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The Best Ways To Improve Patient Care Scheduling

The Best Ways To Improve Patient Care Scheduling

Tue Sep 12 2017
By: Mike P

There’s no single method for handling healthcare scheduling. Over the past 50 years, we’ve worked alongside thousands of healthcare facilities that are looking to provide employees and patients with timely access to a scheduling process that works. So rather than explain the intricacies involved in the scheduling process of each healthcare clinic we’ve worked with, we’ve collected some of the most common misconceptions that prevent facilities from offering timely and convenient access to health services and listed some of the best strategies to help improve your appointment scheduling workflow.

Scheduling Preferences Vary Based Upon Setting. Adjust Appointment Scheduling Accordingly.
The challenge is that many healthcare directors are quick to group healthcare environments into one giant bucket and approach appointment scheduling from a company-wide angle. It’s a blanket approach that’s far too common in larger healthcare facilities. Imagine that you’re in charge of a multi-million dollar healthcare facility and you're expected to improve quality scores and expand the bottom-line: it’s easy to understand how quickly the lines between efficiency and quality can be blurred.

One of the biggest problems we’ve encountered with healthcare scheduling is that larger organizations are prone to approaching schedules from an organizational perspective as opposed to treating it as a product of one’s work environment. Most healthcare facilities will schedule patients with the help of a time blocking structure, with each block representing a set amount of time, and care providers blocking out their schedules to make time for primary and walk in patients. There’s nothing wrong with this form of scheduling so to speak, but once primary and specialty care enter the same discussion, conflicts begin to arise. The problem with scheduling appointments in this way is that primary care appointments and specialty care appointments shouldn’t fall under similar restraints. By nature, specialty appointments vary in time and can be difficult to pinpoint a definitive end to treatment, whereas primary care appointments are much more predictable.

Scheduling Doesn’t Have To Be Hidden. Make Scheduling Details Transparent & Easy To Identify For Both Patients & Staff
There seems to be the common misunderstanding that scheduling details only matter to hospital staffers, and as such, only need to be displayed inside internal software. While the majority of information your healthcare facility keeps on record may need to be kept confidential, that doesn’t mean patients have to be kept completely in the dark. Patients naturally feel a degree of loyalty to their care provider, leading many to expect a degree of transparency in the appointment scheduling process. Most individuals need more than an email the day before the appointment, and making scheduling details readily available is an element of healthcare scheduling that is frequently overlooked. By providing patients with up-to-date availability and appointment scheduling, many healthcare providers are able to proactively engage with patients ahead of their scheduled appointment time, limiting the number of cancellations due to unforeseen circumstances.

As effective as software may be for patients, healthcare providers cannot be expected to be on their phones at all times, and thus suffer from a lack of a physical schedule. When healthcare providers forget to check and update to their appointment schedules, a facility risks creating uncertainty and conflicts in provider assignments. Many of the healthcare facilities we’ve had the pleasure of working with are supplementing patient scheduling software with the use of a dry erase schedule to ensure that technological barriers do not get in the way of preparedness.

Overbooking Is Completely In Your Hands. Don’t Try To Do Too Much With The Resources At Your Disposal.
There’s nothing worse than getting to an appointment on time only to wait an hour to see your physician. In an era where movies are streamed instantly to your television and Legos can be printed from the comfort of one’s home, patients are becoming less and less complacent when it comes to long wait times at the doctors. The thing is that wait times are a systematic problem; they can be avoided completely—it’s just that until patients start dropping like flies, no one seems to care. We’ve personally seen a lot of healthcare facilities overbook patients without a second thought, using nurses as a fall back for when a physician is preoccupied with a different patient. This tactic does very little to enhance your patient scheduling procedure, and often times comes at the expense of your patient’s free time.
If you’re serious about overbooking and maximizing your scheduling procedure, you may want to look into a complete systems view of your healthcare operation. By looking for process improvements and reviewing standard work methods in their healthcare system, the Seattle Children’s outpatient center was able to begin operations on time with a 99% success rate. You can read more about their transformation here.

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