Patient appointment scheduling has become an essential feature of EMR, EHR and Practice Management systems. Electronic scheduling is streamlining work routines and is highly effective in managing time, resources and daily rosters of medical practices.
Electronic schedulers are helpful in improving productivity and efficiency of a provider because they update up-to-the-minute status of scheduled appointments but sometimes it becomes really difficult to roll along with the list due to certain reasons, causing disruption and frustration among the staff when time goes awry.
However, following a few smart steps can ensure a steady flow of a set routine and providers can easily keep pace with the daily schedule.
- Allocate time slots according to the visit type.
It might take an average of 20 to 30 minutes with a patient from checkin time to checkout, but obviously all the appointments cannot be scheduled for an equal duration. Patients visiting for the first time require almost double the time of a routine patient visit and patient visits that involve diagnosis and lab reports take more time than average. So, at the time of scheduling, ask in detail the purpose of the visit and assign the time slot accordingly.
- Include the time required to prepare for the next patient.
Right after a patient checkout, the process for the next patient could not start immediately. Both, the provider and the nursing staff need a short break to prepare for the next visiting patient. Before it, the doctor needs to retrieve a patient’s health record and a careful perusal of history. Sometimes, they need to check patient’s plan eligibility or adding any update in patient’s personal information. Therefore, it is quite logical to add a phase in time along with the exam room time when scheduling.
- Dedicate a resource that is responsible for appointment scheduling.
Today, EMR and Practice Management applications are capable of taking scheduling input from multiple locations. It is quite an advanced level of scheduling where appointment requests can be entered, edited and changed from anywhere. However, sometimes it messes up the whole workflow when appointments are scheduled without considering the availability of resources, nursing staff and technical assistance at that time. It is better to assign the scheduling task to one dedicated resource that should make sure availability of the supporting resources.
- Color coded schedule view.
Utilizing color coding to take a quick view of the booked time slots and the nature of the visit is helpful. Mostly, colors can define in a scheduler the open time slots, booked and cancelled visits and it is better to view the schedule for the next day appointments in advance to better prepare yourself for the workday.
- Group patients and execute tasks in batches.
Sometimes multiple tasks can be handled with a single command which saves unnecessary time spent on completing tasks one by one. For instance, schedule search for a given time period can quickly gather information on open visits and cancelled appointments making it easier to add appointments from the wait list. During a tightly scheduled workday, execute tasks in groups, send lab orders, check eligibility and execute payment related follow ups in batches which would save precious pockets of time. Similarly, grouping patients with similar ailments is helpful for efficient use of resources, making it easier to keep pace with the appointment schedule.
- Ignore attention diverters.
Computer based workflow has one big disadvantage that there are plenty of attention diverters nestled on your computer screen. You may be simply trying to get rid of the pending tasks or has opened email Inbox but unintentionally you would lose track of the time and would waste time that you had scheduled for something else. It is better to leave cyberloafing for lunch hour, tea breaks or when you are free or do such tasks on your Smartphone. Moreover, do not procrastinate and allow the pending tasks catch you in your busy hour. Otherwise, it would easily get in the way of your scheduled routine.
- Your time starts now.
Start your day as scheduled and on time, otherwise, a time lag in the early hours of the day would linger you throughout the workday.