Patient Scheduling Software Buyer's Guide
The Best Patient Scheduling Software Automates and Streamlines the Medical Scheduling Process
By Dan Greenfield, Health Tech Insight
During the course of any given day, your physician practice can expect to encounter many unplanned events and last minute changes. Scheduling is command central to keep your practice running smoothly. In today's healthcare environment, your patient scheduling software has to function like clockwork and expeditiously navigate the overlapping needs of your patients, clinicians and staff.
- Patient scheduling software automates and streamlines the scheduling process for medical practices
- Inefficiency in scheduling costs medical practices time, money and business that can be saved by implementing patient scheduling software.
- Keeping patients waiting is one of the main reasons for patient dissatisfaction and for patients switching providers
- To select patient scheduling software, there are some key questions to ask yourself and vendors to ensure you find the right fit
What This Guide Covers
- Benefits of Scheduling Software
- Implementation Goals
- Basic Patient Scheduling Software Features and Capabilities
- Advanced Patient Scheduling Software Functionality
- Questions to Ask Before You Buy
- The Selection/Evaluation Process
Benefits of Patient Scheduling Software
The inability to easily handle cancellations and no-shows, automatically track appointments or optimize physician availability can do more than disrupt workflow; the wrong patient scheduling system can drive down patient satisfaction, negatively affect staff morale and result in lost opportunities to increase revenue and grow your business. As part of a practice management or integrated EHR solution, it’s critical to identify the right patient scheduling software for your practice. While not exhaustive, this buyer’s guide gives you an overview of features and functions, primary and secondary considerations, and guidance in the evaluation and selection process of patient scheduling software.
Importance of Medical Scheduling Software
It’s estimated that missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year. On average, each 60 minute open or unused time slot can put a physician back $200. Nationwide, providers have no-show rates between five and 30 percent. Of course, no solution can anticipate every scheduling disruption, but you can’t afford to leave money on the table given added pressures that come from rising patient out-of-pocket costs and declining Medicare reimbursement rates. In short, it’s getting more challenging to meet financial targets.
Changing Patient Expectations and New Technologies
Scheduling is increasingly playing an important role in patient care, especially with new expectations and technologies that impact the appointment-making process.
We are witnessing a change in patient expectations as healthcare grows more consumerized. More and more patients are going online to research symptoms and treatments, compare physicians and share experiences (both positive and negative) with review sites like Yelp!, Healthgrades and Vitals.
Doctor’s offices can’t afford to keep patients waiting. A study in the Journal of Medical Practice Management revealed that customer service issues account for 96 percent of patient complaints, while only four percent are about the quality of clinical care or a misdiagnosis.
While overall patient wait times are in fact decreasing, 30 percent of patient respondents in one survey said they have left a medical appointment because the wait time was getting too long. Nearly 20 percent of patients reported changing providers due to long wait times. Patient scheduling software can help patients feel heard and cared about in a way that contributes to value-based care.
Technology is another area that is impacting the scheduling process. It’s estimated that 88 percent of appointments are still made over the phone. While a small fraction of appointments are currently self-scheduled, 77 percent of patients want the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online regardless of time of day.
Some of the areas where technology is playing a big role in healthcare are patient portals, mobile alerts/reminders and third-party scheduling where patients can make appointments on an independent HIPAA-compliant site.
In addition, the emergence of telehealth will change patient expectations by reducing the number of unnecessary in-office visits and freeing up time and space to care for patients who require in-office visits. This saves money and time for both patients and physicians.
Scheduling is more than making and tracking appointments; it’s an essential business and administrative tool that impacts each phase of your patient’s experience with your practice. The right software solution can help with the following goals:
Improve Patient Access
|By allowing patients to schedule their own appointments via a patient portal, they are more connected to the process of their care.|
Reduce Patient Wait Times
|Replacing phone and in-person scheduling procedures with online portals, patients can schedule appointments at times that are convenient for them. They no longer have to be put on hold or wait in line to schedule care.|
Improve Staff Efficiency and Practice Productivity
|Color-coded time slots, drag-and-drop features and a single streamlined system for scheduling appointments make it easy for your staff to get repetitive tasks done quickly and correctly.|
Improve Patient Flow
|Patient scheduling software will often include patient check-in modules so patients can fill out forms before they come to the office, reducing wait time and lobby crowding.|
Improve Patient Experience and Satisfaction
|Patients who don’t have to wait for hours are happy patients!|
Increase Revenue and Decrease Cost
|When no-shows and cancellations trigger alerts, staff and physicians can act quickly to accept walk-ins or rearrange the physician’s schedule to maximize face-to-face time with patients. Patient scheduling software also reduces the need for front-desk staff hours, saving the practice money.|
Basic Patient Scheduling Software Features and Capabilities
When evaluating the key features and functionality, these are the core modules of most patient scheduling software systems:
Advanced Patient Scheduling Software Functionality
These features are more advanced, expanded capabilities that not all practices use — and that, therefore, not all patient scheduling programs offer.
Workflow and User Interface
Beyond these primary functions, you need to consider ease of use, speed and accuracy in assessing a software solution’s impact on your workflow and ability to serve your patients.
Questions to Ask Before You Buy
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Do you need this solution to scale with you as your practice grows?
- Do you want on-premise or cloud-based deployment?
- What is your budget?
- How many physicians and staff members will need access?
- Does your practice require industry-specific modules?
- Do you need any customizations?
Questions to Ask Vendors:
- Can appointments on the scheduling grid be customized and color-coded based on procedure or diagnosis, new or existing patients?
- Is there drag-and-drop and cut-and-paste functionality when making an appointment, changing a time or date or scheduling multiple resources for the same appointment time?
- How convenient is it to retrieve or get a snapshot of contact information, clinical notes and appointments from patients on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Can appointments be screened in one convenient view? Can you see a schedule by room, clinician, location, etc.? Can you customize settings by time increments, appointment reason and patient status?
- Does it easily allow you to attach files to appointments (e.g. JPEGs of X-rays or PDFs of physician instructions)?
- How automated is the solution to help identify slots and avoid conflicts that arise from over- or double-booking and staffing absences?
- Can calendars be customized by practice specialty or multi-specialty, subspecialty, size, and location(s)?
- How will the software perform as your practice evolves and grows? How many physicians can it accommodate?
- How can the solution handle migration from your current solution? How easily does it integrate with your patient portal? Can it integrate with other third-party apps?
- What kind of support and costs are associated with training your staff and getting the system up and running?
- How accessible and readable is the solution when using a mobile device (iPhone and Android) or from a remote location?
- What is the total cost of ownership over the system’s life cycle? What are the costs of upgrades and updates for features? What is the pricing and costs associated with the number of users?
Strategic Practice Considerations
In addition to identifying the key functions and ease of use, also consider the following when evaluating different solutions as part of an overall scheduling strategy.
There are a number of different methods to schedule medical office appointments, including time-specified, wave, modified wave, double booking and open booking.
Practice Type (Patient Mix)
The type of practice, patient or services (treatments/examinations) can impact your patient scheduling software needs. Do you have a lot of walk-ins, patients with chronic conditions, elective procedures or regularly-scheduled appointments?
Your practice needs to decide your scheduling and call strategy. For example, do you want to group (cluster) patients with similar problems and conditions or create organized triage by scheduling patients by different levels of complexity? What is your process to determine what calls to put through immediately, which calls will be returned and when they will be returned?
The Selection/Evaluation Process
There is no one-size-fits-all patient scheduling system — but choosing one doesn’t have to be daunting. Follow a few simple steps to collect requirements, run them by decision makers and shortlist vendors based on your needs to find the perfect software for your practice.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution that is “the best.” Each practice will have different requirements and needs. To get started, download our interactive requirements template to help you identify what features you’ll need in a patient scheduling software system.
Identify Stakeholders and Solicit Input
Clinicians, administrators, staff and patients all play a role in the scheduling process. Each stakeholder has a different requirement. For the patient, it’s getting an appointment at the desired time and date with minimal waiting. Doctors want their time well managed with minimal gaps between appointments and downtime to maximize their billing and minimize patient complaints. Nurses and staff want a smooth workflow and to be informed to avoid exam backups and delays. And administrators need to make sure resources are optimized to drive revenue.
Assess Current Performance Vs Practice Goals
What are your current and target key performance indicators in terms of acceptable wait times, patient flows, staffing, revenue growth as well as the priorities of physicians (work/life balance, number of hours, doctor-patient relationships)? How will the software help meet those goals?
Be thorough. Talk to vendor references. But don’t only rely on your vendors’ references, which will likely offer the most positive reviews. Ideally, you should reach out to additional contacts for more information and opinions to get a complete picture of your solutions. To help you in the evaluation process, get our patient scheduling software comparison matrix.
A patient scheduling solution will play a vital role in helping automate and streamline the appointment management process. Remember, your solution is only as strong as the team it supports. Regular communication among staff and feedback from patients are invaluable in helping identify areas for improvement and refining best practices. Paying attention to in-house post-visit patient surveys and third-party review sites can help root out issues before they become problems. And equally important, you need to stay current; software solutions will continue to evolve to make your practice perform more productively. Whether you’re starting a practice or looking to replace your current patient scheduling software solution, SelectHub can serve as your resource to help stay on top of the latest trends, newest improvements and best solutions for your practice.
Top 10 Patient Scheduling Software Leaders(of 31 products) GET THE IN-DEPTH REPORT
Whether you’re a solo family practice provider or a large specialty group, if you’re looking for a long-term, stable EHR company that gets to know and serve you and your practice, you’ve come to the right place. Sevocity and you will make a great fit.
Centricity™ Practice Solution is a fully integrated Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and Practice Management solution designed to help you enhance the clinical and financial productivity of your ambulatory practice. Though designed to work as a single fully integrated unit, if desired, the modules may be used independently.
Because we know you have more important things to do than flip through a calendar. AdvancedScheduling helps you see more patients speeds up scheduling processes with recurring appointment, waitlist management, patient room tracking appointment reminder tools. A faster front desk lets your front office team focus on checking in patients, collecting copays scheduling your clinicians facility to full capacity.
NextGen Healthcare provides practice management solutions that support a patient-centric revenue cycle, enabling practices of all sizes to succeed in today's complex healthcare climate. Our real-time clinical and administrative workflows help reduce physician burnout and achieve value-based reimbursement goals. Available on any device or platform, our powerful functionality helps automate patient registration, appointment scheduling, medical billing, claims processing, and reporting.
Branch Messenger enables enterprises to optimize their scheduling at scale and in real-time to improve operational efficiencies. A web dashboard and self-service mobile app streamline schedule creation, distribution and management. Employees are able to view schedules, swap shifts, request time off and set their availability all from within the app. Branch Messenger is currently adopted by enterprises in retail, restaurants, hospitality, transportation, banking and call centers industries.
Acuity Scheduling is a full-blown, beautiful, incredibly user-friendly system for running the business end-to-end and supports globally diverse businesses. Online scheduling is available 24/7.Clients worldwide or local can schedule their appointment online, complete custom forms, and pay with a credit card, online 24/7. Whether it's a regular schedule, or irregular you can manage any availability easily.
Appointy is a simple, functional and powerful scheduling software designed to help clients grow and manage their business. Appointy allows users to accept appointments online, send automated email/ sms reminders, integrate with social media and Google Calendar, accept online prepayments, create gift cards,deals, etc. Appointy also allows businesses to create deals, discounts or offers with an option to promote to their existing loyal or new customers through Facebook, Twitter or Emails.
Setmore Appointments is available on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Web apps. It provides a simple, easy-to-manage calendar to let customers book appointments online and grow their business every day. Customers can schedule an appointment using your unique Setmore booking page and enables you and your staff stay updated about upcoming appointments.
ScheduFlow is the only cloud based native desktop application that allows you to create, manage, and share calendars and schedules with users in one or multiple locations. The software auto-updates itself every time we release new features or bug fixes. One can create unlimited numbers of appointments/calendars, as well as clients and resources. ScheduFlow installs on Windows computers, but schedules are immediately available upon creation for access on any mobile device.
SuperSaaS ia a flexible appointment scheduling system that you can add to your own site. It is free for small and non-commercial use. It can cater to many different scheduling needs:• Allow students to sign up for a class• Accept online appointments for your business• Show when your boat is available for hire• Use as a shared calendar to book meeting rooms"
Appointmentseasy.com is available to health professionals, medical secretaries and patients for the management and optimization of appointments of the medical practice.
Solutionreach is a cloud-based dental practice management system designed for small, midsize and large offices and specialties. Primary features include appointment scheduling, patient access, reminders, patient education and practice marketing. Support is provided via email and online case submission. Other help options include knowledge base, forums, webinars, eBooks and videos.
Square Appointments is a laudable online appointments software designed to help clients book, cancel, or reschedule their appointments. The platform gives all clients access to your availability and helps them book appointments at the most appropriate time. It also ensures you spend less time managing appointments and more time with your customers. The software is perfect for salons, health and wellness, salons, and other service professionals.
Petal Scheduling addresses the complexity of physician scheduling with an automated and flexible script that saves the scheduler time while giving them full control through manual adjustments. With Petal Scheduling, the physicians schedule is produced quickly, shared instantly, accessible from any device and updated in real-time when shifts are traded.
10to8 is Appointment Scheduling Software that helps users to better communicate with clients, reducing no-shows, double-bookings and time-consuming admin. It’s a tool that can drive more customers to appointment-reliant businesses, such as beauty and salons, tutors and teachers, sports and fitness, tradesmen and professional services. The cloud app also features enterprise-grade features for volume appointments.
Sagenda, the online appointment scheduler, is part of Iteration.info, a Swiss company offering an extensive range of online software innovation coaching services. Sagenda targets a range of businesses, including medical practices, chiropractors, and naturopaths. The software is totally free, without even an upgrade option to a paid version, as Sagenda makes money through providing custom options to large, enterprize clients.
CLIN1 Enterprise Scheduling software maintains patient, physician, staff and resource schedules.Schedule coordinates automatically across patients and resources, detecting collisions or conflicts at either end. Automatically checks resource availability with respect to department or individual availability schedule.
SimplePractice is a top-reviewed practice management platform, made for small business owners in the health and wellness space.SimplePractice's industry-leading features include secure messaging, customizable paperless intake forms, a template library, free appointment reminders, electronic claim filing, billing and invoicing, a beautiful client portal with online booking, and more.
IntakeQ is a web-based online intake form management software that enables healthcare professionals and clinicians to electronically share case forms with their patients, and receive them back completed signed electronically before their next appointment. The product automates the form intake process thereby improving recordkeeping and customer/patient onboarding. The solution is well suited for the needs of individual practitioners, as well as for clinics and big hospitals.
QGenda Physician Scheduling is an automated Web Based Physician Scheduling Software
Call Scheduler is a scheduling productivity tool for on-call scheduling of doctors and other medical practitioners from Adjuvant.
Veribook is an online scheduler that maps itself to the needs of a clinic. At its core, it understands which clinicians should be available to which patients, for which appointment types, at which times. This deep understanding of clinic needs enables Veribook to deliver on the promise of true online scheduling: streamlined 24/7 scheduling, reduced administrative load, and improved patient satisfaction.
TheraNest Appointment Scheduling Software helps Mental Health Professionals of both large and small practices organize appointments. It helps users to create and view appointments, sync with google calendar, track attendance, and send appointment reminders via voice calls, email or SMS text.
TherapyNotes is a leading behavioral health practice management. It features robust notes, scheduling, and billing operations, as well as free and unlimited phone support. It is an effective scheduling and to-do list tool as it was created with the workflow of mental health practitioners in mind. The platform is targeted at mental health practitioners and clinicians and is highly suitable for all types and sizes of practices.
AxisCare Home Care Software provides a system designed with the workflow of a private duty agency in mind. AxisCare provides a scheduling software solution that features a GPS Mobile App, automatic invoicing, billing and payroll integrations, custom forms, reporting, and more. AxisCare can be used on any web browser and any operating system, even on phones and tablets.
athenaCommunicator provides a robust and centralized scheduling tool, patient portal, and manages patient’s check-in and check-out, visit duration, and monitor their appointment activities related to no-shows, re-scheduling or cancellations.
PracticeSuite’s practice management, electronic health records (EHR), patient management platform, and its Medical Scheduling Software is suitable for medical practices and third-party medical billing companies of all sizes. Practices can use patient-oriented features like scheduling, patient outreach (CRM), patient kiosks and patient portals to engage patients and streamline patient flow. PracticeSuite also offers online review and patient service tools.
NueMD Medical Scheduling Software helps users tomManage schedules across multiple physicians, offices, and days of the week. It helps users to track patients from arrival to departure and receive real-time updates on co-pays and cancellations. It helps to reduce no-shows by 30 percent with appointment reminder calls.
CareCloud Breeze is a modern, cloud-based system with the ease-of-use and low cost of ownership buyers have come to expect from cloud solutions. The system offers comprehensive functionality for appointment scheduling, medical billing, reporting and claims processing.
Kareo Engage solution helps users to streamline the entire billing process. It helps users to customize their schedule, manage patient alerts and send appointment reminders. The system helps users to quickly enter patient data, upload documents and verify eligibility. It offers built in secure messaging allowing users to securely communicate with the biller, patients and employees.
AdvancedPatient is a complete practice management and medical billing software offering patient scheduling and billing capabilities. The billing software is integrated with the scheduling front office tools so that users can collect payments with one-click display of patient information, copays eligibility.
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