Scheduling appointments for outpatient care can become extremely unorganized if you don’t have the proper systems in place. Learn about the different types of appointment scheduling for your practice.
What Is Appointment Scheduling?
A surge in the demand for healthcare services has a significant impact on the outpatient appointments that medical practices schedule. If your practice is unorganized and does not have a reliable system, you will begin receiving calls from unsatisfied patients and physicians.
For healthcare facilities, it's important to implement the right types of appointment scheduling to help your patients schedule their appointment, as well as deal with patient intake and registration. These systems can greatly reduce the number of delays, and can also help with improving patient satisfaction.
Here are a few ways to schedule patient visits and process paperwork to help you stay ahead of the demand.
Types of Appointment Scheduling for Healthcare
When it comes to outpatient appointment scheduling, there are a few different types that you can use in order to improve your system.
1. Wave Scheduling
The wave system is a queuing method where patients are allocated in batches of 4, 5, or 6 each half hour. The goal of the system is to have all patients in the system at any point in time.
While patients are not given a set appointment time, they are served on a first-come, first-served basis for emergency and urgent medical situations.
This method for scheduling patient visits is to first allocate the first half hour for scheduled appointments, and then leave the second half for patients who walk in. This technique can help your medical staff manage time more efficiently.
The admin can allocate longer appointments that take a longer time in the first half hour and quicker ones in the second.
Here are some additional benefits of using a wave scheduling method.
- Minimal wait time. The amount of time that doctors spend with patients is capped at 20-25 minutes and, even when there are delays, the accumulated effect has little to no effect on the next few hours. Using the wave + walk-in method, you’ll minimize the number of patients who complain because they will receive an assurance that their wait will be short.
- Prevents overcrowding. Unlike most other systems where all your patients are seated in the waiting room, only the patients in the current half-hour wave of appointments will be occupying the waiting area.
- Emergencies and walk-ins. The system allows you to easily allocate time for patients with emergency needs. Also, you have the flexibility to give appointments to patients who walk in.
2. Time Slot Scheduling
With this method, patients can choose a time that works best for them. After they select a time slot, they’re prompted to fill out their contact information. The system then sends them a confirmation email.
When adopting a schedule with time slots, your receptionist has to monitor the schedule and fill in any empty blocks with patients. On the other hand, the patients have the peace of mind knowing that the slot is theirs alone.
3. Stream Scheduling
Time-based or stream-scheduling involves assigning a fixed amount of time to each patient. This guarantees there is a patient available at any given time. It ensures that you have a steady supply of patients and doesn’t let them wait too long.
The amount of time you allocate to each patient depends on the reason for their appointment. Established patients are allotted 10-15 minutes of your appointment, while those with more comprehensive needs are scheduled for 30-45. The extra time is reserved for those that require special attention, such as physicals or first-time visits.
4. Open Booking
Patients are given an open time slot between 10:00 am to 12:00 pm where they can schedule their appointments.
This method of scheduling appointments allows doctors to handle emergencies or critical patients first, and it allows clients to wait less time in waiting rooms, which minimizes customer dissatisfaction.
Here are some additional benefits of using an open booking.
- Improved customer service. With enough historical information, a hospital can advise a patient when the best time is to schedule an appointment. This will ensure the hospital isn't overbooked and that the patient's experience is as pleasant as possible.
- Workforce management. If you are a new medical facility, you may not have the resources to hire a full-time doctor. However, you can boost patient satisfaction by offering an open appointment schedule only when a part-time physician is on duty.
5. Clustering Scheduling
In cluster scheduling, patients are grouped according to their condition or problem. Each group is then given a designated time period or day of the week, making it much easier to manage.
Clustering certain tasks together can help save valuable time. For example, you could have an injection cluster, a procedural one, a physical exam, or an antenatal clinic. These can all be done on the same day, but you’ll need to have the necessary staff, equipment, and quick turnaround times in place.
A cluster schedule is a method used by busy hospitals, doctors, and other medical service providers to manage their time. It allows them to treat multiple patients with the same ailment or problem at once, reducing their average wait time.
6. Double Scheduling
If your patient has an urgent medical issue, you can double book them with another similar case. This allows them to receive immediate care.
A diagnostic procedure like an EKG is the perfect opportunity because it's often given a fixed time slot. Similarly, double booking an appointment can work if someone else can cater to the urgent matter.
Allot Time for Walk-Ins
One of the main issues that outpatient facilities face is how to deal with walk-ins. On one hand, you don't want to turn away potential customers, but on the other hand, you don't want to overbook your schedule and cause delays.
One solution is to build time into your schedule for walk-ins. This way, you can still accommodate them without disrupting the rest of your schedule.
There are a few different ways to do this, and which one you choose will depend on your specific needs.
One option is to set aside a certain number of appointments each day for walk-ins. This way, you know exactly how many walk-ins you can accommodate and can plan your schedule accordingly.
Another option is to set aside a certain amount of time each day for walk-ins. For example, you could set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon for walk-ins. This way, you can still accommodate them without disrupting the rest of your schedule.
How to Make an Effective Schedule
Create a List of Tasks
Start by creating a list of all the tasks that need to be completed in a day or week. This will help you identify what needs to get done and when.
Then, prioritize those tasks by order of importance. Once the most important tasks are identified, break them down into smaller goals that can be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe.
From there, create deadlines for each task and goal. Make sure to give yourself some wiggle room in case unforeseen circumstances arise—but try your best to stick to the plan!
Adjust as Needed
Finally, don't be afraid to adjust it as needed. Schedules should always remain flexible since our lives rarely go according to plan!
Tips for Using Different Types of Appointment Scheduling Tools
When it comes to making appointments, using an appointment scheduler can be a lifesaver. But as with anything, there is a learning curve.
Here are some tips for your team to get the most out of their experience with different types of appointment scheduling apps.
1. Enter the Correct Information
This may seem like a no-brainer but it's important nonetheless. Remember that you're dealing with other people's time here so being accurate is key.
2. Schedule Reminders
Whether it's via email, text message, or even a phone call, setting up reminders will help ensure that patients remember their upcoming appointments.
3. Double Check Your Schedule
This goes hand in hand with number one - accuracy is crucial when inputting data into an online scheduler. By taking these few extra minutes to verify everything, you can avoid any potential mix-ups down the road.
By following these tips, you can maximize the efficiency and convenience of using an appointment scheduler.
Whether you're setting up an appointment with a patient or colleague, taking the time to learn how to use these tools correctly will save you time and hassle in the long run.
Pro Tip: Streamline your medical scheduling with Upvio appointment scheduling software. It offers comprehensive control of services, staff, locations, and shifts, helping to eliminate conflicts, double bookings, and unnecessary communication. This frees up front desk staff to focus on patient care and custom notifications to avoid no-shows.
Scheduling appointments and patient processing are complex processes that require careful planning and preparation. Without a proper system in place, healthcare facilities are losing out on potential income through missed and canceled bookings and unsatisfied patients.
If you're looking for a way to streamline your appointment scheduling, there are many different types of appointment scheduling tools available.
If you manage a team of any size, then chances are good that you could benefit from using Upvio scheduling and telemedicine software. This software is designed to help teams large and small stay organized and on track by providing an easy way to schedule appointments and keep track of medical appointments.
In addition, the software also offers features such as online check-in, which can save time for both patients and staff.