent rise in healthcare expenses, there is no room for scheduling negligence and errors.
While scheduling patients does not seem like a crucial step, if done appropriately, it will improve your care services, help you manage time, reduce bottlenecks and achieve overall efficiency in the system.
To achieve all of that and more, you must learn how to schedule patients effectively. Of course, you cannot ask patients to be on time for their appointment, but you can do many other things to ensure everything is on time and all the scheduling stays in flow.
10 Tips – How to Schedule Patients Effectively
Manage your energy levels by planning your day and achieve performance efficiency by successfully scheduling your patients and booking their appointments without delays and overlapping.
Following, we have elaborated on 10 proven tips that help multiple healthcare organizations achieve their maximum efficiency.
1. Use Online Scheduling Platform
For effective scheduling, you must ditch the old-school methods that involve booking appointments via phone calls. Just imagine how you would be able to respond to an influx of phone calls for appointments and details via just a phone call? It’s humanly impossible. You barely get to book a handful of appointments.
On the contrary, using an online scheduling platform will maximize your productivity and minimize the chances of misunderstanding between the patient and the physician’s assistant.
Also, providing an online platform where the patients can connect with you over text would make it more accessible for them to reach out to you and book appointments. Otherwise, if it’s done via phone calls, chances are high that you may miss their phone call in the process to cater to other calls.
Appointment Plus is a scheduling software widely used across the US allowing patients to self-schedule their appointments at anytime and anywhere.
2. Set up Appointment Reminders
Establish appointment reminders ahead of time to reduce no-show appointments and manage the time accordingly. It also optimizes the facility’s capacity to accommodate patients and ensures minimum interruptions.
An appointment reminder system enables patients to cancel or reschedule their appointment by responding to an automated phone call. It also helps the patient reminds of their appointment in case they forgot about it. Doing so will drastically improve on-time patient arrivals and reach the facility’s full-service potential.
If you are skeptical about the automated reminder idea, just have a look at these statistics; MMS automated reminders reduce no-show appointments by 50 percent, as reported by a research study.
Using appointment reminder software will dispatch multiple reminders to several patients simultaneously. Also, it lets you customize reminders by setting up a weekly reminder via email or an SMS reminder every two days or an automated call just a day before the appointment.
3. Schedule Appointments from Noon
For maximum productivity, schedule morning appointments from midday the previous day and afternoon appointments from noon backward. Keeping it as a standard practice will reduce downtime and sort out your major part of the day. For instance, if the morning or noon slots don’t reach their full, you can use the remaining time for staff meetings, or cut overhead costs by rescheduling the staff shifts to a later time in the day.
Free slots during the day result in low productivity. However, using this scheduling technique will save you a considerable cost.
4. Make an Active Waiting List
Despite reducing no-show appointments, it will still happen that some patients cancel their appointments for one reason or another. However, you can’t reduce this by creating an active waiting list of patients who will take up any slot that frees up.
Several practice management software come that enable you to create an active waiting list by sending free slot notifications to a selected group of clients. Anyone who responds first to that notification will get the slot. For more efficiency, you can further identify which days in a week your clients will likely make an appointment and send out group notifications to ensure no slots go free.
5. Sent Broadcast Messages
During uncertain circumstances where you need to inform your patients of the facility closure or reschedule their appointments, you need to have an automated system to send broadcast notifications to all the scheduled patients for that day. This will save you your precious hours from calling or sending messages to each patient individually and rescheduling their appointments.
For instance, if the facility is closed during the early hours of the day for maintenance or something, you can send a broadcast message to all the patients with their rescheduled time earlier in the day or a day prior so that they can manage to show up on time.
6. Observe Appointment Cancellation Reasons
This might sound time-consuming, but keeping track of appointment cancellations and their reason will help you improve the client’s experience and minimize cancellations drastically.
For instance, if a client cancels their appointment twice, you should check the possible reason for it. Maybe he/she is not a morning person and tends to miss their morning appointments. By monitoring your client’s behavior, you can determine when to schedule them to minimize the cancellation rate.
If a patient has a history of missing their appointments and is likely to cancel future ones as well, you need to deal with such clients complying with the cancellation policy.
The best way to deal with this is by calling the client before the appointment and, instead of reprimanding them, show genuine concern and reschedule them if they have a legit reason. Doing so will help you re-occupy your proximate canceled spots and improve productivity.
7. Communicate the Cancellation Policy to the Clients
Every healthcare organization has some cancellation policy that clearly communicates what the clients are liable for when they cancel an appointment or under which conditions they can call an appointment off.
Some practices charge a full fee or part of it depending on the case, offering some exceptions for special cases. While it’s your call, you can waive a regular client’s cancellation fee. However, you must try to prevent these charges by clearly communicating your cancellation policy while booking an appointment and sending out reminder messages.
8. Prioritize Appointments
At times when all the slots are filled, there comes the need to prioritize appointments depending on the severity of the case and level of urgency. Keep these facts in mind while scheduling patients and rationally decide which appointment should be placed on urgent care and which should be scheduled for a later date.
Many patients’ queries and issues can be resolved over a brief phone call. Appoint a staff member who can cater to such calls and determine if they need to be scheduled for an in-person appointment or not. This approach will help provide the highest level of care to complicated and emergency cases.
9. Automate Routine Responses
Responding to minor queries and common questions can eat up your precious hours. Setting up automated responses to routine questions can save you time and cost.
Using an advanced scheduling system, you can send automated replies in bulk to regular queries like appointment re-confirmation, cancellations, and rescheduling. Also, it will benefit both parties, achieving overall system efficiency.
10. Schedule Buffer Time if Necessary
The extra time scooched in the service duration for clean-ups is called buffer time. It’s a good idea to estimate some buffer time after certain appointments or every appointment if necessary to avoid overlapping appointments or any kind of mismanagement.
Also, adding some buffer time will allow you to clear up the paperwork, which will pile up on your table by the end of the day.
Measure Your Effectiveness
Now that you know how to schedule patients effectively, implement these tips and measure effectiveness. To perform analysis, simply review your scheduling information now, and start calculating your fill rate by dividing your occupied slot by the number of available or free slots.
For instance, you have 4000 slots available for the current month and your occupied slots for this month are 2000.
Your fill rate is: 2000/4000 = 0.5 or 50%
This means you have 50 percent confirmed appointments for the current month and have space for 50 percent more.
Note: If you use a dedicated appointment or reminder management system, you can have a more detailed analysis, like conversion rates, last-minute appointments, patient wait time, patient experience, etc.
Have you noted down all these points? Perfect! This is the secret to successful healthcare systems. Get the best scheduling software for your organization and incorporate it into your day-to-day practices for more efficiency.