June 13, 2018 by Siobhan Climer
Better appointment scheduling is essential to improving the patient experience. “People need to understand that patients are still customers,” says Irene Vergules, a medical call center consultant.
It’s true. And since certainty is a rare commodity in the industry today, healthcare CEOs and CTOs need to find a firm foundation on which to build a strong enterprise. The contact center is the tool by which these leaders can create a positive patient experience by improving access to the provider and the practice. One of the most critical first steps in this relationship is in appointment scheduling.
Access Should Focus On Patient Need
One mistake practices make is to focus on the provider’s availability. Identifying what patients are looking for in terms of availability should guide the schedule you maintain. Does your practice cater to families? To emergencies? To twice-a-year appointments? These different segments require different kinds of access, and your schedule needs to be mindful of this.
Manually assessing these trends is a time-consuming, error-fraught process. Healthcare tech is making inroads in creating tools to help process the data and shift the practice to meet the needs of patients. Tools like patient portals, direct messaging, mobile tech, and wearables can all be effective in optimizing this process, meaning better appointment scheduling and a more comprehensive patient experience.
Assess Current Access Trends
Have you ever tried to access your own practice? It is often an eye-opening experience for providers to attempt to dial their own practices. This is the first step in an assessment of the current access standards of the practice. Here are five different areas you or a managed services team can assess to determine a roadmap for the future:
- Leadership and Organization
- Operations and Processes
- Systems and Technology
- Workforce Management and Staffing
- Performance and People
If you need help with an assessment, Mindsight provides expert advice by identifying where you are and developing a roadmap for where you want to go. Download our Contact Center Roadmap eBook for free below and contact us today to schedule an assessment.
Better Appointment Scheduling Starts With Contact Center Technologies
In healthcare organizations, the contact center is the best tool for implementing better appointment scheduling. Improvements in contact center technology that focus on an omnichannel approach to communication means different technologies can help create a more efficient schedule, patient self-scheduling processes, confirmation communications, and more.
There are many ways to implement technological processes that make scheduling a breeze. Scheduling “from noon”, forwards and backwards, is one way tech can help condense appointments and make the best use of providers’ and staffs’ time. Open mid-morning slots tend to gum the works and make it difficult for providers to schedule meetings and other administrative duties. Scheduling tools that work with a contact center agent’s interface help create more efficient schedules, enabling the practice to save time and resources.
The majority of patients prefer to schedule their own appointments. It’s easier, more efficient, and cuts down on call center costs, which is important considering the average call to schedule an appointment takes over 8 minutes! 26% of patient self-scheduled appointments are also same-day or next-day, filling in open slots and increasing the value of your enterprise. Utilizing an online scheduling tool as part of your omnichannel contact center approach means better appointment scheduling and a better patient experience.
Telehealth and Prioritized Scheduling
It’s no secret that different patients have different needs. Depending on the practice, many patient concerns can even be handled in a brief phone call or chat message. Telehealth is big for a reason. This is an enormous part of the patient experience and meeting patients where they are. Determining a strategy that prioritizes effectively has big rewards for your organization.
This has become a staple of healthcare scheduling technology. Better appointment scheduling relies on communication. This isn’t just for an initial confirmation, but a follow-up reminder email or text. Patient health is best served by regular examinations that meet medical guidelines; help your patients be their healthiest by using appointment scheduling technology that means they will be there at the designated time.
Medical practices have been slow to adopt waiting lists, but this is an essential tool for better appointment scheduling. The key is for patients to call your contact center, filling last minute slots when cancellations happen. Some patient scheduling platforms help you create a waiting list that reaches out to patients when a last-minute cancellation occurs. This saves valuable time resources and creates more efficient scheduling.
Sometimes called “Recare and Recall”, automated follow-up is one tool that healthcare leaders can implement that helps drive consistency in scheduling. This both encourages your regular patients to continue their healthcare regiment, and it can also reengage patients who have missed appointments. Either way, anything that brings patients in for their appointments improves patient outcomes, which in turn drives the patient experience.
The contact center is the heart of an optimized healthcare practice. By focusing on how the contact center can help create better appointment scheduling processes, you can drive patients to better outcomes, prioritize their experience with your practice, and help maintain both the health of your organization and the health of the patients you serve.
Contact us today to discuss ways to improve the customer experience in the contact center today.
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About The Author
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin two-year old daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.