Here is an all-too-common scenario:
Jeneece is the front-desk receptionist at a local mental health clinic. She answers phone calls all day long, two-thirds of which are patients setting up appointments. At the same time, she has patients checking in for their appointments in front of her.
Jeneece is constantly pulled between on-phone and in-person patients and never feels like she is giving either her full, deserved attention. Patience wears thin on both sides—Jeneece feels overwhelmed and is considering quitting, patients are constantly getting frustrated, and the clinic’s online reviews are low.
Can your office staff and patients relate?
6 Patient Appointment Scheduling Tips
Your healthcare office needs solutions, and we’ve got them. Follow these six tips for improving patient scheduling.
1. Personalize the Experience
You don’t want your patients to feel like they’ve “taken a number” and have to hold to get help. Your patients need to be cared for, and that’s your job. When receiving a call, be professional but also personable.
Having to call a doctor can be stressful and feel overwhelming, so your staff needs to have patience, empathy, and compassion. Personalize the experience as much as possible to put patients at ease (but always uphold confidentiality).
2. Schedule Appointments Backward and Forward from Lunch Time
Let’s say your office takes lunch from 12-1pm every day. When setting appointment times, fill in morning slots starting at noon and work your way backward. For afternoon appointments, start scheduling at 1:00 and fill slots forward.
There are good reasons for this. It allows for longer free time for meetings and productive work without interruption. Or, staff can come in later or leave early because there aren’t gaps in their workday. Finally, it leaves room for emergency appointments.
3. Analyze Data to Identify Trends and Opportunities
Data from documented call logs can give a lot of information and better inform scheduling practices. Here are a few statistics your call data can tell you:
- Days of week/times of day that are most requested for an appointment
- Busiest days and times your clinic receives incoming scheduling calls
- Time it takes to schedule an appointment
- Overall missed appointment rate
4. Confirm Appointments, Then Confirm Again
Today’s busy lifestyle results in many accidentally missed appointments. This doesn’t only waste staff time, it also frustrates patients as they have to wait again to be seen. Even worse, missed appointments delay treatment, leading to delayed prognosis and worse health outcomes.
Twenty-five cents out of every health care dollar is wasted. According to the National Academy of Medicine, one source of waste is missed appointments.
To help combat this waste, text and email a confirmation one week before, one day before, and also on the day of the appointment. This ensures the patient has the best chance of seeing their doctor as scheduled.
5. Maintain a Patient Wait List
There will always be some last-minute cancellations, no matter how good the scheduling is. Keeping an updated list of patients who need or want to see their provider as soon as possible keeps everyone’s time on track.
6. Outsource Your Patient Appointment Scheduling
Many of your patient scheduling pain points come from your front desk being understaffed. When your receptionists are overworked dealing with in-person and over-the-phone patients, that’s when mistakes and long wait/hold times happen. This scenario is bad for a business and its patients.
Additionally, outsourcing allows your office to offer its patients 24/7/365 attention. Finding the time to make a call during the workday or family time can be very difficult. This ultimately delays patient care.
An appointment scheduling service solves these big problems by handling phone calls whenever they come in, day or night. You’ll never miss an opportunity to schedule a person needing to be seen.
Get Help from an Appointment Scheduling Service
Answering365 is your answer to an improved patient scheduling process. Our professional and highly-skilled agents can streamline and manage all the scheduling, rescheduling, and appointment confirmations for your healthcare office.
Another related service we offer is 24-hour emergency dispatching. Our specially trained agents will:
- Follow your scripts and triage protocol.
- Locate, manage, and dispatch on-call technicians through multiple channels.
- Document the call and its outcome.