For healthcare workers, scheduling is one of the most important parts of the job. Not only does each patient need to be set up in the system ahead of time, they need to be followed up with, rescheduled, and checked in each day. We trust most of these actions to be performed by scheduling software that automatically updates and double-checks each appointment to take the guesswork out of appointment scheduling. However, as advanced as these technologies are, they’re not without their faults. If you’ve ever been in a situation where a patient has shown up only to be told that their appointment has mysteriously fallen off the books, you’ve seen just how upsetting it can be for both patient and worker. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this problem, and it starts with outsourcing over-the-phone scheduling
and follow-up calls to an automated messaging system. The result is increased efficiency with no mix-ups and no bad Yelp reviews. Here are a few reasons to consider investing in a messaging service today.
Scheduling Systems Don’t Help with Wait Times
If you’ve been in the industry for a while, this scenario may be familiar to you: A patient arrives on time for their appointment. Even though the doctor’s schedule is clear, the patient still has to wait longer than expected after checking in, resulting in frustration and a feeling of resentment toward the practice. Because scheduling systems aren’t always accurate about wait times and aren’t able to quickly factor in the added scheduling gaps from canceled or late appointments, your patients could be left hanging for a long time without any notice. A good solution to this issue is to set up an alert through your messaging system that warns patients about this issue. To be safe, you may want to tell patients that the doctor is running 15-20 minutes behind schedule beforehand on a follow-up call. You could also set up a recorded message at the beginning of the day that lets patients know they might be in for a wait. Once patients are aware of the situation, they’re less likely to feel frustrated or willfully ignored.
They Tend to Double-Book Appointments
Scheduling systems are famous for trying to fill up gaps in each day’s schedules by doing a bit of fancy footwork. Unfortunately, this rarely yields the intended, hyper-efficient result. Instead, it leaves your office double-booking appointments and creating a mess of things for patients who are trying to schedule appointments far in advance. When a patient calls and is told that availability won’t be open until a few months from now, they’re less likely to continue visiting your practice, especially if it’s a most urgent matter. Instead of letting scheduling systems try to over-optimize your appointment calendar, consider setting up calls through your automated messaging system that alert patients to upcoming openings or cancellations well in advance.
The Protocol for Follow-Up Calls is Flawed
Many scheduling systems have built-in pop-ups that remind you to call patients 24 hours before an appointment to check in. They also have other notification options to help you keep on top of cancellations and rescheduling. However, these notifications are easy to ignore, especially on an extremely busy day. All it takes is clicking out of the window to forget about your obligation to call a patient and let them know about a change in scheduling or to remind them of an upcoming appointment. This process ends up being about as effective as using post-it notes as reminders. Instead of relying on your scheduling system to remind you about check-ins, take a block of time at the end of the week to set up all your reminder calls through your automated system. That way, the pressure will be off of you to remember to make the call and take time out of your day to physically check in with each patient. You’ll be outsourcing the work to your messaging system, and creating even less room for error. In the meantime, you’ll have freed up tons of time during your day to deal with other basic tasks.
Maintenance Takes Up Valuable Work Time
Technology is supposed to make everyone’s life easier. But what happens when it ends up making everything ten times harder? If you’ve ever dealt with an unreliable scheduling system, you already know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be to try and correct its mistakes. You end up having to do the work of rearranging the day’s schedule, staggering patient inflow, and doing damage control to keep patients from getting frustrated and annoyed. Needless to say, all this takes up a lot of time. You’re already busy, there’s no reason why you should have to spend your day fixing one mistake rather than using your time to do the best job you can possibly do at your practice. Using an automated service to prevent mistakes instead of correct them can easily free you up for other tasks.
This Unreliability Could Be Costing Your Office Money
Every time your scheduling system goofs up, your practice ends up footing the bill. While it might not seem to be costing your workplace too much money to reschedule appointments every so often, it adds up over time, especially if this is a consistent problem you’re facing. With each missed appointment and each patient who has to be pushed back due to a scheduling bump, you’re losing revenue. You’re also losing your patients’ good faith, which can translate to a loss of money in the long run. Most practices still depend on having good word-of-mouth to keep patients coming in. When it comes to medical services, many patients prefer to take personal recommendations rather than depending on a basic internet search. Because of this, your reputation needs to be as close to flawless as you can get it. Keeping your patients happy should be a simple process. By using a messaging system to offer clear, concise information about scheduling and confirmation, as well as pre-programming your system to do a ton of the basic, menial work required, you’ll be saving your practice not only time but money.