A centralized scheduling system provides many important benefits to a healthcare institution, but a virtual centralized scheduling system provides even more. Coming out of the COVID pandemic, most – if not all – healthcare organizations understand the benefits of using a centralized scheduling service to assist with managing and streamlining scheduling workflow. And while more and more hospitals and medical organizations are moving in this direction, a general lack of understanding of exactly how to make the transition to a fully virtual centralized scheduling process is keeping many organizations from realizing the efficiencies, benefits, and full potential that a virtual option provides for both the patient and the provider.
In this blog post, we’ll define what virtual centralized scheduling is, explore the benefits of using a virtual centralized scheduling service, and review a case study to see exactly how one healthcare organization has benefited from partnering with a virtual patient communication management service.
Defining Virtual Centralized Scheduling
Not to be confused with a medical call center or answering service, centralized scheduling is the process of managing all patient appointments for a healthcare facility from a single contact center.
Taking the concept of centralized scheduling a step further, virtual centralized scheduling provides the same centralized scheduling service, but does so in a completely cloud-based, off-site, and scalable platform specifically designed to incorporate and streamline all aspects of the scheduling, communication, and patient engagement process.
Virtual centralized scheduling continues to evolve, and in addition to managing the patient appointment and scheduling process, these comprehensive and virtual solutions are designed to manage a number of other essential function for your medical practice, including:
- Physician Referral Services
- Appointment Reminders
- Discharge Follow-Up
- Chronic Care Management (CCM)
- Revenue Cycle Management
- Patient Access Consulting
- Patient Education and Patient Outreach Services
In addition to assisting with general answering and scheduling service responsibilities, virtual medical communication specialists are also designed to:
- Verify eligibility in specific insurance plan coverage
- Assist with explanation and understanding of EOB services
- Schedule preventative care
- Address general inquiry related to patient billing and payment collection
- Collect payment
- Monitori and providing updates on submitted claims
- Facilitate escalating or urgent matters by connecting patients with on-call physicians, nursing services, medical interpretation services, or pharmaceutical services.
As a result, virtual centralized scheduling and patient communication management dramatically improve scheduling and registration workflow, enhance patient and physician satisfaction, maximize client resource utilization and reduce overhead and costs.
The Benefits of Virtual Centralized Scheduling
An effective virtual centralized scheduling system is designed to maximize the benefits to a healthcare institution.
Patient satisfaction is one key area where virtualized centralized scheduling can make a big difference. When patients have to work with multiple schedulers, they can easily become frustrated by trying to keep track of who they need to talk to and when. A virtual centralized scheduling system keeps all of the information in one place, ensuring patients only have to deal with one point of contact for scheduling and related follow up needs.
As a medical or healthcare provider, you understand the challenge of scheduling your patient scheduling staff to meet the varied and changing needs of your patients. Call volume is often unpredictable and when staffing is unable to keep up with demand – or even the ebb and flow of patient call volume – your patients experience extended hold times, frustration, and are more likely to hang up (rather than wait).
Today’s patients expect 24/7 service with availability that works around their busy schedule – in order to meet their needs, that requires taking a different route to scheduling for “peak periods”, including after traditional hours, weekends, and even holidays.
A dynamic virtual patient scheduling and communication provider who understands, and adapts to, the needs of today’s patients provides you with the “real time all the time” service needed to be responsive in today’s patient scheduling and communication environment.
In addition to improved patient satisfaction, virtual centralized scheduling provides a wide range of additional benefits, including:
- Improved productivity and better use of staff time. Responsive virtual patient communication services are more than just an after-hours answering service and provide agents that understand the specific and unique needs of your organization, your EHR, and your workflow.
- Reduction of abandoned calls, no shows, and patient leakage. An estimated 15% of all patient calls in the healthcare industry are disconnected before being routed to a live agent. Additionally, nearly 70% of callers who hang up do so because they are frustrated at not being able to speak to a live representative. Not only does an effective virtual patient communication system reduce over 80% of abandoned calls, it has been shown to significantly decrease patient no-shows by providing patients a way to communicate the need to change or reschedule appointments at any time.
- Significant resource and cost savings. Healthcare organizations are under tremendous pressure to provide the best service and to do so by using the least amount of resources and finances possible. Virtual scheduling platforms who truly understand the healthcare and medical space understand the importance of providing – and charging for – their scheduling and patient communication services strictly on a per usage basis. This model helps your organization save and redeploy capital while saving on unnecessary salaries, benefits, and related costs.
Making the transition to a fully virtually centralized scheduling system can seem challenging, but the benefits are well worth the effort. By increasing patient satisfaction, improving efficiency, and reducing costs, your healthcare institutions can improve your bottom line while simultaneously providing better care for your patients.
Here’s how one healthcare organization successfully transitioned to American Health Connection’s virtual patient communication management service.
Case study: St. Tammany Health System And AHC’s Virtual Central Scheduling Services Partner To Improve Patient Experience.
St. Tammany Health System is a leading healthcare institution in Louisiana that has successfully partnered with AHC to implement their virtual central scheduling services as a way to make scheduling easier for its patients.
AHC’s One Call For All services has resulted in decreased patient wait times and an overall increase in patient satisfaction. The staff at St. Tammany Health System has found that the centralized scheduling system has also made their jobs easier and more efficient.
Initially partnering to ensure patients were able to schedule appointments on their own – including after hours – the partnership quickly expanded to weekend coverage and back-up coverage for the existing call center on high-volume days.
According to Shannon Green, Director of the St. Tammany Health System, implementing AHC’s services has been a smooth transition, “Our patients don’t even realize they are talking to someone else. They think they are working with employees of St. Tammany Hospital. This is indicative of the high level of training that was done [by AHC] and the company’s commitment to producing the highest-quality products and services.”
St. Tammany Health System also found AHC’s virtual services particularly valuable during COVID. Not designed to offer centralized scheduling services from anywhere other than the office, St. Tammany Health System turned to AHC, seamlessly transferring call center and central scheduling services over at a moment’s notice. While other healthcare providers were scrambling to provide basic scheduling services, St. Tammany was able to quickly and effectively pivot to AHC’s virtual services, allowing them to focus on other, more pressing issues.
As a result of this successful partnership, St. Tammany Health Systems have continued to integrate AHC into their process. Most recently transitioning Diagnostics and Health Screening responsibilities over to AHC’s virtual central scheduling team; a trend the organization sees expanding to other departments and specialties in the near future.
Overall, implementing AHC’s virtual centralized scheduling system at St. Tammany Health Systems has been a tremendous success. The services offered by AHC’s virtual central services team has resulted in decreased patient wait times, increased patient satisfaction, and increased efficiency among the staff.
If you are considering implementing a virtual centralized scheduling system at your healthcare facility, and would like to learn more about the process used by St. Tammany Health Systems, click below to discover the benefits of virtual patient communication for your organization.
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