How will we get back on track for scheduling patients?
Once a scheduling plan is developed, communicate this plan to all scheduling staff. The goal will be to efficiently schedule patients and maximize the provider’s availability.
Start with the patients who are currently on the schedule and call to confirm they still want to keep their appointment.
Identify all patients with appointments that were cancelled either by the patient or by the practice for priority in scheduling.
Prioritize the list of cancelations by patients who are high risk and high acuity first, followed by chronic disease and then preventive wellness appointments. Call patients in that order.
For patients who refuse or want to delay rescheduling, discuss with the provider for next steps. The provider may approve the delay, suggest a telehealth visit, or schedule a time such as first or last appointment of the day. Be sure to document for each patient efforts made to get each rescheduled. Be sure to document the patient’s own refusal to be seen. See the Chronic Care Patients – Missed Appointments template letter.
Maintain a tracking system for all patients who refuse or want to delay rescheduling their appointment. Assign a staff member to contact those patients in 3-4 weeks to schedule. Many patients initially may be anxious about coming to the practice. The goal will be not to lose these patients to follow-up.
Once patients begin calling in to schedule appointments, you may find the provider’s schedules are full and there is limited access. For practices that have a nurse triage department, you may want to increase staff in this area. The nurse can safely determine through triage protocols whether the patient needs urgent or emergent care, or that an appointment can be scheduled in a couple days. If you currently do not offer nurse triage, you may want to consider implementing this function to assist with patient access to care.
For practices that implemented telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may want to consider continuing this service for your patients. This may help with any provider access issues.
The practice may also find that in order to provide adequate provider access office hours may need to be extended. This may be temporary until the backlog of patient appointments have been scheduled.
To minimize no shows, implement an appointment reminder call system. The system can be either automated or manual.