Put yourself in the shoes of your average patient… you wake up, check your emails and maybe even pay a bill from your smartphone. Your iPhone dings to remind you of your medical appointment at 9 am. You check Google Maps to see how long the ride is and order an Uber. You scan the GPS tracked progress of your Uber’s arrival while you check your steps on your Fitbit. Your Uber car arrives on time, to the minute. No need to pull out your cash for the Uber driver when he drops you off at the practice, that was prepaid over the internet. You walk into the practice, say hello to the receptionist, and she hands you… a wooden clipboard.
While we unwedge tongue from cheek, the legitimate question has to be asked: why is the average medical practice office often so barren of modern, time saving, cost saving technology? In the adjoining rooms there are tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of cutting-edge medical equipment, and yet smart technology isn’t brought into the waiting room.
Traditional methods for dealing with patient admins are clearly inadequate, with 85% of patients reported seeing their healthcare provider between 10 to 30 minutes past their scheduled appointment time. Little wonder 63% of people report that their biggest stressor about visiting their medical practice is waiting. And this affects you: If their appointment is running behind, you’re running behind, and you are leaking revenue.
If you decide to upgrade your practice’s technology, here are the top priorities.
Let Them Book Online
Consumers (especially the 80 million millennials) today are used to dealing with seamless interfaces that enable them to make choices in their own time, without having to rely on a human on the other end of a phone line. And you’ve spent all time and money on your snazzy website, so why not make it easy for them to book an appointment online?
Place a ‘Book an Appointment’ button prominently on each page of your website (you can even experiment with design and placement!). Find an online booking platform that integrates with your front office calendar for optimal efficiency. Once you go digital, automatically send email and text appointment reminders to eliminate costly no-shows.
Digital intake forms allow your patient to either fill out their intake form from at home via an online portal or email, or in the waiting room via a tablet/iPad supplied by you. We’d recommend you encourage them to fill it out at home, as they are more likely to have all of their medical and insurance information on hand. It also saves having to wait for them to fill it out in reception.
Getting patients’ information a day or two earlier than usual also gives you ample opportunity to check their insurance benefits. Since it’s automated, you’ll save time and money on administration and declutter those binders threatening to fall on the front office staff’s head from the shelves above. Last, don’t underestimate the effect on your patients; a modern booking and intake experience presents you as a modern, professional, and cutting-edge practice.
There are two main caveats to consider when implementing digital intake forms. First, the digital intake service provider you choose will have to be compliant with HIPAA, PIPEDA, etc. Second, storing all of that sensitive patient information on a single hard drive is both risky and cumbersome.
Cloud computing, or cloud storage, simply means that your data is uploaded from your computer’s hard drive to another array of hard drives belonging to the cloud storage service. At first glance, that might sound less than secure, but the opposite is actually true. Data is encrypted, and the cloud computing services have multiple redundancies so your data doesn’t get lost in the ether.
Most plans are extremely inexpensive:
Dropbox – First 2GB free. Business Plans start at US$15 per month.
Box – First 10GB free. Business Plans start at US$15 per month for unlimited storage.
Google Drive – First 30GB free. US$1.99/month for 100GB, US$9.99 per month for 1TB.
Paperwork can become a dirty word in your office, and every form, file and facsimile can be uploaded to the cloud, saving time and space. And because your files are accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection, you don’t have to be in your office to get the information you need. It also means you can share files with your colleagues on the go.
A Few Extra Courtesies
It’s the small things that count in customer service, and technology can certainly help in that department. Best of all, once you set up the processes, it’s all automated, so you can look incredibly thoughtful and helpful without lifting a finger.
If a patient books online through your website, send a few emails over the following days letting them know about what they should expect when becoming a patient at your practice. Going to a medical practice for the first time can often be daunting, so guiding them through that process will put them at ease.
Send them a quick text the day before their appointment to remind them when and where it is. If you or the practice is running behind on the day, you could text them to advise that you are running 15 minutes late.
While this may sound like a lot of upgrades to make at once — online booking, digital intake, emailed appointment reminders, automating the process with an all-in-one platform that integrates with your front office software will save your staff time, and you money. Regardless of how you choose to take your office into the 21st century, and whether you start small or do one big overhaul, we promise it’ll optimize your efficiency and practice reputation.