Archive for March, 2009

A New Patient is Both a Blessing and a Curse

March 24th, 2009

Once you have established your own medical practice, new patients are both a blessing and curse. I know the second part may seem a little jaded or uncaring, but you know what I mean. The blessing of a new patient is that you get to learn about someone new, get the opportunity to treat or perhaps cure someone. That part of medicine never gets old and is always something to cherish. The problem is that new patient appointments take a considerable amount of time and paperwork. Even though I would like to spend an hour on a first appointment, I know that I cannot. Plus the issue of obtaining a good history, reviewing old notes and charts (if the patient is a transfer), and establishing a rapport takes a lot of time. The extra reimbursement that exists for new patient appointments is nice, but does not quite cover the cost of the time and energy, as horrible as that is to say.

After considering what exactly it was that I hated about initial appointments, I realized that it was obtaining the signatures, the clearances (like HIPAA) and the background information that may (or may not) prove medically important (like a broken arm at age 6). That is why I am blown away by this medical scheduling software that I found. Imagine if you had an automated, web-based medical appointment scheduling system that permitted patients to submit their medical information online as they make their initial appointment. I am not talking about a chief complaint or anything, I am talking about medical insurance information, address, contact numbers, etc. Perhaps it also inquires about a list of current medications and allergies. In a secure and HIPAA compliant online form, patients are able to upload this information so that it is instantly digitized and can be accessed by you or other medical staff. Also, if a putative new patient puts in a medical insurance carrier that I do not accept, the software gently notifies the person saving us both the time of having an initial appointment that will not be covered. Few things aggravated me more than when my medical receptionist accepted a patient with an insurance carrier that I did not accept. The patient’s time was wasted and I learned about a patient that I would not be able to treat long term. This software eliminates that mistake almost as soon as the patient logs on to the system—and I never even know that it occurs.

The best part is that this self-service medical scheduling software is that it is available as part of my medical receptionist software. Thus, in one affordable program, I am able to have an automated answering service (that triages calls!), a 24/7 virtual medical receptionist (that always checks insurance coverage) a mobile, online appointment scheduler and an appointment reminder service. This small but useful technological innovation takes most of the pain out of the initial office visit and allows me a few precious minutes to ask about my patient’s parents and their health, explain a chronic disease or discuss treatment options. The software saves time and money, sure, but it also reminds of the true reason that I practice medicine: my patients.

My Medical Appointment Book: Both Digital and Mobile

March 24th, 2009

I had recently switched my practice over to an online appointment system and it was great, really great. My patients were able to make appointments online and I was able to access my schedule, just by logging on to the service. It eliminated the need for a medical receptionist (not my choice at first, but I was able to adjust because of the software). Because this freed up overhead costs, I was able to pay my medical technicians and medical coders a little more. That meant a happy staff, fewer staffing headaches and increased revenue.

The only drawback (and I hate to complain because it was really working well) of this appointment system was that I could not access the software remotely. That part was okay, but not great. I was driving back and forth a lot between lecturing and rounds at the hospital, and I wanted to be able to check on my schedule using my cell phone (I do not advocate driving and using the cell phone, but I sometimes do at red lights). Right around the time I was starting to wish I had the flexibility of fully remote access, the medical receptionist software that I used came out with that very feature.

In a single, affordable program I have a web-based appointment system with mobile access. Perhaps the best part is that I have the option to sync my schedules to Google Calendar. I can immediately see how my clinic schedule and university schedule will potentially overlap with my (pitifully small, but growing) personal schedule.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that when I first familiarized myself with the system I was worried that when the schedule synced with Google Calendar that it would overlap my personal obligations and meetings. In actuality the software allows me to protect time so that it cannot be overtaken by patient-scheduled appointments.

If you do not have an automated message and scheduling system, consider all of the features that I have in my system right now: 24/7 answering service, appointment scheduling that is “self serve” online or over the phone, an appointment reminder that is completely mobile now and that I can sync with Google Calendar and access it from my mobile phone. I could not be happier with the service. I was able to eliminate my “live” answering service (they could not triage phone calls, this software can!) and my medical receptionists (nice people, they were just not very reliable). By cutting these two things out of my budget I was actually able to increase productivity and patient satisfaction. It seems that my patients like to use Web-based services even more than phone (though they can still call into the system if they wish).

I am beginning to forget what life was like before I had this fully automated service and I hope to soon forget how much of a drag it was not to be able to access remotely or from my phone. If you are looking to enhance the efficiency of your medical practice, you simply must investigate automated appoitnment scheduling software.

New Patient Sign Up System a Medical Practice “Must Have”

March 23rd, 2009

Usually the process of acquiring new patients in some jurisdictions is not really a problem. There are always individuals who are searching for a qualified family physician to take care of their health needs. It can also be a tedious process for the potential patient since they need to not only find a capable physician, after locating one they will be required to provide quite a bit of information about their health, personal information, Health insurance coverage and availability, and they may need to do most of this for each family member.

Now picture the patient or guardian doing this in a crowded waiting room of the new physician they just selected as a possible primary health care provider. Also, try and imagine the confusion that may result if this individual is in an emergency or if they are responsible for a patient who is in no condition to act on their own. These situations are occurring everyday in every state of the union. As a health care provider, would it not be in the best interests of everyone if you had an automated system in place that would service these people and streamline the process for them?

Usually health insurance details are a time consuming part of this new patient sign up process and there are options available to assist your staff, save time for the potential new patient and generally make your office staff more efficient. New patient sign up systems, when automated into your virtual appointment scheduler will qualify newcomers to your practice and allow them to do the new patient procedures over the Internet.

When looking for a new physician, most people will use the telephone as they call various doctors’ offices inquiring about that specific office’s new patient status and requirements. Answering these initial questions will be time consuming for your receptionist who will likely be in a chaotic state anyway, dealing with in-office patient needs, scheduling specialists, dealing with pharmacies, arranging tests, now throw into the mix a person inquiring about new patient status and something in her realm of responsibility is bound to suffer. The same holds true with all of your medical office staff who cover off for each other.

When a patient calls your office for any reason, have your virtual medical receptionist answer the call. Your caller will be provided with a list of options the virtual medical assistant can manage for you automatically. One of these services is a new patient sign up system. They can be directed to apply online where they will be asked a series of qualifying questions as a new sign up, including providing them with a list of your accepted health insurance providers. This will filter those patients who do not qualify based on their health insurer.

You can also have a link to your online new patient sign up system sent to the family and friends of your current patients to expand your new patient list, and have prospective patients apply online. When they are accepted, they will be redirected to your automated online appointment scheduler to arrange a suitable appointment time. Conversely, if they are denied as a new patient, they can be notified of your decision online via email, eliminating any uncomfortable phone backs by your staff.

Modern technology is becoming extremely useful for business and your medical practice can be a part of the automation frenzy that is taking place. Your staff will appreciate the time they will be saving and your practice will flourish from a purely business perspective as well as becoming a model of efficiency. New patient sign up systems and online appointment schedulers are proving to be must have services for the modern medical practice.

Automated New Patient Sign Up and Modern Medical Appointment Scheduler

March 16th, 2009

Technology just keeps getting better and this is good news for busy people on the go who still need to make appointments with doctors while they are at work or at home after office hours. When you see a doctor for the first time, you must sign in and give copious amounts of information about yourself to medical office staff. Health insurance availability will usually come up in this initial conversation, or lack thereof.

Self service patient registration is now being offered by some tech savvy physician’s offices since the new patient sign up process takes up the time of regular staff when they could be performing more useful inner office functions.

The new patient sign up system is ideal for those physicians who are trying to increase the size of their practice. Utilizing your patient list, family and friends of your current patients can be notified via a link that you are accepting new patients and that they can connect directly to your patient sign up system. They would then simply enter the requested information and when the system determines they are a match to your list of health care insurance providers, they will be able to choose an appropriate appointment time.

One advantage of this self-serve system, specifically for matching insurance carriers, can be useful for avoiding awkward in-office rejections for those without proper coverage failing to match up with your list of qualified insurers.

Your staff will avoid time-consuming information gathering from potential patients. The information will already be entered into your database for easy retrieval when the patient attends their appointment. Your staff will be ready and waiting for their arrival and be able to welcome them appropriately, minus the initial interview process and saving valuable time.

New patients who qualify will be automatically logged into the appointment scheduling system that is also self-serve, saving them time. With access to your virtual office receptionist and the automated appointment scheduler, patients can change, cancel or page medical personnel for an emergency if required, all through the 24/7 medical front desk receptionist. Your newly qualified patients will feel reasonably comfortable attending their first doctor’s appointment knowing the paperwork is completed.

As the administrator of your automated new patient sign up system, you will have the option to accept or turn down any new patients who have been received through the initial filtering of the new patient sign up application. As the physician, you will receive a notification concerning all new patient sign ups and can determine in advance if you wish to take a particular sign up on as a new patient. If you choose to decline a would-be patient submission, they will be notified of your decision via email if you and or your staff prefer to remain at arm’s length when refusing an individual for whatever reason.

Once again, the new patient sign up system can take the delicate personal contact out of the new patient registration equation. The patient will be able to save not only time but also perhaps some self-respect, allowing them to maintain their decorum if they are refused an appointment. Medical visits can be emotional and sometimes locating a doctor can be difficult. Medical practices using the automated new patient sign up will not only be utilizing cutting edge technology, but may also be doing themselves and potential patients a good turn for a number of reasons.

New online scheduler automated patient sign-up feature helps doctors

March 16th, 2009

Is your office staff overwhelmed with the time involved in setting up new patient accounts and scheduling appointments for them?

Many receptionists in doctor’s offices are overwhelmed with the burden of multi-tasking patient visits, reminder calls, medical scheduling, paperwork and more. There are some basic processes, that when automated, free up some of the time that is expended for routine tasks. There are now new medical scheduling programs that allow new patients to actually sign up with your office, and schedule their first appointment.

This benefit is a win-win opportunity for both the medical practice and the patient. The practice has more refreshed and helpful staff and they are more equipped to manage important tasks. Patients can now avoid the hassle and inconvenience of calling to schedule a new appointment. This takes time, and sometimes can lead to holds and busy signfals that are not good from a service stand point. Plus, the medical scheduling program is available online, making it accessible 24/7 to the patients.

Another advantage with the new medical scheduling program is that the doctor’s office no longer has to mess with the challenge of turning away patients that do not have the right insurance provider. The automated sign up process for new patients conveniently takes care of this. When the new patient signs up online, they enter their insurance information. The insurance matching takes place at the point of the initial sign up, so your office does not have to get involved and deny the patient.

Once the patient is approved and signed up for your online scheduler program, they receive login information for their new account. This enables them to login to their patient account and sign up for their first appointment time. This first appointment is often the most time consuming for your office to schedule. Now, you do not have to worry about that issue.

The process with the new online scheduler feature for automated patient sign up is fairly straight-forward. First, your office uses the program and sets up a list of accepted insurance plans and available appointment time slots. Current patients can help you spread the word about your practice and the new automated scheduler by passing your link to friends and family members.

The new prospects complete the online patient application (saves time and paper). The online scheduler filters out those that do not match the insurance requirements, again keeping this hassle out of the direct efforts of your staff. Once approved, the new patient uses their automated login they receive to look into the online scheduler and sign up for a time. The new patient sign up sets aside time slots for new patients.

After the new patient schedules their time, your office receives the new sign up application and either accepts or declines the patient. Then, an email notice is sent to the patient. The time savings and mutual benefits to both the provider and the patient makes this scheduler feature a great benefit.