Medical technology has made things extremely convenient for patients and healthcare providers. Comfort and ease of management in the workflows help the doctors and the staff with day-to-day administration. One such medical technology that has attracted providers in hospitals and ambulatory care settings is patient scheduling software.
A platform for patient appointment scheduling digitizes all the activities involved in managing appointments with a user-friendly interface. The old way of doing it manually by pen and paper burdens the staff and makes it cumbersome to make adjustments. Additionally, it also increases the amount of stationary used, not to mention leaving room for errors.
A clinic patient scheduling software goes a long way in optimizing healthcare management by saving time for the staff to devote more energy towards patients. There are numerous types of healthcare patient scheduling software developed by vendors and offer a wide range of features. But some of them are essential irrespective of the vendor. Let’s look at some of the most essential features of the software for patient scheduling.
The following are the most desirable features in patient scheduling software –
1. Automatic Reminders
Healthcare spending in the United States has topped $3 trillion. To add perspective, that number is bigger than the economies of all but four countries. Missed appointments are one of the biggest reasons for deteriorating health in patients with chronic conditions, and such people are likely to spend more on healthcare throughout their lives.
An automatic reminder incorporated within a patient online scheduling software notifies patients about upcoming consultations. It’s one of the benefits of healthcare automation that directly helps people. Studies show that showing up for appointments directly impacts people suffering from diabetes and heart disease. So, it’s no surprise that providers and payers alike are pushing for a patient scheduling system across all care settings, making for a good patient engagement system.
Patient data security is an indispensable part of every kind of health tech. HIPAA compliant solutions for patient scheduling ensure that electronic health record is safe and private. Mismanagement of health information could adversely affect doctors’ decisions and treatment.
3. Web-Based Interface
A patient appointment scheduling system with a web-based interface allows patients to log in and book appointments themselves. Moreover, they can also reschedule the timings as per their Convenience, without missing out. The medical staff can go over the patient scheduling workflow with a few clicks without any trouble. This feature incorporated into practice management software eliminates the need for extra staff to attend phone calls and manage appointments.
4. Appointment Prioritizing
This is an important feature for patients needing medical care more urgently. A patient appointment scheduling software with this feature will enable providers or medical staff to prioritize the patients. This is an important step towards improving the overall patient experience, as people with urgent needs will receive care faster.
The patients who will benefit from this include pregnant women, people with heart conditions, new mothers, people prone to seizures, and so on.
5. Appointment Rescheduling
There are several reasons why a person might miss an appointment. It could be a busy work schedule, urgent business, traffic, or other reasons. So, if patient scheduling software has a feature to let people reschedule their appointments, it will go a long way in reducing missed appointments. If a person is running late and knows they’ll miss their consultation, this feature will allow the freedom to change timings as per convenience.
6. Waiting Lists
Last-minute cancellations, rescheduling, and no-shows are common, even with appointment scheduling software. The patients who cancel or don’t show up often take up time slots that could have been used by others who would have arrived on time. This is why waiting lists are an important feature of medical appointment scheduling software.
A medical appointment waiting list lists patients in line for an appointment. When a person cancels or reschedules, the people on the waiting list will be notified of an available time slot. A waiting list feature in a clinic patient scheduling software is important as it prevents missed appointments from hampering physician schedules and enables more patients to have consultations. It is a win-win for both providers and patients.
7. Integration With Other Medical IT Platforms
Any health tech becomes challenging to use if it can’t integrate with other applications. If a patient scheduling solution can work with applications for telehealth, EMR, medical coding & billing, and RPM, it would engender effective healthcare interoperability and result in better care and patient experience. Seamless electronic data exchange between different applications leads to robust and effective integrated healthcare solutions. It simplifies workflows and leads to greater productivity with minimized overhead.
A single-physician practice might grow into a larger ambulatory care centre, which in turn, might one day grow further to become a major hospital. In light of this, an appointment scheduling software must meet the evolving needs of providers.
A scalable patient scheduling technology would remove the need for purchasing new software, integrating it, and training staff to use it. There are numerous benefits associated with using a patient appointment scheduling system –
Benefits of Using a Patient Scheduling Software
1. Saves Time and Money
It should be no surprise that having a patient scheduling platform would reduce the time and money spent on administration. Such software would reduce the number of staff needed since the entire procedure of scheduling and rescheduling is streamlined into one interface.
The doctor may not even need additional staff to manage appointments in single-physician practices. In larger outpatient care centres, a single employee could manage scheduling for the entire organization without hassle. Appointment scheduling software saves money and improves revenues.
2. 24/7 Convenience
The ability to book appointments at any time, including past midnight, provides enormous Convenience to patients. Innovations in cloud computing in healthcare have given rise to a kind of patient appointment scheduling app with which people could book consultations from any place using personal devices.
Such luxury helps people have uncertain working hours. They can schedule & reschedule as per their Convenience and avoid missing any consultations. Furthermore, it eliminates the need for providers to hire night-time staff to manage appointment schedules. In other words, the Convenience offered by the 24/7 booking feature in an online medical scheduling software is a win-win for doctors and patients.
3. Streamlined Roster Management
Large hospitals often see dozens of patients each day. Such organizations also have numerous doctors of varying specializations working in different shifts. In light of this, hospital patient scheduling software will help the staff allocate physicians to patients optimally without any physician having to deal with too many patients or for any patient to wait too long for a consultation.
In addition to this, since patient scheduling software displays the number of patients on an hour-by-hour basis, it helps to organize physician schedules around it. If a doctor gets called away for an emergency, his or her patients can be distributed amongst other doctors on the roster optimally. The bigger a hospital gets, the more doctors and patients it needs to manage. So, having medical scheduling software goes a long way in streamlining the management of doctors’ schedules against the in-flow of patients.
In other words, using patient appointment scheduling software is beneficial for both hospitals as well as patients.
4. Reduction in Missed Appointments
As mentioned earlier, missed appointments directly impact the health of patients suffering chronic conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Such conditions require regular check-ups and appropriate management of diet and lifestyle. Numerous medical informatics and healthcare analytics solutions have revealed a direct link between irregular consultations and the worsening of chronic conditions. A patient scheduling software with automated reminders also allows clinicians to track patient health better and make timely updates to health records. It won’t be a stretch to say that automated reminders also foster impactful medical records management from the provider side.
5. Saves Paper
This is an underappreciated advantage of using patient and medical staff scheduling software at hospitals and medium-sized clinics. Without such a platform, patient appointments and staff schedules would have to be managed using pen and paper-based processes. The larger a hospital gets, the more the amount of Paper it would need to use daily. But, software to manage appointments and physician schedules would eliminate the need for Paper, saving costs and reducing the carbon footprint.
6. Better Patient Experience
Patients who receive quality care and fewer hassles are often reluctant to change their doctors. That’s simply because they’ve had a good experience overall with the lifecycle of care delivery. A patient online scheduling application makes it easy and convenient for people to schedule appointments whenever they want.
7. Higher Patient Preference
This feature is a major advantage for providers. Clinics and small single-physician practices that use patient self-scheduling software offer a level of convenience to patients. That convenience is the ability to schedule and re-schedule appointments at any time. As a result, patients will be more likely to go to a clinic offering this comfort. This helps increase patient loyalty, and they will generally prefer going to a clinic that lets them book appointments at any time.
Difficulties with Medical Patient Scheduling Software
Inconvenient For Some Groups of Patients
Using patient scheduling software requires the patients to be able to use mobile applications and be generally tech savvy. However, not all patients are comfortable or capable of using such a platform, and implementing a patient scheduling application as the sole means of booking appointments alienates such people. In general, elders and economically weaker patients unfamiliar with technology would find it hard to book appointments. So, clinics and practices should have multiple modes of booking available.
A patient scheduling software system enables patients to book appointments online from their smartphones or a website. The appointments booked are then reflected on the provider’s end. In a clinic with multiple providers and nurses, the calendars of each medical staff need to stay synchronized with the patients’ bookings. This will ensure that each provider sees their respective assigned patients. The bigger a clinic or hospital gets, the more complexity of patient allocation for providers. Preventing double-booking or overlapping consultations for a single physician could get challenging.
Dependency on Internet Access
This problem applies to both providers as well as patients. Since patient appointment scheduling software requires a device and an internet connection, places with unreliable connectivity might render it challenging to use this platform. Patients would face difficulty booking appointments, or providers might not see bookings reflected on their side of the platform without reliable internet connectivity.
Lack of Personal Touch
Appointment bookings are preceded by a preliminary interaction between patients and their doctors. During this interaction, the patients usually describe their problems and symptoms, and the doctor offers advice accordingly. But patient scheduling software eliminates that human touch, leading some patients to have second thoughts.
Could Patient Scheduling Software Save Money For the Healthcare Industry?
Repeated research and many studies have found that about 40% of adults in the United States suffer from at least one chronic disease. That means tens of millions of people across the country. Chronic diseases account for a significant portion of the trillions spent on healthcare. In other words, they are a major drain on the healthcare industry. One of the biggest reasons for the worsening of chronic diseases is irregular consultations and follow-ups by the patients.
People suffering from a chronic disease like cancer or diabetes must take their meds on time and recheck with their doctors regularly. Depending on the severity of the condition, delays in follow-up consultations could cause the symptoms to worsen, requiring additional tests, scans, and medications. The delays are usually because the patient was busy and neglected to check in with their doctor.
But appointment scheduling software enables people to book consultations and change the timings at their convenience. Additionally, many companies’ online patient scheduling software also sends automated reminders to patients through loud notifications or text messages about their appointment. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for such applications to feature a chatbot to enable people to reach out to their physicians for clarifications. The patient scheduling software facilitates this type of patient engagement, and good doctor-patient engagement boosts medical outcomes.
So, using patient scheduling solutions goes a long way in minimizing missed appointments or delays in a follow-up consultation. This indirectly results in better management of chronic diseases, leading to a reduction in spending on healthcare. In other words, patient scheduling software is a win-win for the patients, providers, and payers since it benefits all these stakeholders.
How Does Patient Scheduling Software Help With Telehealth?
Telehealth uses digital and telecommunication mediums to deliver or seek medical services. This includes remote patient monitoring and virtual consultations. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth solutions, which until that point was only being debated in the medical community. Telehealth software enabled people to have virtual consultations with their doctors from the privacy of their own houses when visiting a clinic carried the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
A patient scheduling system is one of the most important features of a telehealth platform. This will enable people from multiple locations to book appointments for virtual consultations with providers. Subsequently, they would be put on a waiting list or a digital queue to await their consultation. A function to manage the patient scheduling workflow will streamline the overall processes surrounding virtual consultations and telehealth. A means of scheduling patients is vital for telehealth to be adopted as people would need a way of booking appointments and waiting for a physician to have a virtual session with them.
Patient appointment scheduling software goes a long way in helping medical staff manage their workload better. As a result, they can devote more time and resources to caring for patients. For small single-physician practices, software for automated patient scheduling saves time that would otherwise have been wasted doing manual paperwork. It also eliminates the need for hiring a secretary. The result is more time for patients, which translates into better revenues and quality care.
For large hospitals, a healthcare scheduling software streamlines workflows and improves productivity. To sum it up, a digital solution to handle patient schedules improves revenues, patient experiences and even fosters better population health management in the long run. At a time when the healthcare industry is increasingly adopting cutting-edge technology across all operations, a platform to manage patient appointments and physician schedules will pave the way for future technology implementations.
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Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.