Think back to the last time you scheduled an appointment to get your oil changed or booked reservations at that fancy new restaurant in town. Did you pick up the phone and call to reserve a spot or hop online to schedule an appointment? The majority of Americans are booking appointments for everything from nail care to grocery pickups online, but what about healthcare? Implementing tools, like patient self-scheduling, can help providers, and practices overall, in a variety of ways.
In the past, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, explained Ginny Shipp, Product Specialist at Relatient, with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry specializing in technology. “Self-scheduling is a rather new technology, but it’s easy to implement and will bring significant benefits to patients and providers,” she said.
Self-scheduling empowers patients by allowing them to choose their own appointment time, anytime they want. With Relatient Patient Self-Scheduling, patients have 24/7 access to open appointment slots and can book a time that works for them in less than two minutes. This is a far cry from the traditional booking method, “Scheduling appointments by phone takes an average of eight minutes,” said Shipp. For every 100 appointments made during the day by phone, an extra staff person may be required, she explained. This is before considering the time and cost associated with trying to fill last-minute cancelations, which is why Relatient offers Automated Waitlist with their self-scheduling product.
90 percent of physician practices aren’t utilizing a waitlist of any kind, which is likely why only 15 percent of cancelled appointments get filled. Last minute cancellations replace billable appointments with non-billable hours in the schedule, which isn’t good for anyone. Automation can systematically notify patients on the waitlist when there’s an opening and give them a chance to claim the appointment via text.
With little to no practice involvement, self-scheduling frees up resources to tackle more important tasks. “Staff will be free to take on higher level tasks, like interacting with the customers in front of them,” said Shipp. She went on to describe processes that are often “half-touched”, like obtaining prior financial clearance and collecting outstanding patient balances. According to Shipp, these are time consuming functions that are often given lower priority but offer the ability to add stability and vitality to health systems and the practices they employ.
“Health systems and physician practices want the ability to put resources on all of these priorities but the reality is that there simply aren’t enough people most of the time”, Shipp explains. The highest priorities are always the patients who are present and those trying to get on the schedule, everything else comes second. The shortage of resources to cover billing and financial operations is problematic because revenue creates sustainability for both jobs and the level of care a practice provides and yet half of all medical bills go unpaid. Self-scheduling offers new opportunities to cover all those important operations without adding more FTE’s.
A recent study by Accenture found that while only 17 percent of providers are using self-scheduling today, that number will increase to 64 percent by 2019. By the end of next year, 100 percent of the top 100 health systems in the United States will utilize this technology. For providers to stay competitive and ensure positive patient experience in a world of digital satisfaction, the newest technology, like self-scheduling, must be implemented.
To learn more about empowering patients and the benefits of self-scheduling, click here.