Cancellations in Bad Weather? You May Need A Specialist to Help Fill Open Slots

Cancellations in bad weather? You may need a specialist to help you fill open slots. If you work in operations in a healthcare provider organization, then you know how bad it can get when the weather gets bad. Patients cancel or need to be rescheduled. Holes in the calendar have to be filled to avoid costly downtime. The phones are jammed and you might also be short-staffed.

Here’s how an actual medical practice in Baltimore is responding with technology:

We are a busy practice, and patients expect to wait at least three to four weeks for an appointment in the best of circumstances. Like any practice in our area, we get cancellations as soon as there is a hint of bad weather. But we hardly get stuck with any open slots. At least not for very long. As soon as someone cancels, the opening is posted on Everseat, and usually not more than a minute or two later an existing patient or even a new patient clicks on it to indicate they want to take that appointment. Our office is notified in real time and can determine in a matter of minutes whether it makes sense to fit them into that slot or to accommodate them in some other way. How do these patients know our available appointments are posted on Everseat? When they call us or visit the office, we tell them about it. We say that they can opt in for digital notification of available open slots. At any given time, we have dozens of people who have chosen to be pinged on their smartphone when something convenient for their specifications opens up. When they get in, they feel like they won the appointment lottery. And we are delighted because we are here to take care of our patients and there is nothing we would rather be doing.IMG_0781_2

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you cope with weather chaos or think about what you will do when it next comes your way:

  •    When patients start canceling, you need an efficient and reliable way to replace them with the right patients in the right slots.
  •    Using the phones to find the right patients on short notice is not easy. And it’s probably not working. At least not well enough.
  •    If your practice is closing due to weather, re-booking all of those patients will tie up your staff and your phones for hours.
  •    As great as your EHR or other tools are for many things, for this job you need technology, strategy and expertise
  •    With Everseat, you can automate the entire process. You will get more done in less time; for the practice and the patients.

Everseat partners with health and wellness provider organizations of all sizes across the United States. We want to work with you. Email us at We can have you up and ready before bad weather hits again.

Is a Swiss Army Knife the Best Solution?

Is a Swiss Army knife the best tool to have in the tool kit? Is it in fact the tool kit? I recently had a debate with someone about this question and I could see how one might think that the venerable brand is the one…the only. Indeed, when I think about my first Swiss Army knife – I remember day-dreaming about how I’d use all of the tools that come included. A “complete package” for anything I might encounter – from fixing a picnic table to tunneling out of Alcatraz, and maybe even opening a bottle of wine as well.

There is no doubt that this ultimate utility tool has captured the imagination of generations; but where does the utility end? Is the all-in-one really the way to go even for the ultimate outdoor enthusiast?

It occurs to me that some companies in the robust and varied healthcare software industry are the software analog to the Swiss Army knife. I’ve seen digital advertisements for systems that seem to claim they solve every problem under the sun. It would be great if they did with the daunting challenges we are all working on in healthcare. Watching the insurance climate as well as the changing landscape of patient expectations, I wake up every morning thankful that I am involved in an incredibly dynamic sector. I also wake up increasingly skeptical that anyone can build an all-in-one tool like a Swiss Army knife that will really perform as advertised.

My focus – and the focus of our amazing team at Everseat – continues to be matching up supply and demand – which is a fancy way of saying “we do scheduling.” Specialization does not mean a narrowing focus. On the contrary – we provide custom applications and processes for every single provider we encounter because the genius of digital solutions is that they are adaptable to meet the needs and the goals of the user. Some of our customers use Everseat to share information about late cancellations; and others use it to increase access to every-day appointments via their website. We relish the opportunity to get inside the chess game each customer is playing about how to expand access and increase efficiency at the same time. We are experts at making it easier for patients to get the appointments they need, and helping the practice to maximize the use of a very busy schedule.

I loved my Swiss Army knife. In fact, I still take it with me on trips with my boys where anything is possible and you never know which tool you may need. But in healthcare technology, I am grateful that provider organizations and practice management platforms continue to turn to specialists like Everseat seeking innovative partnerships. I admire ambition but I am skeptical of any company out there claiming that their system does it all. We do what we do best. We see that it makes an immediate and a lasting difference for patients and providers alike.


Reimbursement Just Got Easier

For healthcare delivery to work, doctors and their colleagues in a wide variety of professions need to get paid for their work. Makes sense, right? The system of properly compensating caregivers is the source of unending consternation and real uncertainty. And patients suffer more than anyone when the payment system doesn’t work well – not an outcome that is acceptable to anyone involved.

One link in the chain that is irrefutably essential is the process of communicating to a provider the precise insurance coverage for which a patient is eligible. For more than a year, we have been asking patients and their families that seek appointments via Everseat to provide their insurance coverage information when they sign up for our free apps on mobile and web platforms.

Starting today, Everseat will give providers real time verification of patients’ eligibility for the coverage they have indicated that they have. This means if you are a provider posting appointments on Everseat, you will be told at the time the appointment is requested whether the stated coverage is in fact up-to-date and accurate; and you will be updated again 24 hours before the appointment occurs. Simply put – this means the doctor gets easier access to reimbursement for the services provided, and the patient gets easier access to care. We are proud to deliver this seamless experience through a technology partnership between PokitDok and the team here at Everseat.

If you are a patient, this is great news for you as well. Know that reliable, timely access to open appointments with the providers you need to see is now even more reliable and timely – and is still at the tip of your fingers – with Everseat.



Riding in the Fast Lane Towards Patient Satisfaction

The best experience I have ever had with valet parking happened to me while visiting a major healthcare system in New England last week. And it got me thinking: I wonder if the entire process of being a patient could be as well designed as the system this terrific institution has set up for parking your car.

I was visiting this particular medical center to talk with members of its leadership team about improving operating efficiency and patient satisfaction by deploying some new digital tools and strategies we have developed at Everseat.

Valet is nice – and I think most people are used to seeing this at certain restaurants and hotels. Valet parking for doctor’s appointments is thoughtful and is surely appreciated. People are generally on edge, maybe emotional and likely not 100% healthy. Wonderful idea. I have also seen valet at LifeBridge Health (an Everseat client) in Baltimore.

So – this medical center in New England has a particularly phenomenal valet parking service for cars that pull up to the front door; but what struck me about this otherwise familiar experience was the check out. When I handed the cashier my valet ticket, she scanned it with a handheld device, and this process automatically triggered a notification to the garage attendants who were a quarter-mile away. No phone call. No college kid taking my keys and sprinting across the campus. A simple ping. A signal. A digital notification that carried all of the information required to have my car brought right to me. How clever!

A bit of a devlish smile crossed my face. What if making an appointment here was just as easy as getting your car back after you were finished seeing your doctor? That is exactly the conversation we had been engaged in – and this institution clearly has both the patient experience and the use of smart technology top of mind. Everseat, I demonstrated to the leaders of a variety of service lines from primary care, urology, neurology and many others, is a software platform that helps notify nearby patients when a physician they want to see has an open appointment. A simple ping alerts patients that need to get in to see their primary care doctor, dermatologist, OBGYN, neurologist, physical therapist, or anyone else important to their health. You get the point. Could we help these thoughtful administrators create a system of patient access that was as seamless and satisfying as the way their valets go about reuniting patients with their cars? The answer is yes.

I left the meeting feeling optimistic – the leadership of this medical center saw the value in the Everseat software platform and how it would enhance their ongoing work on improving efficiency and access. When my ticket stub in the hands of the cashier triggered a digital notification to the garage crew that I needed my Ford Fusion back, I knew the odds of my success helping these healthcare leaders meet their goals were very good.

Thoughtful ideas are everywhere. This group is taking valet parking to a new level, and something tells me that their patients are very appreciative.


Identifying and Solving Patient Access Problems

As the technology around us continues to advance, our lives continue to become more efficient. Now more than ever, things like transportation, shopping and dining are increasingly accessible to consumers. However, the medical field has lagged behind these other industries. Why is that?

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, more citizens have become insured thus increasing the demands for health care. Alarmingly the average patient must wait 18 days for a physician and in some high-density cities such as Boston; the wait time is as high as 66 days for an appointment. Long waits to access care endanger patient well-being and damage health systems’ reputations and finances.

But don’t fear, there are solutions to embrace. Acknowledging the necessity for change in health care is simple, but how would a successful health care system go about acting on this knowledge?

Creating a specific approach aimed at accessibility and efficiency is the first step. Hospitals and health systems that develop patient-centered scheduling systems will reap the extraordinary benefits of a healthier and more satisfied patient base.

Our recent white paper—How Accessible is Your Health System? Identifying and Solving Patient Access Problems—describes the challenges of creating a more accessible health system, and explores the latest solutions. Learn how to move your own health system toward greater accessibility with emerging technology and improved protocols.




Not Just Docs: Healthcare Reform Affects Staff, Too

The Affordable Care Act continues to bring millions of new patients into hospitals and medical practices by extending coverage to the previously uninsured. In fact, nearly 60 percent of primary care physicians are seeing more patients who are newly insured under a private plan or Medicaid. And it’s not just patient volume that’s changing — the way care must be delivered is changing, too, requiring more accountability and transparency on the part of providers.

To be sure, doctors are feeling that pressure. But how have these changes affected support staff at practices and hospitals?

Patients don’t understand their plans
Consider this: some sources report that more than 15 million Americans who didn’t have health coverage before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law were covered by the end of open enrollment in 2014. That’s great, but many of these patients are unclear about what is or isn’t covered by their plans.

As you well know, even people who have had health insurance their whole lives often have questions about the details of their coverage. So those who are new to the system understandably require explanation of certain aspects of what they’re paying for. Although support staff aren’t hired to be insurance educators for patients, they’re increasingly accepting that role during the check-out process, and those conversations take time.

Practices must decide which plans to take
Practice managers and administrators must navigate the particularities of individual plans offered on the new healthcare exchanges in order to determine which ones to accept — a time-consuming task under any circumstances, made more so by the sheer volume of new insurance offerings on the exchanges.

Collection is getting harder
The responsibility for collecting payment has shifted more heavily from insurance companies to individual practices and hospital staff as patient accountability for payment has increased with the rise in popularity of high deductible health plans (HDHPs). Indeed, as many as 17.4 million people held HDHPs as of January 2014. Today, billing department representatives must spend more time trying to hunt down payments from patients. With the size of the average deductible more than doubling over the last eight years — from just under $600 to over $1,200 — many patients experience sticker shock when their bill arrives, and may even avoid paying for as long as possible because they simply don’t have the money. And, by all accounts, HDHPs are here to stay.

Widespread pre-authorizations aren’t going away
Prior authorizations (PAs) for tests and procedures aren’t new, but the frequency with which these often time-consuming processes are required is increasing, resulting in millions of potential hours of lost productivity. According to one estimate, that adds up to 868.4 million hours of physician time, plus untold additional staff hours, spent on this task. Many expect the problem to get worse, with some physicians now facing PA requirements for generic drug prescriptions, or prescriptions for medications that patients have been on for a long time.

“Customer” is king
A key element of the ACA is the tenet that patient engagement and satisfaction scores — determined by patient survey responses and patient reported outcomes — will factor in to how hospitals and practices receive reimbursements going forward. That means that greater attention is now being paid to delivering a better patient experience, from more personalized attention by front desk staff and administrators to facility cleanliness, waiting room pleasantness, and more. With some experts predicting that as many as one-third of hospitals will close over the next five years, partly due to poor patient experiences and reviews, the importance of patient satisfaction has never been more important.

Securing patient data is growing more complex
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has been around for nearly two decades, and when it was first passed, paper records for patients were the norm. Today, electronic records have taken hold, with nearly 71 percent of physicians having adopted EHRs at the end of 2014. Electronic records require careful security measures, including password management, standardized policies on who gets access to what information, and how records can be accessed (via mobile device, etc.) as well as regular assessments of security risks — not only to prevent breaches but also to make practices and hospitals both compliant with HIPAA and eligible to attest to meaningful use.

Medicare and Medicaid compliance programs are required, not optional
Due to ACA’s Section 6401 mandate that all providers establish a Medicare/Medicaid compliance program, support staff are now on the hook not just to establish such programs, but also to manage them in order to ensure proper billing as part of a waste-fraud-abuse-inefficiency reduction strategy. Effective compliance is also key to improving the experience — and ultimately, the patient-generated review of care — of patients who are covered under a Medicare or Medicaid plan.

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Support staff — the unsung heroes of any medical practice — are facing just as much pressure as doctors because of the changes caused by healthcare reform.

Is your practice feeling the strain of increased patient volume? To discover how Everseat can help relieve the pressure of more appointments on your scheduling system, get in touch today. Everseat has helped practices nationwide reduce cancellations and missed appointments and improve the bottom line.