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Turning patient cancellations

Turning patient cancellations into revenue

Topic: Turning patient cancellations into revenue

The internet has changed the way all industries do business. It has permitted consumers to give direct and instant online reviews on various products and services.This allows suppliers to learn and improve overall customer satisfaction.

However, despite being one of every six dollars in the US economy1, healthcare has lagged other industries in its focus on customer satisfaction.

Electronic health records (EHRs) have expanded dramatically in the last decade2, starting with hospitals, and now have penetrated to smaller provider practices. Currently, most EHRs focus on billing, clinical care, and legal documentation and not on enhancing the patient’s experience. While a surgery may be assisted by a robot, and an MRI may be read with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI), making an appointment for either services is still done with a telephone, a pencil, and sometimes a fax machine.This is an opportunity for EHRs to offer a package that would result in the improvement of both patient satisfaction and operational efficiency, in addition to practice revenue and clinical care. Improving the patient experience in an era of medical consumerism is increasingly important going forward.

Current Practice

In most traditional practices, a patient calls the office to schedule an appointment and speaks to a paid office scheduler who offers a few available times after reviewing the schedule.

There are three key issues with the current practice:

1) Less efficient for patients.The patient gets a sub-optimal appointment because the scheduler can only see a small portion of the available times.The individual must call the office, wait on hold, and then select from 2 to 3 handpicked times that may not be optimal for the patient or efficient for the physician. Healthcare is notoriously known for having the longest hold times compared to other industries. It may take several appointment times offered before the patient finally selects a time that works; and not getting the best time increases the probability of a cancellation or no-show.

2) Time consuming for staff.There is an individual paid by the practice to schedule appointments on the phone, although an automated system would be much less expensive.Further, people are more likely than systems to make errors.If the process could be automated, time on the phone would be reduced for staff by permitting patients to select times directly. These processes have been accelerated in the COVID-19 era, with enhanced digital adoption and potential for further refinement through machine learning and artificial intelligence. “You can book almost any other type of appointment in other industries by seeing what’s available in a self-scheduling type of platform,” says Gavin Setzen MD, Albany ENT & Allergy Services. “[AI] would also make the process of finding available appointments significantly faster for schedulers.”

3) Same day cancellations are inefficiently backfilled. It reduces practice revenue by not optimizing physician schedules.For a physician, in an 8-hour shift with 20-minute reserved appointments, three unfilled cancellations cause a productivity decline of 12.5%. In a day when only 80% of visits are filled this is a 16% decline.If this happens every day, a practice earning a potential revenue of $1M earns $160,000 less but does not have any fewer costs.

Topic Discussed: Turning patient cancellations into revenue

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