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May 5, 2023
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3 min read

Patient scheduling: why it’s time to hang up the phone and embrace digital solutions

Explore how intelligent patient scheduling solutions can improve healthcare efficiency, increase patient satisfaction, and address workforce challenges head-on.

Trevor Jonas
Patient scheduling: why it’s time to hang up the phone and embrace digital solutions

In healthcare, workforce challenges continue to pose significant hurdles to the industry's ability to deliver high-quality, accessible, personalized, and patient-centered care. As an intricate blend of technological advancements, demographic shifts, and policy changes transform the way healthcare is provided, health systems must address the critical issues of talent acquisition, retention, and workforce management. Gone are the days of simply hiring more staff to handle any challenge. 

“Healthcare has been enormously tolerant of cumbersome and bad processes,” said Carle Falk, Head of Research at Notable. “We have a profound manpower shortage in healthcare, whether it's clinical or non-clinical, and there's just no reason why people should be spending their time doing tasks that we can automate.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to patient scheduling. In fact, Notable recently surveyed professionals working at health systems in a variety of patient access roles to understand their views on the current and ideal future state of patient scheduling.

Among the findings: 52% of respondents found it equally difficult to hire for scheduling talent as for other roles, and a whopping 44% reported that it is more difficult or worse. Yet, despite these realities, the bulk of patient scheduling is powered by human labor.

The struggles of traditional patient scheduling methods

Today, most healthcare providers place patient scheduling responsibilities on front desk or call center staff. Typically, staff in these positions are already overloaded with dozens of other responsibilities including receiving and greeting in-person patients, maintaining patient records and accounts, answering phones, responding to emails, referring inquiries to other people or departments, and more.

To make matters worse, healthcare providers are over-reliant on the telephone for patient scheduling. In fact, the same survey found that nearly two-thirds of respondents reported scheduling the vast majority of patient appointments using the telephone. Not only is this an outdated, inefficient method, but it is misaligned with patient preferences.

Consider that 61% of patients reported that hassles in the scheduling process can lead them to forgo care altogether. Hassles include everything from calls going unanswered to being forced to set aside time during normal business hours to make or receive a call to schedule care. 

Embracing intelligent, automated patient scheduling for better outcomes

Health systems that have a significant competitive advantage are those that are focused on meeting patient expectations at every stage of their care journey. That includes the initial patient interaction, the act of scheduling patient care, the care visit itself, and the related follow-up after care is delivered. 

When it comes to patient scheduling, it’s time to put down the telephone. Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation have made it possible for patients to self-schedule their care without the requirement of a phone call. Beyond that, these technologies enable health systems to do outbound scheduling, which has proven to deliver a 4-6x increase in scheduling for care gap closure.

“By leveraging AI to match each patient with the correct provider, Intelligent Scheduling has increased provider adoption of online scheduling,” said Kristen Guillaume, chief information officer at North Kansas City Hospital. “We are excited to expand Intelligent Scheduling across primary and specialty care areas after achieving 99.3% patient satisfaction and scheduling 80,000 appointments within three weeks of deployment.”

Digital patient scheduling solutions can not only simplify the patient experience of finding and scheduling care, but they can proactively nudge patients to schedule recommended care, pended referrals, open orders, or when it is time to return to a clinic. What’s more,  they do all this without placing any additional burden on front desk or call center staff.

Download your free copy of Notable’s report “Hold the phone: It’s time for intelligent, personalized scheduling" to get additional insights into the current and future state of patient scheduling.

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