How to Increase Patient Capacity Without Hiring More Staff
Tashfeen Ekram, MD
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.
Many health systems struggle to decrease their wait times, and patients can end up waiting weeks or even months to see the provider they need. It can be tough to fix these problems given the funding and personnel shortages that many providers face. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, it takes an average of 24 days to schedule a first-time appointment with a physician, and is even longer for certain specialties — wait times for dermatology appointments average 32.2 days.
A smart, automated waitlist helps mitigate these issues. With our waitlist, no additional funding to hire more personnel is needed, and there’s 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’s no additional staff needed. Our waitlist is automated and works while you do other things.
Our automated waitlist at work
Why Leveraging A Smart Scheduling Solution Optimizes Schedules
Typical practices have a baseline cancellation rate, which means that every day, practices have capacity to see more
s 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. The solution? Optimize schedules by making it seamless and quick for patients to schedule appointments online.
Introducing a sophisticated online scheduling wizard to your practice can be a real game-changer. These scheduling systems show patients real-time provider availability and allow, patients can make an appointment on their device of choice at the time that works for them. No longer do they have to worry about fielding scheduling calls during work hours: this self-service approach provides patients flexibility, convenience, and the assurance that they can see their provider as soon as possible.
An example of a smart scheduling system in action.
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 optimizing provider schedules 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 2016 report on Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) found that “from 2005 to 2014, the proportion of Americans served at FQHCs increased from 5% to 7%, with more than 8.7 million additional Americans seeking care.” The same report found that over 17% of Medicaid and uninsured patients receive care at FQHCs, underscoring the urgency of increasing access at FQHCs: we need to work together to help these centers, which serve as crucial safety nets for the most vulnerable members of our population, grow their patient capacity.
As the number of patients seeking care at FQHCs continues to rise, FQHCs increasingly face patient capacity concerns of serving this growing population. The easiest fix is to proactively take measures to automate processes and fix the problem before it grows any more. To learn more about how Luma Health helps CHCs and FQHCs boost access to care at a time when the strain on their resources is high, read our FQHC-centric datasheet here.
With a smart waitlist, it’s possible to increase patient capacity as the population ages while simultaneously decreasing wait times. Our waitlist automatically offers earlier appointment opportunities to waitlist patients when appointment slots become available due to cancellations. Ultimately, this helps get patients to care faster, decrease wait times, and optimize schedules.
Bottom line: increasing patient capacity without increasing funding or staff is possible. Curious to learn more? Our “All About Access” eBook provides a comprehensive overview of everything health systems need to know to sustainably grow their businesses and increase patient access — and you can download it in our Resources Library now!