We are on post #2 of our medical series on the six key challenges uncovered in a recent study of 500 medical practices. Last week’s post dug into ways to boost the quality of your patient care. You can read that post here.
As a child, my family lived a fair distance from extended family. This meant that two or three times a year, my parents would load their five children into the car and make the long trek to visit our beloved grandparents.
The trip was always the same—the same songs sung, the same road games played, the same pit stops (we knew those gas stations by heart). One especially exciting break came about three hours into the journey. We would always stop and eat lunch with my mother’s cousin and her family (and jump on their trampoline!!). Talk about fun.
Years later, as an adult, I continued to make that same journey on a fairly regular basis to see family or for business, but without all of the pit stops.
One day as I was prepping for just such a trip, a colleague asked me about the route I took. I showed him the path established for me so many years ago by my parents, even pointing out some of the old stomping grounds along the way.
Confusion crowded his face as he indicated a different route on the computer. “Why don’t you go this way? It’s two hours faster.”
Uh…what? As I looked more closely, I realized he was right. Wow. I didn’t know why. But I felt silly. Over the years, I had wasted countless hours driving the long way and I didn’t even know why.
Are you “driving the long way?”
Unfortunately, this story is played out every day in thousands of medical practices across the U.S. Valuable time is being eaten up, simply because we’re doing things in the way we’ve always done them.
While these productivity killers are annoying to the practice, it is even harder on patient satisfaction. Why? Busy employees lead to longer wait times for patients. Long wait times are the #1 cause of patient dissatisfaction.
These long wait times associated with poor time management is one of the major irritants reported by respondents of the Patient Provider Relationship study. Check out some of these numbers:
- Sixty-eight percent of respondents say that the wait times in their medical office are not reasonable.
- Sixty-six percent say that they have to wait too long to schedule an appointment.
- Sixty-eight percent say they feel like messages are not returned in a timely manner.
It’s easy to see why just 32 percent of patients are completely satisfied with their primary care physician.
What are the biggest time killers?
For the most part, the biggest time-suckers are simply functions of the daily ins and outs of running a medical practice. There is a lot of “busy” work. Phone calls, reminders, appointment setting, recall…the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, far too many practices are still using manual processes to complete these tasks. This leads to lost hours, lost patients, and lost revenue.
Let’s talk about the five biggest tasks that eat up so many of your valuable hours, extending wait times for patients, and how to get back on the right path.
1. Appointment reminders
Calling to remind patients of upcoming appointments is the #1 biggest time killer in the average medical office. It is estimated that practices spent around two hours a day on this single task. This is time that could be spent interacting with patients in person.
The best solution to this problem is texting. Research shows that it only takes around 4 seconds to send a text message. So, instead of calling each patient, send a quick text. These can be done automatically each day so your staff doesn’t have to do anything but hit a button.
2. Scheduling appointments
The average phone call to schedule an appointment is 8.1 minutes. Multiply that by the number of appointments each day, and the hours add up. There are ways to reduce time spent on this task. Did you know that 77 percent of patients want to be able to book their own appointments online?
This not only saves time for the practice, but increases patient satisfaction. The time patients wait to be seen can be reduced by letting them easily see which doctors are available soonest—in fact, 41 percent of patients would be willing to see another doctor in the practice to reduce their wait. It’s a win-win.
3. Filling last minute cancellations
It happens. Patients cancel. Filling these appointments is critical to keeping up revenue streams. Unfortunately, calling patient after patient on your wait list can take up a large amount of time.
Instead of manually making phone calls to patients on your wait-list, shoot off a mass message to wait list patients when an appointments opens up. Your practice doesn’t lose time and revenue on a missed appointment and the patient who snags the last minute appointment is thrilled.
4. Patient check-in
While it is always important to greet each patient with a smile, the check-in process itself can be less time-consuming through technology. One method of reducing time waste here is through use of an automated check-in tablet. Even saving 30 seconds in each step of the process may make the difference between a happy and unhappy patient.
5. Educating/marketing efforts
In addition to scheduling and reminding patients of appointments, check-ins, and filling last minute cancellations, every practice needs to continually find ways to promote their practice. There are a couple of tricks to reduce times spent on these tasks.
First, follow-up every visit with automated surveys so patients can let you know how the visit went. It’s an easy way to keep your finger on the pulse of patient satisfaction. It’s much easier to keep a patient than to find a new one!
Second, use automated newsletters to keep in close contact with patients. Today’s patients want education. Using templates that are already put together for you can save time and still meet patients’ needs. Automate wherever possible.
Let’s get back to my story. I asked my parents about why we took such a long route during our journeys. My mom explained that we always went that way simply to visit her cousin. It was the only time she really got to see her, so she worked it into our trips. This cousin had long since moved, and I had never once even thought of stopping to see her. An idea that had once made perfect sense no longer held any value.
Is it time to examine the ways you may be unintentionally wasting time?
Want to know more about the power of automation in your office? Read the “16 Stats on Why You Should Start Texting Your Patients” now.