Five Ways to Streamline Patient Appointments

May 25, 2013

When you find your medical practice constantly behind, unorganized, and frazzled at the end of every day, maybe it's time to take a look at your work flow.

You start your day.  You're ready to go, on time, and then it just all turns into chaos. You just feel like you're losing control of your own business, patients are waiting a long time to be seen, and there is a level of disorganization in the front office. You can make it all stop now by trying some of these techniques in your front and back office.

EHR: If you have not moved to an EHR system, its time. Keeping track of paper is cumbersome, at best. It's very easy to lose items that may fall out of paper charts, and if you are not writing the patient's name on every single piece of paper, you may never find its rightful owner again. With a good EHR program, everything is right where you left it. No more searching office to office or having to go through those stacks on your desk. With paper charts, you also run a great risk of a HIPAA violation. With all of the new healthcare laws coming into play, it's best to be as careful as possible in this area.

Pre-Send Patient Paperwork: When the patient calls in for their first appointment, be sure your front-office staff is e-mailing, faxing, or postal mailing all paperwork that needs filling out. They can take their time in the luxury of their own home completing these forms. They won't feel rushed and perhaps actually remember to write everything down. This is a huge time saver for you. Oftentimes, patients arrive at 2 p.m. (the time of their appointment) spending 15 minutes to 20 minutes filling out paperwork; leaving you with 10 minutes to see them. This puts pressure on you, your staff, and your entire office flow.

What To Bring: Prior to the patient coming in, your front office staff should advise the patient of what they need to bring for the visit. Is there a referral from another physician, or a required authorization? They need to remember to bring in their health insurance card, or if there is a copay or coinsurance, they will need to be advised they will be paying that at time of service, so bring the credit card or checkbook. What is also very important during this conversation is to ask the patient to bring in a list of questions or concerns they have regarding their injury or illness. This gives the patient time to consider what their expectation is of the appointment, and it will provide you a clear idea of what they need. Everyone wins, and you provide great customer service!

Multiple Appointments: If you have a patient or a business where patients are seen multiple times, spend the end of that first visit and have the patient make all of their appointments. This will save time for your front- and back-office staff who are constantly being interrupted in their work flow. This will also assure the patient will show up on the right day/time if the appointments are consistent.

Credit Card On File: If you have a patient with a copay, coinsurance, or deductible that you are collecting, and they are going to be seen multiple times, have them fill out a "credit card on file" form, and as the patient leaves that day, they walk straight out the door without interrupting your staff. At the end of each day, a staff member runs all of the day's credit cards, you get paid, and the patient doesn't have to worry about stopping and paying.

These are just a few ideas that you can adopt into your practice right now, and will make an enormous impact on your work flow. You owe it to yourself and your staff to give them a try! Once you have made a few changes, you will be better able to identify where else you can make these small changes. Your staff will thank you.