From a scheduling standpoint, there’s nothing more frustrating for a healthcare organization than a recurrent pattern of patients showing up late or unprepared for appointments, late cancellations, and no-shows. It’s too late at that point to fill those appointment slots. It’s not only inefficient and wastes the time of staff members, but it can also be costly from a revenue perspective.
Recent data suggests that no-show rates can range between 20 and 35 percent depending on the type of healthcare specialty. If your practice sees roughly 20 to 25 patients a day, for example, that can easily translate into $100,000 or more a year in losses.
At the same time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many providers offer now-ubiquitous telemedicine visits as well as in-person appointments. But the challenge here is how to juggle scheduling both types of appointments versus integrating a workflow that supports both types of visits.
The answer quite simply is a new appointment workflow that utilizes patient communication technology to automate appointment reminders, pre-visit instructions, digital intake, patient education, and two-way texting. This approach relies on digital tools to streamline and simplify the appointment scheduling process and uses texts and emails in place of time-consuming phone calls. It also improves the patient experience because patients can read the text messages and send confirmations at their convenience.
The following are five benefits healthcare organizations can achieve from adopting an appointment schedule workflow that lets technology and automation do the heavy lifting:
- Fills up the schedule: Providers that use a blend of automated reminders and telehealth experience a significant decline in the number of no-shows. Some studies show that automated reminders that apply message cadence best practices can reduce no-shows to five percent or less while increasing patient confirmations by as much as 156 percent. Greater numbers of confirmations and fewer no-shows alone is worth the adoption of an automated scheduling workflow.
- On time and ready to go: Similarly, digital intake forms, texted pre-visit instructions, and reminders help ensure patients arrive on time and ready for their visit. This reduces costly rescheduling and increases the chance patients will arrive with intake forms already filled out. It also means patients arrive prepared having completed pre-requisite tasks, such as tests or lab work, ahead of time.
- Supports in-person and telehealth appointments: Instead of having two separate workflows for each kind of appointment, which is inefficient and confusing, a digital appointment workflow easily supports both. A combined workflow can deliver detailed pre-visit instructions, such as park and wait instructions or directions on how to connect for telehealth visit. Automated pre-visit instructions can be sent out 10 to 15 minutes prior to a telehealth visit or one to two hours before an in-person appointment.
- Improves the patient experience: Eighty percent of people own a smart phone and 90 percent open and read texts within the first 30 minutes of receipt. More patients prefer to be contacted by text message than by any other communication mode. Texting affords patients the convenience of receiving and responding to messages at their leisure, which leads to better open and response rates. In addition, patients appreciate hassle-free text reminders for upcoming appointments, and that leads to an overall better patient experience. Two-way texting gives providers an added communication advantage with the ability to answer patients’ questions, resolve concerns, and cultivate a stronger patient relationship.
- Improves patient outcomes: Ultimately, the aim of providers is to get patients the much-needed care they require, whether it be to treat an illness, a maintenance checkup, or preventive care visit. The more effective a scheduling workflow is at getting patients to schedule and keep appointments, the better the outcomes are for patients. With many patients deferring healthcare visits in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers are well-served by an automated appointment workflow that produces results in bringing these patients back for care.
In 2021, healthcare organizations must continue to innovate and adopt strategies that will help them keep a competitive edge in the market. A digital scheduling workflow is precisely the kind of approach that will help fill up appointment schedules while getting patients the care they need.