Increasing wait times aren’t the only issue in healthcare right now. They’re actually a symptom of a bigger problem. One issue that has plagued healthcare providers, in both the private and public sectors, is a lack of funding to increase staff and thereby reduce wait times. There’s not enough hands on deck to do it all efficiently, and there’s not enough funding to hire more help. Hiring comes at a high cost that most facilities can’t afford. So, patients are stuck in limbo waiting for weeks to be seen.
With the rising age of the population and a generation of those who will need increasingly more frequent access to healthcare as they age, this is an issue we need to solve sooner rather than later.
So, how we do increase our patient capacity and reduce wait times without breaking the bank?
Technology is transforming healthcare and the transformation has only begun. We’ve created a solution that works. A solution that allows practices to increase their patient capacity and reduce wait times without breaking the bank. For many of our practices, it even saves them time … a lot of time.
“We don’t have to spend time going through all available appointments with a patient in order to reschedule them. Our patients are now able to do this on their own, which saves us time and makes them happy!” –Center of Excellence in Diabetes and Endocrinology
“Doing everything manually was draining and time-consuming. Now, everything is so easy and saves us a ton of time.” –Dublin Physical Therapy
“Now that our staff no longer has to spend hours on the phone, they can focus on creating a better in-person experience for our patients. Overall, Luma Health has been extremely beneficial for our operations and made our processes extremely efficient!” –Arizona Center for Urology
How to Increase Patient Capacity Without Hiring More Staff
Our product automates the entire process from confirming upcoming appointments with patients to rescheduling cancellations and filling open appointment slots on your calendar, without you lifting a finger or spending any time to make it happen.
Indian Health Services (IHS) has been trying to improve their increasing wait times. One IHS facility “reported that new patients may wait 6 weeks for an initial exam with a family medicine physician, and new patients in internal medicine may wait 3 to 4 months for an initial exam.” Several of the things holding them back from making these improvements, though, are funding and personnel shortages. This article also states that another issue they’re facing is outdated facilities and “telephones with an insufficient number of lines for scheduling patient appointments.”
Our automated waitlist takes care of all of these issues. With our waitlist, no additional funding to hire more personnel is needed, and there’s also no longer a need for more phone lines since our waitlist can schedule patient appointments conveniently via text message, without staff even picking up the phone. There’ no additional staff needed. Our waitlist is automated and works while you do other things.
Typical practices have a baseline cancellation rate, which means that every day, practices have capacity to see more patients than they’re actually seeing, however they’re unable to do that. Therefore, most practices are losing out on valuable patient visits and revenue.
For many practices, when wait times increase, their solution is to either add more days to their schedule, like opening on the weekend, or extending their current hours. However, this is expensive as it requires more manpower.
Example: How This Could Look for Your Practice
Let’s say you see 25 patients per day, and you have a 10 % cancellation rate. This means that you have 2 -3 open slots per day from cancellations. Let’s say you have a goal of seeing 10% more patients on a weekly basis; that would be a total of about 11 patients more each week.
One solution would be to add more hours to your schedule. Assuming you see three patients per hour, this would mean an extra three or fours of clinic time per week, requiring at least one nurse and one front desk staff to spend extra time. If we assume a $50/hr rate for the nurse and $20/hr rate for the front desk staff, this translates to $210-$280 extra per week! That’s ~$1,000 per month.
However, there’s a cheaper and more efficient solution; try to accommodate those 10%+ additional patients into your existing schedule. This is exactly what our service does for a fraction of the cost.
Our system helps practices take more advantage of the existing capacity in their days by making their schedule more efficient and filling in the openings they already have in their existing schedule, automatically.
How to Increase Access to a Growing Population And Decrease Wait Times
As the population continues to age, we’re going to see a growing capacity problem, which will only compound the current waitlist issues, if it’s not fixed. A 2011 report on Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) states that, “only 7% of the 20 million patients FQHCs currently serve are over the age of 65. However as the population ages and FQHCs double their current capacity to serve 40 million patients by 2015, the number of older adults receiving primary care services at FQHCs will increase…”
It’s now 2017 and the capacity concerns of serving this growing population are here. It’s only begun, though. The easiest fix is to proactively take measures to automate our processes and fix the problem before it grows anymore.
With our waitlist, it’s possible to continue to increase patient capacity as the population ages while simultaneously decreasing wait times. Our waitlist also automatically offers earlier appointment opportunities to waitlist patients when appointment slots become available due to cancellations. So, the schedule works smoother, patients get seen faster, wait times decrease, and everyone is happy.
It’s a fairly easy solution and one we’re excited to be a part of. Increasing patient capacity without increasing funding or staff is possible. If you’re interested in finding out more about our automated waitlist and other products, contact us today to set up a free demo.
Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.