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 providers@everseat.com. We can have you up and ready before bad weather hits again.

Better Slot Utilization is Easier With New Technology. Do it Right. Now.

Tens of millions of people catch as many as a billion colds every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So curing the cold would be quite a breakthrough – and scientists say that day may come sooner than you think. Of course, while we are waiting, we know that millions of people will be trying to schedule appointments with their doctors, unsure whether or not the symptoms they are battling are actually something worse. And millions of doctors have unfilled appointment slots that they struggle to fill in an efficient manner. Too often, nobody wins!

So when is the big breakthrough coming in the seemingly simple task of making an appointment to see a doctor?

The good news is that the answer is right now. More and more healthcare providers are using modern methods of making convenient appointment times available to their patients who may be in the throes of “sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching” and – you get the idea.

According to a recent industry report, “by the end of 2019, 66% of US health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64% of patients will book appointments digitally”. The study predicted that by 2019, 100% of the 100 largest healthcare delivery systems in the U.S. would offer digital scheduling to patients.

Why are caregivers finally taking this leap forward? A few reasons.

We have the technology! The technology is available to move beyond the 1876 innovation of Alexander Graham Bell. Ring, ring! We can now harness the power of the internet to efficiently connect us all with what we need, when we need it. Simply put, it works. Patients don’t want, nor do they have time, to be on the phone. An Accenture study found that the average healthcare appointment scheduling call is over 8 minutes and a caller is likely to get transferred during the call 63% of the time. Infuriating. And no longer necessary, much of the time.

Power to the Patients! Patients have demanded this change. A recent survey found that 44 percent would choose a doctor that allows them to schedule appointments online. More patients than ever before are voting with their feet, and either switching doctors if we find it hard to make an appointment; or going to rival urgent care centers and other alternatives.

The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line! Healthcare provider organizations lose significant potential revenue when they fail to fill slots. At a conference in New England where Everseat was present, a prominent hospital executive reported that his institution sees 1500 to 2,000 appointment slots wasted every week. Imagine the lost revenue. Some say digital scheduling will mean “$3.2 billion in value and a competitive boost for health systems” and it comes from filling slots.

In one orthopedics group we work with at Everseat, when you call to schedule an appointment and find yourself on hold, you will hear something like this:

“Thank you for calling. Please know that you do not have to wait on hold to make an appointment. You can hang up right now and go straight to our website because we post many of our upcoming open appointment slots right there, powered by Everseat. With a few clicks, you will be able to select an appointment that works for you, or let us know that you want to be alerted as soon as one opens up.”

Who knew something that seems so simple as going online to point and click on a website or a mobile app would pass as a major breakthrough! But it makes things easier and could actually make us all healthier too. And again, the business case speaks for itself. With cold season coming, these are compelling reasons for change – and nothing to sniff at, if you pardon the pun. For healthcare providers, this is serious business.

Now if getting rid of the common cold were only as easy. Here’s hoping that those researchers figure it out soon.

If you are with a healthcare provider organization and would like to learn more about what Everseat can do to maximize schedule utilization for you, please see our website at www.everseat.com for videos and more information. If you are someone who just wants to make getting appointments easier – download the Everseat app and follow the directions right to your next doctor’s visit. Thank you.

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.

 

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How Tech-Savvy Practices Reduce No Show

How Tech-Savvy Practices Reduce No Shows

You know that last-minute cancellations and no-shows are costly for you and terrible for patient care and satisfaction. Most practices — some still using legacy scheduling systems and attached to old processes — are just living with the frustration and revenue loss of this chronic problem, chalking it up to a “cost of doing business.” But some tech-savvy practices are mitigating or even solving the challenge.

Let’s take a look at some of the creative approaches these practices are taking.

Reminders, Reminders, Reminders
It happens — patients forget their appointments. That’s where appointment reminders come in. Practices have seen moderate success in reducing appointment no-shows by adding text, email, or phone reminders to the scheduling process. Most automated reminder systems can be customized to deliver messages via any modality that is right for your patient population.

Telemedicine and Phone Visits
Another reason patients no-show? Accessibility. Common barriers include limited transportation options and illness of a family member. One solution when patients simply cannot get to you may lie in the embrace of telemedicine.

Today, 48 states and Washington, D.C., provide some form of Medicaid reimbursement for telehealth services, and 32 (plus D.C.) have some form of private payer policy in place. Some reports indicate that seven million will use telemedicine services in 2018 (up from just 350,000 in 2013). It’s about better service quality, and getting started may not be as costly as you think.

Appointment Management and Scheduling Software
By the time 2020 rolls around, two-thirds of U.S. health systems could be offering digital self-scheduling, and almost as many patients could be booking their medical appointments online.

Self-scheduling is beneficial to patients and providers alike. Patients feel it’s easier to manage their appointments and can do it from their mobile device, and providers save time and money by fielding fewer phone calls. Plus, as the telephone ceases to be the primary tool used on smartphones, scheduling appointments by a touch of the screen is going to be the new normal, and for many, it already is.

Simply put, practices that take advantage of technology like appointment reminders, telehealth services, and self-scheduling systems offer better patient service, and are better able to reduce missed appointments.

Want to learn more about how digital tools can help you reduce costs and make scheduling more convenient for your patients? Contact us today.

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How to Determine ROI for Health IT Investments

How to Determine ROI for Health IT Investments

It’s an encounter that nearly every independent physician has had by now at least once: the sales pitch for a tech solution that will improve the way the practice runs. The promises are big — simplicity, efficiency, “painless” billing, seamless appointment-booking — and as the medical technology industry continues to grow, it seems likely that the capabilities of these products will, too. It’s certainly growing: EvaluateMedTech’s World Preview 2015 forecasts that worldwide sales will reach over $477 billion by 2020.

Another familiar moment for doctors? The sticker shock when glimpsing the price tag on a shiny new EHR, patient portal, or online scheduling tool. For example, HealthIT.gov quotes the cost of purchasing and installing an EHR at as high as $70,000. But by some estimates, implementing an EHR could cost over $163,000 for a single doctor. And that’s before factoring in software licensing, training, and maintenance fees, not to mention unforeseen costs. Patient portals, too, are expensive to initiate, yet can ultimately encourage your patients to be more engaged with their care.

With all this money — and time, for training, onboarding, and testing — the inevitable question arises: Is this new technology I’m about to invest in worth it? Or, to put it another way, how can I determine the return on my investment? Though every software product and service out there is a little different, it is possible to calculate the ROI of your tech investment by considering the following framework.

Identify cost centers the technology is meant to alleviate — and calculate how much those pain points are costing you today.
What functions of your practice are the most time-consuming — and ultimately the costliest? Is it fielding patient phone calls on your scheduling line? Or are bottlenecks in your recordkeeping process disrupting the flow of patient paperwork? If you’re already keenly aware of where operational inefficiencies lie in your practice, then begin to investigate just how much these inefficiencies are costing you on a monthly and yearly basis. Knowing where a new solution is needed and knowing how much a given process is costing you now gives you a measuring stick against which to compare any costs associated with a new technology.

Make a reasonable estimate of what costs will be post-implementation.
Of course, vendors selling you EHR technology and other software will promise the moon, including low costs for getting up and running, then maintaining the system they tout. You’ve heard it before: “cut your collection time in half,” or “reduce average hold times to less than 30 seconds per caller.” Remember, companies want your money and your signature on the dotted line, and if their reps think that quoting phenomenal results will put the pen in your hand, they won’t hesitate to tell you about the absolute best performance scenarios they’ve got. So remember to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to whatever sample numbers you’re being given. That said, those numbers aren’t a bad place to start when you sit down to make your evaluation of how a given piece of software will affect your monthly and yearly costs.

Don’t forget to factor in time.
Many doctors on the other side of a tech adoption process don’t take into account how much time it takes to prepare for, implement, and train staff on its use. During the ramp-up phase, you might be less productive than you were before you added the technology. Additionally, in the case of a new EHR implementation, depending on the size of the practice and technology used for converting existing patient records into digital files, it can take months (and staff overtime or outside help) to successfully scan and properly store every record. And remember — just because your patients’ data is saved in electronic form doesn’t mean that their paper files can be destroyed immediately. Depending on the state and the capability of your EHR to provide full copies of a patient record, you may still be required to retain paper records for up to five years.

Be realistic about the degree to which the technology will be used.
One of the longstanding concerns associated with technology in the healthcare sphere is that patients and providers will shy away from use — for doctors because of fears that it may hinder their efficiency and communication with patients more than it helps, for patients because they don’t see the benefit, and for both because the technology may feel too difficult to learn. Indeed, Deloitte reports that while nine out of 10 doctors say they are interested in mobile health technology, only about 24 percent are actually using such tools. And the majority of Americans say they aren’t yet using a patient portal. So it’s important to be mindful of how quickly adoption will follow implementation.

Despite the cost and effort associated with a successful implementation, health IT tools are undeniably the wave of the future, especially as patients get more plugged in and their expectations begin to change. And there are major payoffs to using tools that work well — 79 percent of providers said that an EHR improved their practice efficiency. It’s critical to use the framework above to guide your decision-making about any new technology to make sure that the product is realistic to your practice and its unique expenses. There are also lots of good ROI templates and forecasting calculators out there these days that can help you navigate. If you’d like to talk more about low-cost ways to improve efficiency and patient satisfaction, we’re here to help, so reach out today.

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3 Innovative Healthcare Models Advancing Personalization

3 Innovative Healthcare Models Advancing Personalization

Are the days of assembly-line healthcare coming to an end? Skeptics would be forgiven for doubting it, as millions of newly insured patients flood a system already burdened by access challenges.

But consider: Advances in genomics are leading to individualized treatments for cancer and other diseases; 3-D printing technology is opening new possibilities for customized medications; and the growth of a range of new healthcare-delivery models — all aimed at making the patient king (or queen) — continues unabated.

Indeed, the personalization of medicine is flourishing today more than ever before. What new models are emerging to advance it, and how can you take advantage of the trend?

Holistic Care
In the new world order of value-based reimbursements and paying providers for outcomes, treating the whole person, mind as well as body, has gained traction.

Following the patient-centric model, in which patients are active participants in their own care, the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) has emerged as a means for facilitating collaboration between patients, their doctors, and their families in order to provide better outcomes. PCMH systems include fewer patients per provider than a typical practice. They get lengthier visits, more detailed preventative recommendations, and better coordination among specialists. The model is appealing to physicians: according to one recent survey, one-third of physician respondents said they were already part of or moving toward becoming part of a PCMH model.

Also gaining interest is the concept of concierge medicine, or “retainer medicine,” in which patients pay a monthly or yearly “membership” fee to providers. In exchange, they become part of an exclusive group of patients who can expect executive-level service from their doctor: lengthy consultations, appointments whenever they need them, even house calls. Frustration over the inability to get face time with the doctor has driven patients’ willingness to pay for a concierge service. And the model seems to be catching on: A 2014 Merritt Hawkins survey of 20,000 physicians showed that 20 percent of respondents said they were either currently practicing a concierge model or planning on doing so in the future. And today there are approximately 6,000 concierge practitioners, up from just 4,400 in 2012.

Retailized Care
Many of us have done it before: turned to a retail clinic at Target or Walmart, CVS or Walgreens, when we have a minor ailment but can’t get in to see our “regular” doctor. Many more will do so in the years to come as the proliferation continues of retail clinics boasting not just a variety of acute illness services and consultations under $100 but also preventive screenings, chronic illness management, infusion services, and more.

The convenience of same-day  appointments or walk-in service sometimes trumps the desire to see the same provider, and the accelerating shift of payment burdens from insurance companies to patients may reduce patient willingness to wait lengthy periods before getting an appointment — all while an ongoing shortage of primary care providers continues to exacerbate the problem of appointment availability.

All signs point to a more “retailized” approach to care continuing to grow: current U.S. retail clinical sales are valued at over $1 billion; mega-pharmacy CVS alone projects opening 1,500 clinic outlets by 2017; and annual retail clinic visits were projected to reach 10.5 million in 2015.

Cash-only Practices
“No insurance? No problem.” The idea of a cash-only practice model is not new: the first iterations sprung up in the early 1990s, and the concept stuck around largely due to provider fatigue from dealing with insurance red tape and a desire to have higher quality relationships with patients. The explosion in patient volume due to reforms under the Affordable Care Act has further shortened the amount of time that primary care doctors have to spend with patients. And though the number of physicians who don’t accept insurance today remains fairly small, it’s growing steadily: in 2013, 6 percent of doctors practiced on a cash-only basis, 2 percent more than the year prior.

And some patients seem intrigued by a model that can enable doctors to provide more in-depth appointments at predictable, flat costs.

The emergence of the modern healthcare consumer, triggered by widespread reforms to the roiling marketplace, has meant that striving for competitive, personalized approaches will remain critical for practices to stay competitive moving forward. This is especially true given that the value-over-volume model shows no signs of fading: according to Medical Economics, 40 percent of commercial in-network payments were tied to performance or “designed to cut waste.” Even hospitals that resisted letting go of fee-for-service contracts are acknowledging that value-based payment is here to stay. In the modern medical marketplace, models that emphasize convenience, accessibility, and the unique needs of the consumer will continue to succeed.

Want to learn how to make your practice more accessible to your patients and more flexible to their individual needs? Contact Everseat to discover tools to boost patient satisfaction and retention.

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Understand the Challenges Facing Your Front Desk Staff

Understand the Challenges Facing Your Front Desk Staff

Your front desk staff: they’re the face of your practice to every patient who walks through the door or calls your phone number. They are the front lines, responsible for everything from greeting patients to managing patient flow to collecting copayments.

The performance of front desk staff directly affects your ability to retain patients — and thus your bottom line, according to practice management expert Elizabeth Woodcock. Yet they’re often among the most overlooked employees in a practice.

It may be an overstatement to say that the ability of your front desk staff to maintain an efficient, frictionless, and welcoming waiting room experience will make or break your practice, but maybe not by much. Indeed, regardless of a patient’s relationship with their doctor, if the front office staff is unpleasant to deal with, that could be one reason why they may consider changing practices.

You’re probably already aware of some of the more obvious challenges faced by your front desk staff — managing inbound phone calls, scheduling, and greeting patients — but your staff are also dealing with issues that you may not have considered. What else are they facing?

Managing patient emotions
A study in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that a “significant portion” of front desk staff’s work involved managing patients’ and families’ emotions, ranging from “confirming a prescription with an angry patient, to congratulating a new mother, to consoling a man whose wife had just died, to helping a mentally ill patient make an appointment.”

Handling call volume and maintaining phone etiquette
Your front desk handles dozens (maybe more than 100) calls a day, and it’s impossible to know how time-consuming an individual call will be. A patient may be calling to confirm the time of an appointment (a less than five-minute call), update their insurance information, or reschedule an appointment. Patients also ask questions about their doctor’s instructions, which may not be something the front desk can answer — but those staff still have to field the calls.

Much has been written (and many phone system solutions developed) to help practices manage their incoming calls and maintain exceptional phone etiquette. Using a patient portal can help significantly reduce call volume by enabling patients to get many of their questions answered online. But few practices have robustly embraced portals. Another way to temper call volume is to offer patients other ways to book, reschedule, or cancel appointments (i.e. an online appointment system or scheduling app).

Managing patient wait times and patient flow
It’s simple: patients hate waiting to see the doctor. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, long waits were among the top 10 gripes that patients have about their doctors. Managing that frustration isn’t so simple.

That’s because it’s not just patient frustration over wait times that receptionists must balance — it’s the needs of the doctors who are juggling increasingly packed schedules and who need help choreographing the flow of patients from the waiting room to the exam room. From using techniques like keeping waiting room patients informed about delays to referring to “scripts” that help guide service during common challenging patient scenarios, receptionists are constantly on their toes keeping patients calm and balancing the flow of traffic somewhere between a trickle and a tsunami.

Complaint resolution
Receptionists are responsible, at least in the immediate, for fielding and responding to complaints about issues ranging from long hold times to the quality of care they’ve received. Balancing empathy for the patient’s situation and determining how best to address it is a drain on energy and time, no matter how experienced a receptionist may be.

In sum, your front desk staff are the unsung heroes of your practice, and they’re key to maintaining efficiency and productivity as well as excellent patient relationships. Don’t forget to spend time acknowledging and evaluating the challenges they face. The effort you spend managing your front desk will pay off handsomely.

For more information about how to make life easier for your receptionists and other front office staff by streamlining the appointment booking process and more, contact Everseat today.

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Missed Appointments Affect More Than Just Revenue

Missed Appointments Affect More Than Just Revenue

Most physicians and practice managers know that missed appointments are bad for business. How bad? Some experts say that these no-shows and late cancellations cost the American healthcare system more than $150 billion per year, and individual practices between $100 and over $1,000 per appointment, depending on specialty and location.

And these figures reflect just lost revenue, not the additional costs associated with lost staff time and sicker patients. Also hidden behind the numbers is the level of frustration experienced by patients who must wait longer to get an appointment because doctor schedules appear full, even though each day brings a few more unfilled seats.

Yes, last-minute appointment cancellations and no-shows drain your bottom line, but their implications lie elsewhere in your practice, too.

Patients don’t get the care they need
We’ve written before about the myriad of reasons why your patients may not be showing up for their doctor visits — money, nerves, or a lack of convenience or appointment availability all can play a role. And these missed appointments have very real, negative implications for their health.

The scope of the problem is enormous: Some 49 million adults skipped recommended care in 2012 because of cost alone.

Some studies have indicated no-show rates in community practices ranging from 5 percent to 55 percent. These missed sessions disrupt continuity and compromise quality of care for the patients who miss the appointments and for those who “would have been scheduled in those appointment slots,” according to Family Medicine.

Patient satisfaction takes a hit
It’s not just the cancellation or no-show who is negatively affected by a missed appointment — the health of other patients, not to mention their opinion of the practice, suffers too. That’s because every missed appointment could have been filled by another (potentially ill) person, increasing the length of time that patients have to wait to see the doctor.

Captain Kim Decker, chief of the Martin Army Community Hospital Healthcare Management Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, puts it succinctly: “An appointment missed by you is an appointment missed by two.” In other words, the person who misses an appointment is likely to need to re-book, and “whoever didn’t get an appointment initially is also still needing one.”

Frustration is more than understandable. The average cumulative wait time to see a family physician in 15 U.S. markets in 2014 was just shy of three weeks. One Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 Americans showed that “difficulty in getting an appointment when sick” ranked among the top five biggest complaints that patients have about their doctors.

Further, the problem may actually compound itself: some studies indicate that no-show rates increased and the “likelihood an appointment would be kept decreased” the further in advance an appointment was scheduled. In other words, missed appointments cause longer wait times, and vice versa.

Your staff loses valuable time
When patients do call to let a practice know that they won’t be able to make their appointment, the great scramble to fill the now-vacant appointment begins. If there is no good system in place to keep track of people on the waiting list hoping for an earlier appointment, the result could be duplicative phone calls, double-booking, or worse, patients could fall through the cracks.

Spending valuable time on a wild goose chase for patients is not cost-effective and takes front desk staff away from their other duties, including greeting and checking in patients as well as communicating with doctors and nurses about the status of the waiting room and more.

Interested in learning more about how to better manage your schedule and reduce missed appointments? Contact Everseat to discuss solutions available to you.

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