Read How to successfully implement appointment reminder service new .pub text version

How to

Successfully

Implement

An Appointment Reminder Service

The essential guide for medical administrators

By Yuri Koupenov. ClientTell Inc.

Table of Contents

Introduction.................................................................1 1. Selecting a Vendor................................................2

A. Preparation........................................................2 B. Selecting a Vendor...........................................2

General Information.....................................2 Features of the Service.................................3 HIPAA Compliance........................................3 Pricing............................................................3 Implementation......................................................4 A. Agreement and Contracts................................4 B. Creating Your Scripts........................................4 C. Explain the Service to Your Staff...................5 D. Educate Your Patients......................................6 E. Understanding Your Patients..........................7 F. Tracking No-Shows............................................8 1. 2. 3. 4.

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Introduction

Using your staff to make appointment reminder calls is time consuming, expensive, and may often require staff to work overtime. You are not alone. Thousands of hospitals and medical practices are experiencing the same problems and have already realized the benefits of outsourcing their appointment reminders: Why outsource? 1. 2. 3. 4. It lowers no-shows. It frees the staff from making the calls It cuts the cost of making a reminder call in half It helps your patients by delivering a consistent message

In our busy lives, it is always nice to be reminded of our doctor's appointment. Surveys show that 98% of patients approve and appreciate receiving a reminder call. This guide is designed to help you choose and implement an appointment reminder service for your office.

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I. Selecting a Vendor

(A) Preparation

Before contacting an appointment reminder service, there are several important aspects you need to consider to be prepared. 1. Determine the number of patients in your practice per day - this will help you calculate the cost of using an appointment reminder service 2. Determine the number of offices, locations, and departments that will be using the service 3. Decide how many different cost centers you will have (one invoice with each location, each location invoiced separately? etc.) 4. Determine your no-show rate - if you don't keep track of this statistic, look at your previous week and determine how many patients did not show up for their appointments. This will help you in evaluating the effectiveness of the service 5. If you use your staff to make appointment reminder calls determine how much it costs you to make every call. This calculation is very simple: According to the AMA, it takes about 3 minutes for each reminder call made from your practice (includes the time to pick up the phone and dial the number). This equals 20 calls per hour. Divide your employee's hourly rate by 20 (calls per hour) to get an average cost per call. The cost of an appointment reminder service should be much lower than the cost of using your own staff.

(B) Selecting a Vendor

After you prepare this information, the next step is selecting a vendor. Following are some important points you need to look for when choosing a vendor: 1. General information:

· · · ·

How long has the vendor been in business How many clients does the vendor have in the medical field Ask for at least 5 references from clients of similar size to yours. Call and ask the references about the vendor and how the service works for them. What separates the vendor from other competitors

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2. Features of the service:

· · · · · · ·

How many attempts are made if the phone line is busy or there is no answer. Can patients confirm or cancel over the phone Can the scripts be customized to include doctor name, location, procedure type etc. What software and hardware are required to use the service Is the recording a computer generated voice or a live recording How quickly are script changes made Is there online reporting of call results

3. HIPAA Compliance. Make sure the vendor is following HIPAA regulations. Some questions to ask:

· · · ·

Is the vendor HIPAA compliant How is the PHI transferred How is PHI backed-up and or deleted. Does the vendor carry general liability insurance in case of a problem

4. Pricing. Similar to most services, pricing for appointment reminders varies. You may think that cost is one of the number one factors when selecting an appointment reminder service, but it is not. In fact, if you find a service with below average costs, you may want to steer clear. Chances are they are cheap for a reason. You do not want to sacrifice quality for cost when dealing with an appointment reminder service. Make sure that you understand all costs involved. Some important issues to look for:

· · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Monthly charge Per call charge Monthly minimum Volume Minimum Setup fees (is it total setup, is it per location etc.) Maintenance fees Upgrade fees Support fees Script changes fees, availability and time frame of script changes Equipment to purchase Contract requirements (be careful about signing a long-term contract, they are difficult to cancel regardless of the reason) Availability and charges for foreign languages Free trial

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Using the information provided above you should now be prepared to select a vendor that will provide your practice with the best Appointment Reminder Service available. Once you have selected your vendor, the following steps will help in implementing the service and educating your patients.

II. Implementation

(A) Agreements and Contracts

Once you have selected a vendor your next step should be to send them your Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for signature. The HIPAA regulations require a covered entity such as a hospital or medical practice to have a BAA with any organization whose activity involves the use or disclosure of the covered entity's protected medical information. The responsibility for obtaining the BAA and having it on file is placed on the health care facility. Next, are contracts required? Some vendors require a contract before the service begins. These contracts may run from one to three years in length and make it difficult and/or expensive for you to break. Other vendors may not require a contract. However, at the request of the client they can develop a contract in order to lock-in a price for an extended period of time.

(B) Creating Your Scripts

You will need to create the scripts that patients will hear when they receive their reminder call. There are two main scripts that you should use: a regular patient script and a first-time patient script. Depending on the size of your practice and number of departments, you may need a different script for each department. Your vendor should be able to insert your physician names, location names, procedure types, and phone numbers into your script automatically. It is better to keep your script short, straightforward and uniform throughout your departments. If you make your script longer than a minute your patients will most likely hang up the phone before they reach the response options.

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Following is a sample script for regular patients that has proven to work very well. "Hello this is (Enter Practice Name) calling to remind (Patient's First Name Merge) that you have an appointment on (Date Merge) scheduled for (Time Merge) at (Location Merge) with (Doctor Merge). Please contact us 24 hours in advance at (XXX-XXX-XXXX) if you must cancel your appointment It is very important that you respond to one of the following options: To confirm your appointment, press (1) To replay this message, press (2) To cancel your appointment, press (5) Response to pressing (1) - Thank you for confirming your appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon. Response to pressing (5) - We're sorry that you will be unable to keep your appointment. Please call us at your earliest convenience to reschedule an appointment time. Thank you." For first-time patients you can add the following phrase to the body of the script: "Please remember to bring your insurance information, a list of the medications you are currently taking and any lab results or x-rays that are pertinent to your visit. Please be prepared to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to fill-out our new patient information

(C) Explain the service to your staff

It is very important that your staff understands the importance as well as the benefits of using an appointment reminder service. Make sure you explain how the service works: 1. Give your staff the vendor's contact information. 2. Designate a person to be responsible for sending the file (if needed) and to be a primary contact. 3. Have written instructions on sending the file or anything else that has to be done to use the service (this becomes very helpful if the primary contact is out of the office for any reason)

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The most effective impact you can make on lowering your no-shows comes from a good reminder message combined with patient education. Patient education is very important because most patients truly do not understand the consequences of not showing up for their appointment. Until this mindset is changed, reminder calls will only have a marginal impact. The following suggestions will help in educating your patients: 1. Communicate in clear and dramatic terms the importance of the appointment. Along with appointment reminder card give the patient a letter. The outline of the letter should be: · Thank you for choosing our practice. Let the patient know you appreciate their business. This should be included in the first paragraph of the automated reminder letter. · It's important that we see you on this date. Stress the importance of this to the health of the patient. For example: "It is very important that the doctor can make sure your prescribed [therapy/ medication] is achieving the expected result, and that you are not experiencing any negative side effects." · We understand that your time is valuable. Our time is valuable too. Explain that your practice has set aside the time of practitioners, staff and equipment for this appointment, all at a considerable cost. If your practice has a policy of billing no-shows, you should include it here. If your policy is to bill "repeat offenders," you may want to create a separate template for these patients.

·

·

Please call to reschedule if you can't make your appointment time. A cancellation that can be filled by a patient on your waiting list is preferable to a no-show. Remind the patient to cancel if they can't make it. We look forward to seeing you. Finish the letter by thanking the patient again. Remind them to call if they have any questions or problems. Let the patient know that your practice truly cares about their well-being.

2. Post bulletins (should be provided by vendor) in the waiting rooms and examination rooms informing your patients about the appointment reminder calls. 3. Add cancellation fees. If you institute a procedure to educate your patients and you are still not getting the results you need, you may want to consider adding additional language to you script that indicates that appointments not cancelled 24 hours in advance will result in a cancellation fee of $25.

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(E) Understanding your patients

Once the service has started and your reminder calls are being made, you should be able to view a detailed report of all calls made. If your practice has multiple locations, each location should be able to view their report independent of the other locations. If required, the vendor should be able to create a "master account" for an administrator(s) to view the reports of all locations. In addition, your report should allow you to export your results to an excel spreadsheet for statistical purposes. Examples of call results are as follows:

Confirmed - Patient answers the phone and confirms the appointment. Cancelled - Patient answers the phone and cancels the appointment. No Response - Patient picks up the phone, but does not respond by confirming, or cancelling their appointment. Invalid Response - Patient answers the phone but presses a wrong button on the receiver. Repeated Message - Patient answers the phone and repeats the message but still does not confirm or cancel. Hung Up - Patient answers the phone but doesn't listen to the entire message and never reaches the response options. Answering Machine - An answering machine picks up the phone. Line Busy ­ The vendor should make multiple attempts to reach each patient. No Answer - No one answers the phone and the patient does not have an answering machine. Again, the vendor should make multiple attempts to reach each patient. Invalid Phone No. - Patient could not be reached, because the phone number was invalid. Out of Order - Patient could not be reached, because the phone was out of order.

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(F) Tracking No-Shows

Lowering no-shows is tough for all practices. In the U.S. no-shows rates average around 15%. A practice that tracks their no-shows can significantly lower their no-show rates. Before you can solve the problem of lowering your no-show rates it is imperative that you have an understanding as to why your patients are not showing up. Following is a form designed to help your staff in tracking this information. Simply ask your staff to call the no-shows and chart the reasons given on the form. You will quickly begin to see a pattern develop. The top two or three reasons will be good indicators as to why your patients are not showing up. Once you have determined the reasons for the noshows, you can then begin to formulate a strategy to lower them.

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Hopefully you have found this guide helpful in choosing a qualified vendor and implementing an appointment reminder service for your practice. The benefits of appointment confirmations are invaluable. They are easy to outsource and in return will have a large impact on your practice. If lowering your no-shows, freeing your staff from making reminder calls, cutting your reminder cost in half, and delivering a consistent message to your patients are important to you and your practice, then choosing an appointment reminder service is an excellent decision. At ClientTell we have helped over 10 000 physicians successfully implement and use our appointment reminders. With over 8 years of experience we will help you seamlessly integrate the service into your daily activities and help you lower your patient no-shows. It would be our pleasure to offer your practice a free 30 day trial to evaluate the benefits of an appointment reminder service. If you have questions about this guide or the services of ClientTell, or maybe you would like to take us up on our offer of a 30 day free trial, then please take a couple of minutes and call us at 877.244.9178. Your staff and patients will thank you.

ClientTell Team

Contact Information

Phone: Fax: Email: Website: Hours: Address: 1 877 244 9178 1 229 242 1562 [email protected] www.ClientTell.net 8 AM-5:30 PM EST 3185 Madison Hwy Valdosta, GA 31601

How to Successfully Implement Appointment Reminder Service

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