They say you can’t be all things to all people, but scheduling software has to be—if it’s going to succeed in a medical practice. For starters, it has to work for patients, providers, and schedulers. Ideally, it also works for a practice’s bottom line, helping track patient balances, reducing missed appointments, and allowing double bookings to reduce revenue loss.
There are a variety of scheduling packages out there, so let’s start by looking at the pros and cons of each type.
- Free standalone scheduling tools. There are quite a few free or inexpensive downloadable scheduling apps. They’re priced right and typically easy to install and implement. The problem is they’re not specifically designed for medical practices, so they lack the flexibility and customization needed to schedule efficiently and effectively. In addition, they don’t communicate with other software applications, so you can’t benefit from having current billing or other key information when scheduling.
- Subscription standalone schedule tools. Subscriptions ranging from $30 per month to more than $800 per month are available. Typically, these have more features than free tools, and some are designed specifically for the medical practice environment. However, these have the same problem: they don’t communicate with the rest of your software, including your practice management, billing, and EMR.
- Bundled tools. These tools offer the greatest potential for practices that want to use scheduling to improve their bottom line. Integrated tools boost productivity by tracking eligibility for appointments, helping front office staff manage cancellations, and tracking both resources and providers. They also allow for revenue boosters such as double and triple booking, automated appointment reminders, and cancellation tracking.
Here are some important features to look for when purchasing a scheduling package, in addition to it being integrated with the rest of your systems:
- First-available appointment scheduling (helps patients get seen faster and fills available appointment slots efficiently)
- Drag-and-drop appointment changes (no need to reset dates and times)
- Recurring appointments
- Flexible templates (allows you to customize types of appointments and resources needed)
- Color coding (lets providers quickly see what type of appointments are scheduled that day and what is open)
- Appointment history (helps with billing questions and medication compliance)
- Cancellation tracking (better manage cancellations and identify trends)
- Workflow identifiers (help track the status of patients, providers, and resources)
- Double and triple booking (to ensure no-shows don’t affect your revenue)
Finally, make sure the scheduling package you choose makes it easy to adjust appointment times for each provider. Consultant Carol Stryker notes that arbitrary scheduling according to industry standards is not always productive: “The germane question for scheduling Dr. Jones’ day is ‘How long does a particular type of exam or procedure take Dr. Jones,’” she writes in an article about effective scheduling. READ more about patient scheduling applications.
- “Medical Practice Scheduling Tips to Help Improve the Bottom Line,” BST Accounting blog post
- “Patient Appointment Scheduling Needs Flexibility,” KevinMD.com blog post
- “Effective Scheduling Tips for Your Medical Practice,” Physicians Practice blog post
Last Updated on June 21, 2017