By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach
There are so many tasks involved in running a thriving healthcare practice. Aside from the actual care patients receive, there are processes and procedures that the practice has to maintain behind the scenes to keep the business going. And most of the time, patients don’t actually see how many balls an office manager is juggling. Patients are usually only focused on the processes that directly affect them and their experience, and while those are important in ensuring patients return to the practice, there are a variety of other tasks practices must complete to keep their practice growing. It can seem like there is never enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. With patient relationship management (PRM) technologies, practices can complete many of these tasks more efficiently and increase practice revenue.
One of the most effective ways to increase efficiency in a healthcare practice is by automating much of the patient communication practice staff engage in on a daily basis. Practice staff can spend hours every day making phone calls, reminding patients of upcoming appointments, invoices that are past due, and that it’s time to schedule their next visit. This time spent on the phone is time that isn’t spent on other areas in the practice, or in engaging with patients who are physically in the office. With a patient communication tool, practices can automate the majority of outgoing phone calls they make every day.
Automated appointment reminders can be personalized for each patient, and give them all the details of their upcoming appointment, including pre-appointment instructions. The same personalization can also be included in recare reminders. PRM software can integrate with a practice’s existing practice management software to send automated appointment reminders and recall messages to patients, and store each patient’s preferred communication method. While a few patients may like to receive a phone call reminding them of an upcoming appointment or the need to schedule their next visit, the majority of patients actually feel like a phone call is intrusive, and prefer email or text messages, especially from their healthcare provider. Patient communication software can automatically send this information in a text or email message, or even make an automated voice phone call to patients, almost completely removing this burden from practice staff.
A manual check-in process can be a place where it is easy for practice staff to make small errors. In most healthcare practices, patients are given forms and asked to review and update their information, or if they are a new patient, they are asked to complete multiple forms and answer questions about their health history. When these forms are completed on paper, patients are usually stuck writing on clipboards on their laps, often leading to messy or illegible handwriting. When the practice transfers this information from the paper copy into their practice management software, there is a chance for staff members to misread the handwritten information, or make small errors in transcribing. Data entry errors are one of the top reasons for claim denials which delay reimbursement and hurt practice revenue.
A digital check-in process can greatly reduce these errors. Patients type their own information directly into the form, usually on a tablet, eliminating the troubles of messy handwriting, and the practice can automatically transfer the data from the digital forms to their practice management software, eliminating transcription errors. Not only does this reduce mistakes, it’s also a more efficient process because a staff member doesn’t have to spend the extra time deciphering handwriting and entering it into their systems.
Asking patients to schedule an appointment over the phone is time-consuming and frustrating, for both the patient and the practice staff. Patients have to find a time when the practice is open to make the call, and then the staff offers a few available appointments until the patients hears one that fits into their schedule. Each of these calls take about eight minutes to complete. Offering an option for patients to schedule their appointments online gives more flexibility for both parties involved. Patients aren’t tied to the office’s open hours and can make appointments whenever it’s convenient for them. The practice still maintains control of their schedule and can decide which appointment types and times are available for patients to book online. When a patient requests an open time online, the practice receives a notification through their PRM software, and can then approve the request or contact the patient to reschedule. Links to the practices online schedule and also be included on social media pages, as well as any email and text messages the practice is already sending to patients. An online scheduling option reduces the amount of time staff spend on the phone, without decreasing the amount of appointments and revenue the practice sees.
Incorporating technology and communication software solutions into daily tasks in a healthcare practice can dramatically reduce the amount of time required to complete these tasks. By automating patient communication, and offering quicker ways for patients to check-in or schedule an appointment, practice staff can spend more time on other necessary tasks and more time engaging with patients in the office, ensuring they have a great experience.