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Self-scheduling: Attracting the Coming Wave of Patients

By Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC

May, 2018


The generations known as “Baby Boomers” and “Gen Xers” constitute the majority of your patients today; however, it’s necessary for you to be thinking about the coming wave of Millennials and Gen Zers.

While addressing the needs of the new generations may concern you, the automation these patients demand not only benefits them, but can also prove advantageous to your practice. The next wave of patients craves consistent, effortless and efficient interactions.

While there are many ways to make headway towards this goal, one of the simplest is self-scheduling. Self-scheduling is available through many practice management systems but can also be accomplished by contracting with a third-party vendor.

Self-scheduling benefits patients by providing easy access, around the clock. In addition to a patient satisfier, however, the activity also provides several advantages for your practice. First, self-scheduling requires no one to pay to answer the phone, identify the patient and/or schedule the appointment. While there may be some manual intervention required on the back-end, particularly surrounding the registration process, the time expended is less than handling a patient calling to schedule an appointment over the telephone. While the solution may not require as much staffing, it typically won’t result in cutting several (or even one) employees.

The hidden – but more powerful – benefit is the drop in the no-show rate. In working with many practices that have adopted self-scheduling, my experience demonstrates a remarkable 50% drop in no-shows for patients who self-schedule.

If you’d like to attempt self-scheduling, but are worried about opening a flood gate, engage with a solution that keeps you in control. For example, release slots only for established patients; restrict the number available per day; and/or control the timeframe for advanced notification. Most importantly, do not install a system that fails to integrate slot releases. That is, if the appointments that you have made available via self-scheduling do not fill, then they need to convert to a slot available for any patient.

Ease the throttle forward after you gain comfort with the solution; most practices find that their biggest hurdle to self-scheduling is getting out of their own way.

About The Author

Elizabeth Woodcock is the founder and principal of Woodcock & Associates. She has focused on medical practice operations and revenue cycle management for more than 25 years. She has led educational sessions for a multitude of national professional associations and specialty societies, and consulted for clients as diverse as a solo orthopaedic surgeon in rural Georgia to the Mayo Clinic. She is author or co-author of 17 best-selling practice management books, to include Mastering Patient Flow and The Physician Billing Process: Avoiding Potholes in the Road to Getting Paid. Elizabeth is a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a Certified Professional Coder. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University, she completed a Master of Business Administration in healthcare management from The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a doctoral student at the Bloomberg School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University.

The contents of The Sentinel are intended for educational/informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Policyholders are urged to consult with their personal attorney for legal advice, as specific legal requirements may vary from state to state and/or change over time.

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