For practice managers, it’s time to clean up office processes in preparation for the influx of newly insured patients and paperwork imposed by the Affordable Care Act. A major struggle for most practices, long patient wait times, will begin to work against them as competition heats up, and quality metric based reimbursements kick in. Realistically, if an office is already imposing long wait times on patients, how could they possibly take on more?
The answer is, they can’t. That’s why Providers all around the country are employing new strategies and restructuring their business models to address the issue of patient wait times and prepare for the impact of reform.
A New York Times article titled, Punishing Doctors Who Make You Wait gives patients tips on how to retaliate for long wait times. The article suggests everything from finding another practitioner to writing online reviews; none of which would be desirable for a practice in today’s market.
So how do practices conquer the battle of patient wait times without sacrificing revenue? Here are a few ideas:
Completed Disclosure Forms
Many practices invest a ton of money and effort into creating attractive professional looking websites and fail to maximize their effectiveness. One great way to decrease patient wait times is to provide disclosure forms for download on the practice site (or sent in the mail) at the time they book their appointments. Staff can then direct patients to download and complete the forms, prior to their visits. When patients arrive prepared it helps staff to streamline office processes without having to wait for the patients to fill out forms.
Another great way to save time is to pre-verify patient insurance eligibility, before the time of appointment. As a patient books an appointment, staff can capture their insurance information and verify with an Eligibility Verification Program. Eligibility programs are able to verify batch records, allowing staff to process multiple patients at the same time. This task can be saved for early morning or other times when the office is quiet. Eligibility programs save time for both patients and office staff – not to mention reduce chances for rejected claims and bad debt by ensuring that coverage information is accurate.
Save on File Programs
Collecting payments at the time of service is a must to stay competitive in this market. Having a PCI compliant processing program that allows staff to save customer payment information on file, greatly reduces time spent on check-out.
A Concierge Approach
Then there is always the option of becoming a hybrid concierge practice model. Many practices are finding success in charging “members” an annual fee to join and use this revenue to pay for resources to improve the patient experience. These resources can be anything from additional technology to additional staff.
Practices that have been successful at combating these issues have made it their focus. As the nature of the marketplace changes, practices will have to value the loyalty of return patients and put emphasis on the “patient experience” to stay afloat.
Has your office struggled with long patient wait times? Have you found ways to resolve this issue not mentioned here? Share your comments below!