Nextech Named 2024 Best in KLAS: Ambulatory Specialty EHR

«  View All Posts

3 MIN READ.

Patient Appointment Scheduling Best Practices for Specialty Healthcare Clinics

By: Nextech | June 25th, 2024

Patient Appointment Scheduling Best Practices for Specialty Healthcare Clinics Blog Feature

Successful medical practices know effective patient scheduling is more than just setting a date and time. How your practice schedules appointments affects everything from the efficiency of the clinic’s workflow to the quality of the patient experience.

Patient scheduling best practices allow providers to move smoothly from one patient to the next, prevent front-desk bottlenecks as patients check in and out, and allow enough time for each patient to receive high-quality care.

Benefits of an Optimized Scheduling Process

When you optimize your patient appointment process, clinic staff see an almost immediate impact on their workflow.

Haphazard appointment scheduling leads to a stressful environment. Sometimes staff feel rushed, serving multiple patients at once, while other times they are left with little to do. Constant context switching prevents anyone from reaching peak productivity.

After implementing effective scheduling tools, staff productivity and satisfaction rise. Work flows smoothly, with enough time for everything that needs to be done. Often, staff feel less rushed while actually seeing more patients.

The other group to benefit from improved appointment scheduling is patients themselves.

First of all, relaxed, productive staff provide better patient care. Second, an effective scheduling process means patients spend less time sitting in the waiting room or standing at the front desk.

For example, patients at Epstein Plastic Surgery in New York spent close to 30 minutes doing paperwork under the practice’s old process. It cost the clinic in patient satisfaction and in closed consultations.

“When you do a consult, you have a much better chance of booking a surgery if the patient visit is under an hour,” said Dr. Mark Epstein.

After optimizing their process, Epstein Plastic Surgery consultations take less than an hour, and bookings have increased by 20%.

How To Schedule Patients Effectively

  1. Track Schedule Performance
  2. Schedule from Noon
  3. Prioritize Appointments
  4. Reserve Emergency Slots
  5. Schedule Follow-up Appointments Immediately
  6. Implement Appointment Self-Scheduling
  7. Reduce Call Volume with AI Chatbots
  8. Use Automation To Reduce No-Shows
  9. Offer A Waiting List
  10. Automate Patient Recall

1. Track Schedule Performance

Before attempting to solve a problem, it helps to know exactly where the issues lie. Intelligent tools like Nextech’s advanced analytics track schedule performance over time.

The data in your EHR can help you identify bottlenecks leading to long wait times and appointments that run long. It can also highlight trends you can use to reduce personnel costs.

Perhaps Thursday morning appointment slots are particularly popular, while Friday afternoons tend to be light. By identifying these patterns, you can adjust your practice hours and staffing levels appropriately. 

2. Schedule from Noon

Scheduling from noon is an appointment best practice that maximizes the productive hours of each day.

When building the day’s schedule, book morning appointments from noon backward and afternoon appointments from noon forward. This consolidates appointments and helps prevent random empty slots throughout the day.

Unscheduled slots at the beginning and end of the day can be used productively as administrative or staff meeting time. Or, you can have staff come in late or leave early to reduce overhead.

3. Prioritize Appointments

Train your scheduling staff in a sort of “phone triage.” When a patient calls for an appointment, rather than scheduling the first available slot, staff should assess the urgency of the patient’s need and how long an appointment they will likely require.

Address less-urgent concerns through phone consultations or telehealth appointments. This saves the patient the trouble of coming into the office, and keeps in-person slots available for patients with more urgent or complex needs.

After implementing Nextech’s telehealth tool, Schlessinger MD in Omaha found virtual visits are actually preferred by younger patients. It’s been a game changer for managing patient volume; the practice often conducts 40 to 50 telehealth appointments per day.

4. Reserve Emergency Slots

One of the challenges of scheduling for healthcare is being available to handle emergencies. It’s frustrating for patients with an urgent need to be turned away or sent to the ER.

This is another advantage to scheduling from noon. Keep specific appointment slots, such as early morning or end-of-day, open for urgent cases. If the slots aren’t filled, staff can leave early or use the time for administrative work.

5. Schedule Follow-up Appointments Immediately

When a provider knows they will need to see a patient again, they should make every effort to get the next appointment scheduled before the patient leaves the clinic.

The earlier the patient gets on the books, the more likely they can be seen in the preferred time frame. There is no more convenient time to make the appointment than when they are already in the office.

6. Implement Appointment Self-Scheduling

In our on-demand world, patients often find it inconvenient to have to carve out time during your office hours to call for an appointment. Nextech’s practice management software allows online patient appointment scheduling, so patients can book when it’s convenient for them.

A simple, AI-powered questionnaire in the scheduling tool can assess urgency and likely appointment duration, so the patient is offered a selection of appropriate times. If human judgment is required, the tool can instruct the patient to call instead.

Empowering patients to choose their own appointment slots can increase patient satisfaction. It may also discourage no-shows, as it’s easy for the patient to click over and log the appointment in their personal calendar.

7. Reduce Call Volume with AI Chatbots

Adding a chatbot to your online booking form reduces the need for patients to speak with a staff member. The AI assistant being developed by Nextech will be able to handle up to 85% of routine questions.

Chatbots can also minimize time filling out paperwork in-office. It can intelligently walk patients through registration and insurance forms, so their data is already in the system when they walk in the door.

8. Use Automation to Reduce No-Shows

No-shows throw off the daily workflow and can lead to lost revenue. Minimize them by establishing a cancellation policy and using automated reminders.

For example, if your office charges a fee for appointments canceled with less than 24 hours’ notice, Nextech’s automated reminder system can text a patient 48 hours in advance to remind them of their appointment.

9. Offer a Waiting List

A waiting list is another way to reduce unproductive downtime due to canceled appointments.

When a patient schedules an appointment, offer the option of being placed on a waiting list for an earlier slot. When an appointment is canceled, it triggers a mass text inviting those on the waiting list to call or go online to switch their appointment to the newly opened slot.

This is an innovative way to keep your schedule full and boost patient satisfaction.

10. Automate Patient Recall

Nextech Advanced Analytics connect EHR and practice management data in one place to track when a patient is due for an exam. If the patient hasn’t scheduled, the system can send an automated message reminding them to book their appointment.

Automating these reminders not only keeps your schedule full, it creates better health outcomes by encouraging patients to get their routine care.

Streamlining Patient Appointment Scheduling with Nextech

Nextech’s powerful EHR and practice management tools are specifically designed for medical clinics in dermatology, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, orthopedics, and med spa.

This specialty-specific approach promotes efficiency by offering staff exactly what they need. McKnight Eye Centers in Kansas City experienced a 20% average time savings per patient thanks to the scheduling and charting efficiencies of Nextech’s ophthalmology EHR. 

Nextech’s tools reduce friction at every stage of medical scheduling.

  • Automated data collection records details like the patient’s name, insurance, and reason for being seen. The data flows directly into the EHR, connecting the patient’s entire health record to the appointment. All the information the provider may need is available at a glance.
  • Nextech’s drag-and-drop scheduling interface is easy to use. Scheduling staff can easily see provider availability and connect patient and provider at the most convenient time.
  • Using Nextech’s patient portal, patients can schedule their own appointments from wherever they are. The portal makes it easy to ask questions and exchange messages with providers, even outside office hours.
  • Automated outreach reminds patients of their appointments without using staff time. Patients can choose email, text, or phone calls for their reminders, so they won’t miss the message.
  • It’s best to schedule follow-ups at the time of the initial appointment, but that’s not always possible. When a follow-up is required, an automated message can invite the patient to self-schedule using the online portal.

Scheduling Patients Effectively Takes a Holistic Approach

There is no single best practice to patient appointment scheduling. It takes a holistic combination of tools, technologies, and processes to remove bottlenecks and keep a clinic’s schedule moving smoothly.

Nextech’s specialty-specific tools strengthen scheduling and so much more. From marketing to billing to revenue management, see what Nextech can do for you.