Experiencing a deficit or a surplus of valuable time between procedures is all too common for most ultrasound labs. Both of these factors impact the overall efficiency and profitability of the practice. The problem can be traced back to either the practice or the patient and their role in managing the appointment process.
Communicating the details
Communicating and understanding how in-depth and time-consuming a particular test is are significant factors when ordering studies. It’s critical for physicians and schedulers to communicate specifics about the patient, including what the procedure is and how long it will take. Many times a test is scheduled for a 15-minute slot when the unique situation for that patient will require 45-minutes. One failure to communicate can cause delays for the duration of the day and unnecessary frustration among patients and staff.
Details that should be communicated are whether the patient is ambulatory, not feeling well, in pain, or additional factors that may lengthen the time of the appointment. It’s helpful for the scheduler to have a complete reference list of procedures, a description of what it entails, and the standard time slot needed.
Helping patients improve efficiency
When a patient is scheduled for a procedure, they need to be provided any necessary prep information, in writing, so they’re able to comply on the day of the test. They also need to understand the importance of following the instructions. For instance, if a patient is instructed not to eat or drink at least 4 hours before the procedure and they accidentally drink a cup of coffee, the test will need to be rescheduled. This annoys the patient, wastes valuable lab and technician time, and fills a future appointment that could have been used by another patient.
To avoid no-shows and last-minute cancellations, patients should be called or texted appointment reminders 48 hours before their scheduled appointment. They should have the option to respond directly to the call or text with whether they will keep the appointment or if they need to reschedule.
On the day of the procedure, the office staff should be able to deliver expectations that were previously set. For example, a patient should not sit in a waiting room for two hours when they were led to believe it was going to be a 15-minute wait. That’s not to say that the lab could not be having a bad day. A machine may be unexpectedly in need of repair, or the lab may be short staffed. To alleviate frustrated patients, a good plan of action is to call patients an hour before their test time to let them know the lab is running behind schedule.
Another option is to keep a white board in the waiting room that updates patients on the current time delay so they can use it as a reference point. Even better? Consider a texting system that allows patients to leave the office during a considerable wait period and receive a text message closer to the time they are expected back.
Honest communication increases satisfaction
By effectively communicating with patients, you’re keeping them as happy as possible instead of letting them stew in your waiting room. Nothing runs like clockwork, but these are some things that you can do to increase patient satisfaction and help your practice run more smoothly.