Healthcare is a business, and like all businesses, you want to improve its efficiency. An efficient business treats more patients, provides better care, and makes more money.
Through technology, you can streamline your process and take everyday jobs off of your plate. Instead of poring over mindless paperwork, rummaging through files and calendars, or performing tedious tasks, you can spend your time and energy doing what you do best: treating patients.
Automation isn’t just about making money. A study of Texas hospitals in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that increased automation of healthcare records and processes resulted in a reduction of costs, complications and deaths.
By automating these tasks, you can create a better patient experience and optimize your productivity.
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1. Intake Forms
For many practices, intake forms are their biggest headache. Even when your patients arrive for their appointments on time, they still have several minutes of paperwork to complete before you can see them.
You try to schedule appointments to account for this, but there are too many opportunities for delays. Perhaps the patient has to call their spouse to answer a question or they have to look up the name of the medication they’re taking.
If the type of healthcare you practice depends on that intake information, you don’t learn anything until the patient is physically in your office. For instance, a nutritionist can’t provide much value to the patient until he/she learns of the patient’s current health situation. If the nutritionist had known about the patient’s condition before the appointment, he/she could have come prepared with potential treatment plans or answers to likely questions.
Some providers recognize that having patients fill out their intake forms before the appointment will improve their efficiency, but they’re stuck with an archaic system. They direct patients to a page on their website with downloadable forms. The patient is instructed to download, print, complete, and bring the form with them to the appointment.
This solution saves time, but it fails in a few ways. First, patients rarely follow all of those steps and show up without the forms anyway. Second, it doesn’t help the healthcare provider prepare for the appointment. Third, the forms aren’t customizable, so a provider couldn’t use case-specific forms or add an additional question for a particular patient.
Add automation to your process by sending digital intake forms. Online intake forms can be sent directly to the patient once an appointment is scheduled. The patients are highly likely to follow the process because it’s fast and easy. Once the form is complete, it is automatically returned to the healthcare provider and stored electronically.
With the form in hand, the healthcare provider can prepare for the appointment. They might review certain medical material or prepare questions to ask the patient. They can also validate insurance so there are no hiccups with payment.
2. Appointment Reminders
Patient no-shows are a big problem in healthcare. When asked, patients say they fail to show up to appointments due to their own forgetfulness or poor process on the part of the practice (no convenient appointments available, changes without notification, failing to remind, etc.).
A study from the family medical clinic at the University of Wisconsin found that no-shows affect the healthcare provider and the patient’s treatment program. “Appointment no-shows present problems to both the patient and the treatment organization. […] The ultimate benefit of improved show rates is that patients receive better care, experience successful treatment outcomes, and enjoy a better quality of life.”
So if you want to reduce your no-show rate and improve the treatment you provide, you have to remind your patients about their appointments. This is a necessary part of running of a healthcare business, but it’s also tedious.
Many healthcare providers are sending reminders the low-tech way. They hand write or print mailers that are sent through the post office. While these seem professional, they require the Post Office to deliver correctly and the patient to check their mail on time. Over time, the postage becomes expensive.
Phone calls are another traditional method, but they require the patient to answer an unknown number or check their voicemail inbox. After the phone call, the patient doesn’t have a record of the reminder to check at a later time.
Both of these methods cost you hours in labor each week. To reduce the labor spend on these tasks, some offices only send reminders for longer appointments or appointments with costly treatments. But ideally you want to remind every patient about every appointment so your time isn’t wasted and revenue comes in the door.
Fortunately, sending reminders is easy to automate. There are numerous appointment reminder systems that contact patients in various ways. Emails, text messages, and pre-recorded voice messages can be automated with software. You can automatically send any or all of these reminders or let your patients decide which manner they prefer to be contacted.
3. Patient Charting
Traditionally, healthcare providers spend a portion of everyday (up to a third!) transferring their notes into patient charts. The point of the charts is to standardize the recording process so they can quickly be reviewed at a later date by that provider or another.
Electronic medical records (EMR), however, have changed everything. Instead of transferring information from patient notes into a digital format, it’s faster and simpler to document straight into the EMR system.
You’ll need special hardware and software to streamline your process, but both are worth the investment. With a rolling workstation or portable tablet, providers can move between patients and appointments with all of their tools on hand. As they intake information from patients, they input it directly into the system. There are countless applications (including custom solutions) that organize questions and notes for quick selecting, rather than typing or writing.
Instead of spending the last hour or two of their day transferring notes, providers can continue seeing patients or use that time to work on growing the business.
4. Appointment Scheduling
According to the University of Minnesota, “Appointment scheduling systems lie at the intersection of efficiency and timely access to health services.” By implementing an efficient scheduling process, healthcare providers can grow their business and improve patient care.
When it’s all said and done, scheduling an appointment is as simple as finding a time that works for both you and the patient. Your schedule rarely changes (because it’s set by other appointments), so the patient is the only party that has to make a decision.
In fact, an Accenture study found that on average, it takes eight minutes on the phone to make an appointment. 30% of the time is spent on hold. Eight minutes is a long time just to pick a date. Over time, that’s a lot of wasted labor for you.
Therefore, it makes sense to give the patient an option to schedule an appointment that doesn’t require your involvement. As long as you set the parameters of the process (availability times, services, etc.), patients can slot themselves into the times you leave available.
Set up a feature on your website that integrates with your business’ internal calendar. When a patient schedules an appointment online, that slot is immediately filled on your calendar so it can’t be double-booked by you or your staff.
Not all patients will use these methods. For many people, there is a personal component of healthcare that can’t be neglected. Continue to accept over-the-phone scheduling, but make your patients aware of the online option. Many will appreciate the convenience.
IntakeQ offers an online booking feature that can be positioned on your website. It automatically sends intake form packages, syncs with a free Google calendar, accepts all major credit cards, and allows for plenty of customization.
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Keep in mind that automation doesn’t just save you time and money today. Over time, your patients’ satisfaction will rise and word will spread that your practice operates in a convenient manner. Small changes today can lead to big changes tomorrow.
If you’re ready to add automation to your process, speak with us.