patient engagement

How to Reduce Waste in Your Health System by Tackling No-shows

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You’ve seen it time and time again—the patient schedules an appointment, your provider waits for them a few minutes past the appointment start time, the patient doesn’t show up at all. No text, no call. It isn’t just a poor experience for the doctor involved — it’s hurting the health system’s bottom line.

It’s no secret that hospitals and health systems across the nation are having issues with profitability. A large part of this equation has to do with keeping costs down. While you can’t just choose not to invest in your infrastructure, technology, or your people — something you can control is the money lost by no-show appointments. These no-show appointments are a colossal waste that lurks in your scheduling process and is estimated to cause the healthcare industry an estimated $150billion in losses each year.

What is a no-show appointment?

A no-show appointment is an appointment that a patient 1) makes with a provider; 2) fails to arrive at; 3) does not cancel before the time of the appointment. These are different than cancellations. In a cancellation, the patient reaches out to the provider before the appointment, giving the provider sufficient time to fill the slot with another patient.

Why are no-shows so wasteful?

With cancellations, there is an opportunity to schedule another patient in the canceled time slot. Usually, the window that you have to fill these canceled appointments will be as short as 24 hours but can be as long as three weeks. We call this the replacement window because this is the amount of time that you have to replace the canceled appointment with a new patient. In a no-show, the replacement window is zero, which is why you cannot get your money back. These no-shows translate to lost revenues which hurt your health system’s bottom line. By allowing your health system to continue this wasteful process systematically, you are undermining its profitability.

What tools exist for reducing these wasteful no-show appointments?

Fortunately, there are a few different approaches and tools at your disposal for tackling no-show appointments. The first approach is the old-fashioned punish and reward system. It goes like this: financially punishing no-shows while rewarding (either through a small discount on their bill or another incentive like a sweepstakes drawing) patients who show up on time. However, this carrot-and-stick method isn’t enough to move the needle by itself. While you may limit the return of no-show patients, you aren’t increasing the replacement window or maximizing patient volume.

Thankfully there are technologies already on the market that are designed to reduce no-show appointments and maximize your replacement window. The most effective of these are digital, multi-channel appointment notifications. To appeal to a broader range of patient demographics, we recommend offering reminders via several media, including text message, email, and phone calls. To maximize the effectiveness of reminder notifications, they should include appointment confirmations with options to cancel or reschedule. Additionally, these notifications should have appointment reminders within 24 hours of the appointment start time, and any other information pertinent to the appointment. Examples include directions to the appointment location and appointment preparation procedures.

For additional engagement, some solutions like DocASAP’s Consumer Connect include a calendar appointment that can be saved to the patient’s schedule. Consumer Connect provides a mobile-first, patient-centric solution that helps not only with patient engagement, but also reduces no-show appointments. On average, DocASAP’s Consumer Connect solution, which includes DocASAP Reminders, cuts down the no-show rate by over 35% in the first year after deployment.

How online appointment scheduling maximizes the replacement window

If appointment reminders are a powerful way of reducing no-show appointments, then online appointment scheduling is its significant other, maximizing access which optimizes the replacement window. Think of it this way: you are now reducing your no-show appointments, but still have some patients who elect to cancel or reschedule. Online appointment scheduling, proven to expand patient access, increases the chance that another patient will be able to fill your empty timeslot. By expanding patient access, you can increase the likelihood that you fill empty slots in your provider’s schedule. This maximizes patient volume, which translates to money in the bank. Appointment reminders can truly work in tandem with online appointment scheduling to improve your health system’s bottom line.

To summarize, if you want an impactful reduction in no-show appointments, you need to use an appointment notification service that includes multiple notification types and mediums. To make further improvements, you need to maximize your replacement window by implementing intelligent online scheduling. Marrying reminders with online scheduling is one of the most impactful ways to start reducing waste in your health system — ASAP.

Promises, promises. How to get everything you deserve from your Online Appointment Scheduling (OAS) solution partner

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Picking a technology partner can be difficult and confusing. And it doesn’t help when your partner makes promises that they can’t keep. A good OAS solution partner should help you understand the value of their solution –  meaning, how they’ll help you meet your stated business objectives, such as a volume or percentage increase in traffic, a jump in total number of appointments or a boost in revenue. 

But don’t just take their word for it. Everything about OAS is digital and has the ability to be measured. A good OAS solution partner will show you how running analytics on your data can help you reach and report on your progress. In addition, make sure to talk about the difference between reports and insights. The key to meeting your business objectives is uncovering what the data is telling you and mapping it to your objectives in order to determine the business impact of your new OAS solution.

Below are some key metrics that an ideal OAS solution should analyze and how you can use the insights to make informed business decisions about your healthcare clinic or system. 

  1. Patient demographics: Demographics are captured at the time of booking an appointment, so you’re able to see daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly data trends. This data helps you identify trends in online scheduling such as average patient age, highest performing care center or most common visit – all reasons that could also impact your staffing, hours, locations and other business functions. 
  2. Patient booking behavior: What time of day do patients generally book appointments? Often it’s after hours when your office is closed. How many days before an appointment do they book? What devices are commonly used to book? These questions all have clear answers when we take the time to look at the data. And the insights can help you modify business processes or staff behaviors to better meet the needs of patients. 
  3. No show data: It’s important to understand the reasons behind no show appointments because they cost you money. Your OAS solution should capture information that provides visibility into why an appointment was canceled. Knowing how far in advance the appointment was scheduled, if the patient had insurance, and other data points can help you visualize behavioral trends so you can take proactive steps to reduce future no shows.

When evaluating an OAS solution partner, make sure to discuss your business objectives up front. Then, have your potential partner walk through all the ways you can positively impact your business objectives by tapping into patient behavior data and insights. Only by showing you how they can support your business over the long haul shows you how an OAS partner keeps their promises. 
 

Post-booking blues: How an OAS should promote your brand after each booking

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If you’re thinking about implementing an online appointment scheduling (OAS) solution – or switching your OAS partner – one of the questions you may have is, “Can an OAS help promote and protect my brand after a patient has booked an appointment?” We think that’s a great question, and we’re here to answer it. This is part two in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. You can find part one here.

Fiction: An OAS has no impact on my brand once an appointment is booked. 

Fact: Remember in part one when we said that not all OAS solutions work the same way? Yeah, that’s the theme of this series, so we’re going to keep reminding you of that fun fact. At DocASAP, we feel that ongoing engagement with your patient is one of, if not the most, important aspects of online scheduling. Keeping your patients informed has a huge impact on brand perception, but you won’t get it from all OAS vendors. 

Think about it. We know ongoing engagement is positive from our own experience. No one likes to wonder if an appointment is actually confirmed or if the time you took off work for this appointment will be worth it. But we also have data to back it up. 

Using an OAS is actually proven to reduce the number of no shows and improve overall patient retention. Therefore, when looking at an OAS partner, consider one that offers these brand-supporting ongoing engagement features.  

  1. Notifications via email or text: This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also important to allow the patient to be able to choose their preferred notification channel. When you interact with patients on their preferred devices, they are happier and say nice things on social networks about your brand.
  2. Ability to cancel or reschedule from email or text reminders: It’s common for patients to forget about an upcoming appointment. While reminders are helpful, patients often get these on-the-go. So why not let them cancel or reschedule directly from the text or email with just a few clicks? Having to call or log onto a website later often leads to no shows, but also makes it difficult for patients to interact which can be damaging for your brand. 
  3. Post-appointment care-driven reminders: With everything on our minds, patients don’t always think about preventative or post- care. However, a good OAS can remind patients of important actions that help them manage their health in an ongoing manner. Non-appointment related updates can help remind patients of the value of your brand, and help patients feel as if you are helping them stay on top of their health needs.
  4. Referral management: Telling a patient they need to see a different physician can be frustrating, especially if the patient also has to deal with booking another appointment. However, you can reduce frustration when your OAS has a built-in referral management solution that allows you to directly schedule an appointment online for a patient with the physician you’re referring to. This closed loop scheduling also keeps the patient within your network which is key to patient retention and brand loyalty.

There you have it. A good OAS shouldn’t drop engagement activities with patients after an appointment is booked. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients. 

Is ‘Book and Hook’ real? How online appointment scheduling should work to promote your brand

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There’s been some chatter in online appointment scheduling (OAS) circles lately about “book and hook” – the perception that centralized booking channels slowly eat away at a health system’s or clinic’s brand to “steal” patients. So, we thought we’d sort out fact from fiction and talk about how we think a true OAS should work hand-in-hand with your brand. This is part one in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. 

Fiction: All OAS solutions siphon your patients away and erode your healthcare brand. 

Fact: Not all OAS solutions work the same way - so providers should evaluate potential partners and make smart decisions. A good OAS solution should provide visitors with the information they want, based on their personal health care needs and facilitate an easy and fast booking – all while promoting and supporting the provider’s brand. To avoid a “book and hook” scenario, look for an OAS partner that offers advanced features that actually protect your brand. These brand-building features should include: 

  1. Private label branding: When an OAS partner redirects patients to their own portal to book, the experience should be completely private labeled for your health system. Bingo. Branding issue solved. Using single sign-on (SSO) with your own credentialing system (patient portal) also amplifies your brand. 
  2. Omni-channel presence: Once patients have a preferred doctor or specialty, they will search online for appointment information. Your OAS partner should be on all those channels as well (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). This ensures that patients can book directly with you, regardless of their patient’s preferred channel. It actually creates a funnel directly to your brand.
  3. Intelligent patient-provider matching: An OAS should ask the same questions an appointment scheduler would ask, and in many cases, should be even smarter. For example, does Dr. Smith treat children? No. Then the first field requests the patient’s birthdate. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised at how some OAS solutions don’t take this level of detail into account. And a bad experience booking can easily damage your brand.
  4. Insurance verification: Patients often don’t know their insurance details. Your ideal OAS partner should only list the insurances accepted by each provider and automatically verify the insurance prior to the appointment. Unfortunately, some OAS solutions still require manual verification that has to be done after the appointment is made. Having to tell a patient that you don’t accept their insurance before (or even worse AFTER) an appointment is definitely a brand-killer. 

So there you go. A good OAS shouldn’t feel like it is collecting patients and serving them up to your competitors. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients.

Top three ways Penn Medicine sparked the digital patient experience

Recognized as one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and as a prestigious academic medical institution, University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) sought out a way to better connect their physicians to the modern patient. In coordination with Clinical Care Associates, Penn Medicine’s employed primary and specialty care physician group, the organization saw the immediate need to improve patient access, attract new patients, and increase patient retention.
 
Strategy #1 - Connect patients to their providers: Allow for accurate patient navigation through patient-provider matching based on provider scheduling protocols that are specific to operational and clinical workflows.
In working side-by-side with Penn operations and the scheduling team, DocASAP was able to develop Penn Medicine specific criteria to navigate the patient to the correct physician and appointment time during the scheduling process. “It was not only important for us to keep the experts at DocASAP accountable for developing these complex workflows for our primary care and specialty physicians, but we had to take a detailed look into our entire scheduling protocols and processes,” said Ronald Barg, MD, executive director, Clinical Care Associates.

Measurable outcome: Within less than a month, the online scheduling platform was up and running. The health system started seeing appointment bookings from the very beginning and saw the continuation of a drastic increase of appointments per physician every month. 

Strategy #2 - Increase reach: Expand and digitize access and availability for the modern patient through digital applications and websites that patients use and trust.
Penn Medicine made its EMR implementation and utilization a top priority by utilizing Epic’s scheduling module for existing patients, Epic MyChart. While this solution sufficed for existing patients through its portal, MyPennMedicine, DocASAP provided Penn Medicine, with a tool to draw in new patients and reach patients from diverse digital pathways, such as Google. An online scheduling widget was embedded into the Penn Medicine website so that once patients found the correct physician for their clinical needs, they could book an appointment instantly.

Measurable outcome: 34% of appointments were booked after-hours, adding additional appointments and incremental revenue that the health system would have not realized without the online appointment scheduling system. Additionally, 65% of patients were new patients brought to the health system through DocASAP. Penn Medicine responded to the modern “consumer-patient” by expanding online availability across more access points and more providers, better capturing patient demand.

Strategy #3 - Optimize day-to-day business: Utilize an analytics platform that enables deep insights for optimizing operational processes to better align the care delivery to patient demand.
In utilizing the DocASAP big data analytics platform, the operations team at Penn Medicine is able to measure patient behavior (demand), such as what visit reasons patients are seeking and when patients need an appointment, and match it with physician availability (supply), such as where schedules are blocked and/or showing limited availability. The robust analytics platform identifies mismatches between supply and demand or lost opportunities such as when patients were unable to schedule because the physician was booked and/or patients were unable to schedule because online booking was not offered. This comprehensive analytics tool has allowed the number of bookings to increase by at least 160% annually because the appointment per physician rate more than doubles each year.

Measurable outcome: 50% of appointments are booked within a week which helps fill the empty time slots and indicates that patients seek near term appointments. Since availability is shown three months out and patients are booking within a week, it shows that patients are opting for appointment times that may not be ideal but booking due to limited availability to get in that week. In making this holistic view into available time slots in real-time for the patient, appointment times are filled that would not be otherwise filled, resulting in missed revenue.

Want to learn more about these and other strategies that Penn Medicine used to reform patient access and engagement? Click HERE to read the full case study on how Penn Medicine and DocASAP meet the demand of the modern patient through online appointment scheduling.