Your practice is busy, and attracting patients is never really a problem. In your front office, phones ring constantly, but patients aren’t on hold too long — at least you hope. There’s a steady stream of online appointment requests, and front office staff do their best to get to them in a timely manner. Patients (mostly) arrive on time and early enough to complete check-in. Office staff do their best to squeeze in time to return missed calls and call down the waitlist.
Despite the constant buzz and busyness in your front office, when you take a look at your provider schedules, slots are going unfilled, and you know each one is costing your practice money and wasting providers’ time.
Whether you’re a solo practitioner at a single location or your practice has dozens of providers and locations, lost revenue makes a difference when it comes to investing in the future of your practice, whether that’s new machines and equipment or new employees and locations. It’s why many dermatology practices are turning to front office automation tools to improve operational efficiency, reduce staff burnout, and keep provider schedules full.
Let’s work through the potential impact of front office automation on your practice’s bottom line as we explore three opportunities to uncover hidden revenue potential.
1. How are you managing your waitlist?
Spreadsheets, handwritten lists on notepads and stray sticky notes, and relying on front office staff to remember which patients want to be seen sooner are all commonplace but certainly not ideal. When there is a cancellation, the front office either needs to write it off or pick up the phone to call patients to fill the opening. Oftentimes, staff are too busy answering inbound calls, which results in most appointments getting written off. If they do have time to contact the patient, it's hard to reach them by phone. However, by automating your waitlist management
process, you can empower patients and relieve burden on staff.
Let’s say your practice has three doctors and two PAs who typically see a combined 2,500 patients each month. Ten percent (or 250) of those patients cancel, and by relying on phone calls, your office is only able to backfill 50 of those appointments. In contrast, waitlist automation has been shown to fill 40% of cancellations on average — that’s 80 appointments per month for a five-provider practice. If the average value of an appointment is $200, that’s $16,000 of additional revenue. What’s the math for your practice?
2. Does your check-in process rely on clipboards and manual data entry?
When a patient arrives for their appointment, it only takes your front office staff about five minutes to complete check-in. Not too bad, right? But multiply that by the number of patients your practice sees each month, and the result is a little more eye-popping. For one provider seeing 400 patients each month — all checking in when they arrive in person — that five minutes per patient comes out to 2,000 minutes or nearly four full business days of staff time. And again, that’s just for one provider.
To up the ante even more, now consider the amount of time your staff is spending reconciling errors from manually entering check-in data, errors that only increase when staff feel hurried and under pressure. Added up, we’re talking about weeks of staff time and potential payroll savings. But by empowering patients to check in digitally when it’s convenient for them, you’re bettering the patient experience, diverting administrative work for staff, and ultimately supporting your bottom line.
3. Are you treating your patients like consumers?
Today’s patients are prioritizing the convenience and technology that is apparent in nearly every other area of their lives, and they expect to be able to book — or reschedule — an appointment online at any time of day. Studies show that patients who book online are the ideal customer you want to attract to your practice because they are less likely to cancel or no-show for their appointment. Some practices have taken steps toward patient self-scheduling with online appointment request forms, but there’s still room for optimization as this creates a poor patient and office
experience, while also leaving new patient bookings on the table.
Consider this: A practice receives 100 online appointment requests each week but only books 50%. Though patients are able to submit a request online, the scheduling process in this case is still too reliant on time-consuming phone calls. Today’s patients are consumers and don’t have the patience to wait for a callback. Plus, they often screen calls from unknown numbers or simply don’t answer if it’s an inconvenient time. No one wants to spend their lunch hour playing phone tag or sitting on hold.
Practices resistant to fully embracing consumer-centric patient behavior are losing revenue to competitors that are offering convenient, immediate appointment booking when patients are most engaged.
In today’s competitive, consumer-driven healthcare landscape, you’ve likely at least considered adding front office automation to your practice operations — tools that can help you capitalize on missed revenue and savings opportunities. But you’re busy and find yourself putting it off, wondering Why now? Maybe the better question
though is Why wait? Inaction comes with real costs.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 edition of ADAM's Executive Decisions in Dermatology.