July 27, 2023

How to increase practice efficiency, reduce burnout, and enjoy long summer days

The energy and time you save will help grow your practice and give you more time to enjoy summer activities.

As a physician who owns a private practice, finding ways to increase efficiency and streamline your workflow is crucial to providing quality patient care and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The middle of summer, when daylight stretches longer than your workday, is the perfect time to explore how to maximize everyday productivity at your practice.

Digital health tools can help you optimize and automate your practice operations, allowing you more time to relax and enjoy the season. Here’s how.

Identify opportunities to use digital health tools

Every private practice, according to its specialty and services, finds unique workflows that match its patients with available resources. How your practice schedules appointments and communicates with patients is a good place to start when looking for easy ways to increase efficiency. 

You work hard to ensure that patients can discover and connect with your practice and get time with their provider during an appointment. This kind of patient-centric care is how you stand out. But as any provider knows, it’s important to balance patient care and a consistent number of scheduled appointments and resources. Finding the sweet spot is how you remain profitable and meet your practice growth goals.

“Digital health tools can help you optimize and automate your practice operations, allowing you more time to relax and enjoy the season.”

While it is essential to manage your practice in a way that works best for you and your team, notice any opportunities to improve and reduce time spent on certain administrative tasks. Is there a specific part of the workflow that always creates challenges or delays? Are there manual repetitive tasks on which your staff must spend time in lieu of higher-value activities? The energy and hours you save will help grow your practice and give you and your team more time to enjoy the summer. 

Streamline your schedule

Technological advancements continue to shape and reshape our daily routines, but some aspects of traditional practices remain steadfast. One such example that your practice likely, and should, support is scheduling medical appointments over the phone. Booking an appointment is an important first step for a patient in their healthcare journey. As a business owner it is vital to consider if options in addition to the phone should be available to patients. 

Managing phone lines manually can create issues

A recent study found that scheduling an appointment over the phone can take 8 minutes on average. Plus, for every 100 calls regarding scheduling in a day, an additional new staff member is necessary to manage the workload. 

While 100 calls a day might be outside your average, consider how much time your practice spends on the phone scheduling appointments and how a staff member could better use that time. So much of the day can become consumed by  trying to communicate availability while ensuring you understand patients’ information and health needs. This takes time away from other important tasks and reduces the focus available for face-to-face engagement with patients. 

With ongoing staff shortages caused by burnout and changes in the healthcare industry, practice staff can’t always fully manage phone lines, leading to longer wait times and a backlog of voicemails. This scenario creates the potential for a dreaded never-ending back and forth with a patient who might seek another provider while they wait for your call. 

Enable different scheduling tools

Phone calls will likely always be part of the appointment scheduling process, but patients are increasingly clamoring for new simpler ways to access healthcare. By implementing key digital touch points, patients can more conveniently schedule appointments based on their schedule and provider availability, reducing the need for phone calls and administrative follow-ups. 

Our 2023 Patient Perspectives survey found that 61% of patients prefer to schedule an appointment digitally, either through online scheduling on a practice website and profiles, or by text messaging with a practice. Offering these types of streamlined digital touch points is a great way to increase patient satisfaction and engagement while freeing up your staff to focus on more essential tasks. 

You should also consider how much time it takes your practice to collect accurate information over the phone. Your scheduling team shouldn’t need to spend extra time trying to call a patient back to confirm their contact and insurance information. When scheduling an appointment online, patients provide the relevant information with their appointment request, reducing the risk of a misunderstanding or a lousy phone connection leading to incorrect context or demographics. Text messages can be responded to in seconds and will contain everything a patient needs in their own words, reducing the need to transcribe a voicemail. 

By giving your patients more autonomy, you can optimize your practice’s time management and enjoy a well-organized summer schedule.

Offer options for care

How you meet with your patients for an appointment can also be a place for identifying time-saving opportunities. If you find that your schedule is not being filled, due to either unpopular time slots or cancellations and no-shows, investigate how to make the most of your working hours. 

A recent study found that the average no-show rate for in-person appointments is currently 19%, compared to 16% for telehealth encounters.

Depending on your particular specialty or average patient, in-person appointments may once again be the norm even after the accelerated use of telehealth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your practice likely already knows what your patients prefer for their care. But it doesn’t need to be one or the other; many practices now use hybrid care models. Of respondents, 61% of people in the US prefer to seek healthcare that has an element of both in-person care and telehealth. 

Whether for medication refills, lab results, or general follow-ups, you likely have some kind of appointment that could be more efficiently done over telehealth. With this option, you open your schedule up to more flexibility for patients and greater productivity for your practice. 

Communicate more efficiently 

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, effective communication is essential for providing quality patient care and maintaining efficient operations. However, relying solely on traditional methods of communication can pose several challenges for medical practices.

How patients communicate with your practice

As noted earlier, every appointment-related phone call can take on average 8 minutes. When you add in how often your practice fields questions or seeks updated information, it is likely that communicating with patients over the phone takes a noticeable portion of the day. This is time that could be used on more mission-critical tasks, such as interfacing with patients in person or handling billing issues. 

Traditional methods can lead to delays and miscommunications 

Whether it’s a quick appointment inquiry, confirming hours, or a general question, patients need a simple way to feel heard by your practice and your staff needs a simple way to respond. 

About 60% of patients will hang up if left on hold for longer than a minute, so a busy office line could prevent new patients from reaching your practice and potentially set back your growth goals. 

How your practice is able to process and record information provided over the phone is just as important as ensuring patients can reach you. One study estimates that miscommunications in healthcare, contributed in part by poorly transcribed or misunderstood phone conversations, are responsible for 30% of malpractice claims in the US.

Depending on your practice size and how much time your team spends confirming information with patients at the time of the visit, you might find that any miscommunications are cleared up before anything as serious as a malpractice claim occurs. However, if your practice relies on time-intensive phone calls, emails, or updating information in the moment, a clear history of what was being said could save you valuable resources.

Let patients text your practice

Patients shouldn’t have to wait on a busy phone line or voicemail response. Simple SMS text messaging tools give them a way to reach your practice without a wait and save valuable time.

Implementing text messaging opens up new avenues to automate and reduce the time needed to support everyday tasks. Some examples include:

  • 2-way text messaging: 93% of consumers would be more likely to frequent and support local small businesses that offer the ability to text. By offering text messaging on your practice website, busy patients can open communication with your practice on their terms, making it easier than ever to obtain care. Your staff will save time with clear recorded threads of messages that they can respond to in seconds.
  • Appointment reminders: 78% of patients want to receive text message reminders for their appointments. Automating these simple messages leading up to an appointment frees valuable front-office time. When these messages send via 2-way text messaging, they give patients a chance to clear up questions or reschedule their appointment time, reducing no-shows or cancellations.
  • Call to text: A practice phone line is still critical for practice management, but certain phone management or call tracking tools will give patients the option to start a text message conversation within your recorded phone tree. Additionally, setting your phone line to text in response to patients who leave a voicemail or call after hours triages those who prefer text messaging and frees up the practice line while increasing patient engagement.

Text messaging enhances efficiency, accessibility, and overall patient satisfaction. By implementing it as a part of your communication workflows, your practice will be able to get more work done in less time. You decide how to spend the extra hours to grow your business and refresh your mind with rest and relaxation. 

Refreshed growth

Embracing digital health tools is a great way to empower your practice to maximize efficiency, streamline workflows, and better manage your time. By implementing online appointment scheduling, telemedicine platforms, and patient communication tools, you can optimize your practice operations while creating space for more relaxation and enjoyment during the summer months — and all year round. Take the leap into the digital world and experience the benefits of these tools, they will not only enhance what makes your practice great but also allow you and your team to take advantage of these longer summer days while they last. 

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