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Giving Medical Schedulers Access to Better Information Can Simplify Their Tasks – and Reduce Unnecessary Risk

medical-receptionWho remembers the good old days of family medicine, when your doctor made house calls and was the only medical professional you ever saw?

That’s pretty much the polar opposite of health care today. It’s so much more complex. People often see multiple health care providers for treatments, tests, and procedures, yet much of their care is coordinated – and scheduled – through one office, be it a primary care physician group, a hospital setting, or a community health center.

This puts the burden of patient care coordination not on physicians or other medical professionals, but on the schedulers. These medical office personnel represent the first line of communication with a patient. They’re critical team members, especially when faced with an emergency situation.

Imagine your scheduler gets a call from a patient who is experiencing chest pain and tingling in one arm. How will the scheduler react? Does he or she have to rely on training received months ago, trying to recall the proper response? Will the scheduler know – at the moment of need – what questions to ask the caller?

In less critical scenarios, what happens when a patient calls to book a new appointment for a family member, or needs a physician to see her college son during a short holiday break? These requests aren’t so simple. They require coordination among providers as well as information about physician availability, appointment preferences for new patients, and last-minute accommodations.

In these scenarios, medical schedulers are only as good as the information they have at their fingertips. They shouldn’t have to rely on job training, sticky notes, or three-ring binders filled with reams of outdated procedures.

Medical schedulers have an important responsibility, dealing with routine as well as urgent situations. They deserve digital tools that provide guidance during patient interaction, especially but not exclusively when faced with a crisis.

Improved scheduling software does more than just empower schedulers. It can also mitigate injury and lawsuits. According to a 2013 article on Medical Economics, two of the six most common risks associated with office-based medical practices are directly related to scheduling issues.

The first risk stems from “inadequate follow-up of diagnostic tests and specialist referrals.” How well does your scheduling system manage reminders for follow-up appointments? And what’s the protocol for your scheduler to ensure that a patient sees a specialist as prescribed by a primary physician? If this appointment is made for the patient, and he’s a no-show, how is this communicated with your scheduler? Imagine the potential risks if critical tests aren’t administered to patients, but your medical practice is in the dark about missed appointments.

The second scheduling-related risk is based on a practice’s numerous policies and procedures. Multiple health care providers in one setting have personal preferences for things like appointments follow-ups. How is this data tracked – and accessed – by the schedulers?

Patient care and liability risks can be associated with inferior scheduling tools. Think of all the rules (and exceptions to those rules) that schedulers must use at their desk, all day long.

Now picture software that supplements your own scheduling system in a way that does not house any personal health information. It runs side-by-side on schedulers’ desktops. It is a cloud-based repository of individual health care providers’ preferences as well as health care information that schedulers can access at those moments of need. This logic-based software will provide your schedulers with the guidance they need to help your patients.

When a medical scheduler faces a critical situation, the proper protocol is only a few clicks away, but only if the right digital tool is available.

Stephen Pappas

With more than 20 years experience in enterprise software sales and operations, Stephen Pappas manages all aspects of Panviva’s North American operations. He previously served as a Director of International Sales with Harte-Hanks Trillium Software, where he took their enterprise data management offering to 54 countries. Other roles have included Executive Vice President of a SaaS software start-up and Director of Sales and Business Development at PageFlex.

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