10 Things To Note When Scheduling Doctor Appointments

Article 10 Things To Note When Scheduling Doctor Appointments
Female child therapist in an office during a phone call, using online calendar to schedule patients appointments. Calendar Planner Organization Management Concept.

Scheduling a doctor’s appointment isn’t a simple task. It entails a lot of details and crucial information necessary for the patient’s visit. And if your doctor is highly sought after, every second counts. You have to fill his day efficiently and manage the patients’ flow as smoothly as possible.

There are many ways a patient could schedule an appointment and meet with his primary care provider as needed. Here are some of the ways to set appointments with your doctor:

  • Telephone Call: Patients may call the doctor’s office and speak with the medical secretary to book an appointment. Calling the clinic is probably the easiest way to secure an appointment with a busy doctor.
  • Email: An electronic mail is a convenient tool to schedule an appointment, and any discrepancies could be easily pinpointed since the email thread is always there unless the sender or receiver deletes it.
  • Short Message Service (SMS): There are still many clinics and healthcare facilities that utilize text messaging for setting up doctor’s appointments.  This is another easy way of tracking patient communication and an effective method to confirm arrangements.
  • Smartphone Application: Technology has invaded this arena and has made it very convenient for patients and healthcare facilities to manage appointments. Patients can choose a doctor and the best time to have their check-up and even upload pertinent medical information that they would usually fill out in the clinic.

One task the medical staff could tick off. On the side of the medical facility, this is extremely helpful because not only does it manage the appointments for the day but takes charge of cancellations and reschedules patients. As soon as a schedule frees up in the app, other patients may grab that particular time, ensuring that the schedule for the day is maximized.

Currently, patients also opt for virtual medical appointments as the concerns over Covid-19 are still prevalent.  But for either virtual or face-to-face consultations, you would have to prepare the same things for your patient and doctor, only you would have to do it in the comfort of your home. But this is just a temporary set-up and everything is forecasted to go back to normal in a few more years.

If you’re at the end of the line confirming appointments, here are essential things you need to take note of.

  • Patient Confirmed The Appointment

One way of ensuring that your facility is working under optimal conditions is when schedules are fluid and on track. You can ensure this by scheduling doctor appointments a day or hours before.

Guaranteeing ensures that the patient is aware and is reminded of the meeting. This gesture is beneficial for older patients who are constantly forgetful and for those in the working class who are always preoccupied and tend to forget schedules that aren’t on their calendar.

  • Determine Patient Status

When a patient calls for an appointment, it’s imperative to know if they’re new or have a record with your clinic from previous visits. This is important because you’ll take the necessary documents out of your file to help your doctor with the diagnosis or treatment plan.

Determining the status of a patient is crucial for all practices, but more so with Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oncology, and Surgery, since these practices mostly have a recurring visit or follow-up.

  • Recognize Patient Needs

Many patients who call for an appointment may only need routine check-ups, but some might need a procedure to be done, which could be outpatient or scheduled in the OR.

You have to allow enough time for the appointment between the doctor and the patient. You need to block that particular time accordingly so as not to increase the wait time of other patients, which can lead to their frustration and dissatisfaction.

  • Prepare Necessary Patient Records On File

Suppose the patient is not new and has consulted your doctor prior to this. In that case, they will have relevant documents on your files, such as clinical notes that include the following: patient information, reasons for visit, the scope of examination, findings, diagnosis or impression, and medical plan.

This takes out the guesswork, and the appointment will focus on more important matters.

  • Determine if The Patient Has Insurance Coverage

Knowing if a patient has insurance coverage is crucial as this will determine if they’ll pay in cash and what their policy covers in terms of procedures.  Not all insurance policies are the same.

It’s your responsibility to know, and your doctor will rely on you to determine if there’s approval for the procedure or treatment to be done. Not doing due diligence in this area could cause your doctor not to be reimbursed for procedures or appointments accordingly.

  • Ensure New Patients Fill Out Forms Correctly

Having more new patients is a clinic’s goal to increase revenue, but new patients come with more care and attention.

You have to ensure that each new patient has filled out a new patient packet that includes relevant information such as personal information, demographics, insurance details, and basic health information, including family history, medications, and previous care.  All of this information will be utilized by your doctor to conduct the check-up.

  • Create A Waitlist

Having a waitlist increases a clinic’s positive patient experience.  It gives the patient the feeling of being important and special. And it reduces the probability of patients shopping around for other clinics with a more flexible and available schedule.

Overall, having a waitlist increases the positive reputation of a healthcare facility.  This is one way to streamline scheduling doctor’s appointments in your facility.

  • Designate An Appointment Scheduler

It’ll be more standardized if only one or two people organize doctor’s appointments instead of having no designated specialist.   If no one takes care of this, it’ll result in a chaotic calendar and unhappy patients. Having one person assigned to scheduling will make the facility more coordinated and efficient.

  • Avoid Double-Booking

Though double-booking could benefit a doctor in maximizing his days’ schedule, it could also affect patient experience negatively. Double-booking is done when a doctor has a lengthy diagnostic procedure scheduled that day and feels that he could squeeze in another patient or two in between.

Not all procedures are the same, in the same light that not all patients are. Sometimes, what we forecast as a 40-minute procedure may turn out to be an hour and a half because of complications that may arise. In this case, the patient on the same schedule will be affected.

A situation such as this will devalue your patients and might result in bad reviews of your facility.

  • Utilize A Schedule Management Software

A schedule management software mainly designed for your practice will be beneficial to handle all appointment scheduling.  It’ll help your facility greatly in organizing all doctor’s appointments efficiently and keeping track of deadlines or meetings in a clear calendar view. It’ll also help in allocating the necessary time to specific appointments and procedures.

At the end of a period, it can generate analysis and measure the success rate of your facility. This software will also give relevance to patient communication and allow 2-way chat with patients to better address their concerns.

The software will also garner patient feedback through surveys to improve your services and patient experience. The software could also enhance patient education through relevant campaigns that you could launch that are essential to your patients.

The software management application is an excellent tool to see the performance of your facility from a much wider perspective. The tool will address potential issues even before they arise. Its utilization will also increase the reputation of your facility as it’ll reflect your professionalism and the care you deliver to your patients.

Conclusion

Positive patient experiences have become an integral part of medical practice. Nowadays, access to digital information has made it easy for patients to hop to a different doctor and facility if they prove to be unsatisfactory to their standards.

Wait time has also become a crucial factor in determining patient satisfaction. As much as patients would love to understand how busy a doctor’s day could be, they also have a multitude of responsibilities to fulfill, so time is of the essence.

In the past, patients were easily pleased with a clinic’s interior, staff’s disposition, and the available reading materials while waiting.

But today, patients’ satisfaction percentage takes a huge chunk from reduced wait times. This is because reduced wait times speak of efficiency and organization, which could also reflect on the doctor’s skills and professionalism.

An organized calendar and efficient management of a medical facility will turn out to be more profitable as it’ll generate more revenue than those with inefficiently handled schedules. Allowing patients to handle their appointments and provide necessary details online frees up many of your office staff.

These tasks could then be redirected to other more important matters to improve the facility’s overall performance, such as conducting more positive patient interactions before and after the actual doctors’ appointments thus providing a personalized approach to patient care.