How Facilities Can Reduce Patient Leakage With Streamlined Scheduling

Patient leakage—when patients move from an in-network primary care physician (PCP) to an out-of-network specialist or laboratory, imaging, or ancillary service—is estimated to reduce as much as 20 percent of a system’s revenues every year.

There are many reasons why patients aren’t referred to, or are no-shows, for an appointment with an in-network specialist or for a diagnostic test. Sometimes, PCPs refer patients to an out-of-network specialist based on their medical judgment. Other times, the referral is based on the patient’s preference. Sometimes, it’s out of habit.

Imagine this scenario: A patient is at the doctor’s office, and the physician orders an MRI for the patient. The office prints the order out, hands it to the patient, and tells the patient he can go wherever he wants to get that test—instead of setting an appointment while the patient is in the office.

That lost appointment, or even a referral that results in a patient no-show, can cost the hospital system an average of $210, according to a 2016 column from Healthcare Financial Management Association. But beyond the lost revenue, the missed appointment may mean a worsened clinical outcome for that patient.

Setting the appointment for the patient while he is at the office makes it much more likely that the patient will attend that appointment. But the increased workload and the back-and-forth nature of making calls and manual processing exacerbate the challenge. Hospital call centers are extremely busy. Typically, in a community hospital, the schedulers are not just responsible for scheduling, but they’re responsible for all of the pre-registration tasks that have to happen before the patient arrives.

MEDHOST addresses the challenges of scheduling patients and coordinating care more effectively with its cross-platform, role-based appointment scheduling solution. By making the process of appointment-setting easier, hospitals can address patient leakage.

The scheduling solution provides the tools for PCP offices to automate outpatient and admission orders, as well as transfer orders from acute to post-acute providers. Upcoming features include surgery request appointment times and self-scheduling tools that allow patients to make their own appointment time or sign into the emergency department wait queue. Also included are direct admissions, facility transfers, clinical orders, cloud scheduling, and a centralized record across various entities in the care continuum.

Not only does MEDHOST’s scheduling solution make it easier and more likely for patients to follow physician directives, but it also makes it more efficient for administrators to schedule a patient, send an email confirmation, and automate communication. The system eases headaches by helping reduce the ping pong-like nature of scheduling and rescheduling.

Ultimately, by making the process more efficient and helping physicians steer patients to the care they need, hospitals can shore up the leaks and keep patients in the system—happily and healthily.