Quality care is the top consideration for most patients when choosing a healthcare facility. Also, healthcare has the responsibility to improve and ensure adequate patient experience.
This they can achieve by providing flexible and convenient patient appointment scheduling to help reduce or eliminate no-shows. This also shows the hospitals’ ability to keep patients’ wait time to a minimum for high satisfaction. It also impacts the patient’s consistency and assures regular healthcare revenues.
This article discusses some of the best ways health can deploy in keeping appointments and benefits both the hospital and their patients. But first:
Why would patients miss appointments?
No-shows or missed appointments define those patients who canceled or never attended their scheduled meetings with the health professionals. Missing works by patients is primarily attributed to:
Forgetfulness is the most common reason why patients miss appointments. They might not be sure about the day or time. Forgetting about the appointments can be an outcome of various factors, including:
- Lack of appointment reminders
- Social and psychological conditions of the patient
- Personal or work-related issues
It can be hard to quantify personal issues. Still, some employees who missed appointments have always discussed handling personal or family problems. So, better communication and understanding between the patients and their doctors can help find solutions to personal issues and enable patients to complete their appointments.
- Transportation issues
Many patients, especially those from low social-economic backgrounds, have reported that they missed their appointment due to a lack of means of transport. Also, research confirms that transportation barriers are a factor in delayed, rescheduled, or missed appointments.
The consequences will lead to poor treatment and management of chronic conditions and, in turn, poor health outcomes.
What are the effects of missing appointments?
Missed appointments affect both the healthcare and the patients. For the hospitals, it causes disruption and delays in providing services and hinders new appointments. Also, appointment cancellation by the healthcare will cause dissatisfaction of patients.
However, the impact is significantly noticed in patients with a high-risk marker for all-cause mortality, especially those with mental conditions. It also hinders proper detection and treatment or management of various health conditions.
Strategies for effective patients scheduling
Keeping appointments should be the topmost priority for hospitals, especially when they want satisfied and continuous patients. This can only be achieved when the hospital design and executes the best scheduling strategies. So:
Earlier, we mentioned forgetfulness as a reason why patients miss appointments. This reason is linked to a lack of reminders. But, healthcare centers that want to improve their patients’ satisfaction and timely appointments can use various technologies:
- Emails and texts messages
- Automated calendar reminders
- Mobile app notifications
When designing text and email messages, hospitals must ensure that the messages work both ways, so allow patients to send replies. You can create messages with routine questions then provide answer keywords like “confirm,” “reschedule,” or “cancel.” Such will help you know whether to expect patients or go ahead with other appointments.
Managing schedules is one hell of a task for healthcare staff. Calling patients to confirm, cancel or reschedule an appointment is time-consuming. It can take up to five minutes to explain to a patient why they should not come on their prior schedules. So, imagine how long it would take to contact over twenty patients.
But thanks to technology again, you can always allow self-scheduling practices. So, to help cut back on time and unnecessary expenses, hospitals should deploy some appointment scheduling software or online booking systems.
These platforms will allow patients to log in, set their preferred dates, and then set a reminder to keep them updated on the meetings. Studies show that most patients prefer online bookings and appointments.
Here are some of the benefits of having online scheduling software. They:
- Empowers both patients and the hospital staff
Patients have 24/7 anywhere, anytime access to the booking systems. This gives them control over the keeping appointments process, allowing them to check or confirm free dates and time that suits their needs.
- Provides a seamless patient journey and experience.
Quality patient experience is not only what patients get when they visit the hospitals but also the feelings and experiences they get when across all the touchpoints. Patients feel good when they can reach out to their healthcare providers anytime they wish. It thus increases their loyalty and satisfaction rates.
- Improve hospital operation efficiency
Hospitals operate across various locations, with different patients visiting. So, imagine trying to manage all the patients manually. The truth is, it would be a challenging task for the employees. However, with online software and appointment booking applications, hospital staff will have less time managing appointments as most patients can easily manage their own times and schedules.
Not all the visiting patients will have the same needs; some of their wants would vary in urgency. So, you have to consider such factors when creating appointment schedules and prioritize more urgent conditions.
Patients with conditions like allergies and side effects of drugs do not necessarily have to book appointments. Their needs can just be managed through online consultation or brief call phone. So, have the best staff evaluate every condition and prioritize the most burning situations.
Keep an Active Waiting List
Scheduling and keeping appointments demand a proper plan, and you don’t want to have a long line of patients waiting for your services. Besides, a longer waiting time may affect your revenue and patient satisfaction levels.
So, ensure you create an active waiting list that lets patients know when and when they should show up for treatments or consultations. This will lower the rate of no-show-ups and cancellations.
Create automated patient recall or re-care programs
Patient recall systems are all about reminding patients of their various care programs. This can be done by creating automatic emails, texts, and voice calls to let them know they’re expected back to the hospital. It ensures your patients keep or maintain their regular care and keep your schedule consistent and fuller.
Manage the visit duration
Sometimes, there can be higher numbers of patients than the number of staff available. Therefore, limit your schedules and have your patients visit at different times. Also, watch how much time you take with every patient; you can give more time to those severe conditions.
Keep a tab of patients’ trends.
Some patients will continuously cancel their appointments. Consider their reasons and ensure you schedule appointments that suit their concerns and convenience. Ask for their preferred time and slot them into the hospital calendars.
Importance of Scheduling and Keeping Appointments in Healthcare
Adequately managing appointments through technology and various software will benefit the hospital in several ways, including:
Increasing the productivity of healthcare staff
There will be patient flooding for various services, treatments, and consultations every time. It will be challenging and time-consuming for staff to schedule duties, follow-ups or send reminders, and cancel and create new appointments.
However, you can minimize wait time by implementing every process and activity through software. The patients will get every detail about the appointments through the software, thus freeing time for your staff and allowing them to focus on other tasks.
Improves patient engagement
Patient engagement is one of the most significant aspects of healthcare. It empowers patients to make informed care decisions. Activities that require patients to log in and manage their own plans make them feel part of the treatment. They think they have a responsibility to accomplish.
Also, the ability to self-schedule appointments enables patients to check their treatment plans and appointment status and fill out necessary forms. So, have the policy to help improve delivery and recovery at a lower cost.
Helps accomplish most tasks
Online booking and appointment applications have various features that ensure hospital staff and patients can accomplish more tasks within a short duration. A reliable appointment software provides:
- Hospital eliminates the need to hire scheduling staff to help move, cancel and make appointments
- Automatically create a patient waiting list that helps give chances to the next patient when one appointment is canceled, thus minimizing wait times.
- Everything is handled via computer, meaning patients don’t have to waste time and resources traveling to the hospital to check their appointment dates.
- Scheduling software will constantly remind patients through emails, texts, or voice calls on the days and hours before the exact dates. This ensures they don’t forget or miss keeping appointments.
Reduces the front office destruction
The healthcare front office might have various duties like answering patients’ questions, clerical work, greeting patients, and collecting or processing multiple patients. You, therefore, don’t need to be unfocused or distracted with listening to calls about keeping appointments.
Healthcare centers have the responsibility to ensure satisfied patients. This they can do by adequately keeping appointments. So, hospitals should deploy online booking and appointment software applications for effective patient scheduling.