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Expert Interview with Martina Skelly Of Yellowschedule

Scheduling cycle As the medical industry continues to get more and more competitive, it is essential to streamline and optimize every step of a medical practice from the front desk to the billing room. The scheduling cycle is an often overlooked step in the revenue cycle, making it a prime area for an overhaul.

YellowSchedule is a dedicated scheduling software that optimizes every step of the scheduling cycle for maximum efficiency.

We spoke to YellowSchedule’s co-founder Martina Skelly about their software, the scheduling cycle in general, and some scheduling opportunities to keep your patients up to date, informed, and coming back.

To begin, can you introduce us to YellowSchedule? When was your company founded? What need did you perceive that you set out to fill?

YellowSchedule is an Online Scheduling and Client CRM tool for therapists. We streamline the appointment-booking process for therapists and their customers.  Our average customer sees an increase in revenue of 22% within 2 months of starting to use YellowSchedule due to increased bookings and reduced no shows.

YellowSchedule was founded in 2012 from personal experience. My eldest child started having hearing problems that were causing issues at school. I missed a key appointment with the specialist after waiting 6 months for it, and I was very struck by how inefficient the current system was for both the service provider and the patient. I hadn’t received a reminder, and I could only book over the phone for a new appointment.

Having previously worked designing systems for online booking in the accommodation sector, I felt that medical scheduling was lagging far behind. I conducted a market feasibility study which convinced me that there was a gap there for an easy-to-use tool – a tool that wasn’t an EHR, was intuitive, didn’t have a steep learning curve, and was designed for smaller practices and sole traders in the medical field. I decided that the best person to team up with was my brother Michael Skelly, who had a wealth of experience designing systems and integrating communication tools, and crucially had deep experience in security since he had worked on banking systems previously.

YellowSchedule has a number of different and innovative scheduling features, including an easy scheduling interface. What are some of the advantages of having all of your scheduling info in one window?

Getting an overview of the coming day or week is easier when you’re in scheduling view. We offer a daily or a weekly view (our companion app offers a monthly view too). However, it’s also important to be able to navigate to critical information easily from within that view to get background on who is coming in, a quick history of attendance or recent SMS communications, and (for private patients) a snapshot of their payment history.

You also talk about how e-mail and SMS reminders reduces no-shows by 50%. YellowSchedule also gathers responses from patients. What are some ways this is an improvement over the traditional model?

Traditional reminders are really effective, I would have loved one when I missed that appointment for my daughter!  But we can improve on traditional broadcast reminders by using the reminder as an opportunity to get an indication of attendance from patients.  With YellowSchedule, when the automated email reminder goes out to patients, they are invited to click the green button to confirm that appointment or click the red link if they can’t make it and need to cancel.  Similarly, with the SMS reminder patients text Yes to confirm and No to cancel.  We display this information visually in the calendar view.  Our customers can see at a glance who is coming and who is not going to make it.

That’s pretty powerful. It means that practices get to deploy their staff and resources most effectively.  They know in advance who is coming and who cannot make it. They can rebook cancelled time slots and build a history of cancellations and no-shows for their patients. Patients who have confirmed an appointment also feel obliged to keep up that commitment, and it works really well for private patients of removing the gray area around payment for no-shows.

Another of YellowSchedule’s features is online booking, which feeds directly into your calendar. Can you talk about how the 24-hour availability of online booking helps increase the scheduling response rate, as well as the savings of time and resources of freeing up the front desk from having to deal with phones constantly?

Small practices are really busy.  Enabling patient self-scheduling online is one of the easiest ways of cutting down on front desk phone calls. Our data shows that 35% of appointments are made after 6pm.  If you’re not accepting appointments online, that’s lot of appointments that your practice is missing out on. Or you’re going to push these patients through the bottleneck of having to speak with your front desk during business hours.

From a patient convenience point of view, they prefer not having to call the front desk if all they want to do is make a straightforward appointment. Patients can self schedule discreetly from work or from the comfort of their own home.

YellowSchedule offers insights into trends and patient history, like a history of no-shows or broken contact info. You talk about “actionable data” on your homepage. How do these insights translate into actionable data?

Building up a profile of patient no-show information is powerful.  It means that practices can identify patients that are profitable for them, or patients that have a history of cancelling or not turning up.  Having this information makes it easier for practices to make commercial decisions around working with patients that respect the time of the practitioner and the ethos of the practice.

Building up a volume of appointment data allows us to now start analyzing factors such as times of the day or week that people are most likely to no-show. Combining that with demographic information is the next step in smart appointments. For example, if we can see from the data that moms in a certain age group are most likely to no-show during school hours, we can look at offering them appointments that suit their life pattern better and are easier for them to keep. This helps both the patient and the provider.

How can having a good scheduling system in place help patients? Also, in these uncertain times, can you talk a bit about why a customer-focused revenue cycle is essential?

A good scheduling system will automate many of the processes involved in patient care, help you gather important registration information in one central location, and inform patients in a timely manner – all in a way that doesn’t put additional pressure on practice staff.

A customer-focused revenue cycle is critical to minimize non-payments, create a positive experience for patients, and establish the trust and credibility that strengthens the patient relationship. Healthcare plans are changing a lot at the moment. This creates risk and uncertainty for the patient and the provider, especially in terms of the patient share of the bill.  Verifying health benefits prior to the appointment is key to make sure that the final bill is not a surprise for customers. An unexpected bill is likely to be one that is unpaid or difficult to collect.

As the health care industry gets more and more competitive, can you talk about why it is increasingly important for a hospital or practice to be as streamlined as possible? How much time and money might a practice save from having all of their scheduling tools in one place? What are some ways it can actually help a practice MAKE money?

Online scheduling is important to helping practices make money for a variety of reasons.  Patients have choice, so making your service easy and pleasant to access is an important key differentiator in retaining patients and gaining new ones.  Waiting on a busy phone line to make an appointment creates a bad first impression. It takes an average of 1 minute for a patient to self-schedule an appointment online, compared to an average of just over 8 minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone.

Filling empty and cancelled time slots is easier when those slots are available to patients to book.  If your only means of making appointments is via the front desk, you are missing out on all of these after-hours bookings. Staff resources can be used much more effectively, and front desk staff can be allocated toward more complex tasks.

A 2014 Accenture report predicted medical self-scheduling to rise from representing 2.4% of current appointments to 38% by 2019. Health systems that offer patients the ability to book their medical appointments online will be able to divert 80 percent of their appointment volume, on average, through patient self-scheduling.

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