No matter if it’s a small procedure or a major operation, the last thing anyone wants is for their surgery to be cancelled at the last moment. It’s stressful and disruptive to everyone involved, which is why surgical practices are constantly looking for ways to prevent surgery cancellations.
While not all cancellations are avoidable (a patient coming down with a fever the morning of their op or inclement weather), too many cancellations are due to situations that should and could have been prevented.
Top Tips to Prevent Surgery Cancellations
Here are four ways to prevent surgery cancellations that you can implement at your practice immediately.
1. Avoid Patients Being Scheduled for the Wrong Type of Surgical Facility
Patients with MRSA, a latex allergy or even a high BMI (depending on type of surgery) cannot undergo surgery in an Ambulatory Service Center (ASC).
Scheduling someone with these or other conditions for a procedure at an ASC is an exercise in futility since they will have to be rescheduled for an operating slot at a hospital. It also represents real financial loss for the surgeon and the ASC, and frustration and stress for the blameless patient.
How To Avoid Scheduling Patients At The Wrong Facility
Nobody knows why “a stitch in time, saves nine,” but pretending you do can save a ton of aggravation (mostly yours, probably) further down the line.
It may seem obvious, but make sure there is a comprehensive medical history check for every patient to uncover any of the issues that might disqualify them from undergoing surgery at an ASC.
Then, make sure the results are noted in the patient’s surgical record and highlighted on all their paperwork, be it digital or an actual printout for those offices who haven’t yet become paperless.
Having an electronic surgical record for every patient stored in one place means no more trying to track information jotted down on various pages or forms. It also makes it a simple matter for the scheduler to choose the correct location and reduce surgery cancellations.
2. Complete All Clearances and Surgical Paperwork In Time
Once surgery has been scheduled, the race is on to get all the paperwork completed in time for the big day with both the patients and the schedulers speeding their way to the finish line.
Schedulers have to stay one step ahead of the patients and make sure that they get all the documentation they need for the procedure (clearances, H&Ps, PATs and EKGs and so on). But with hundreds of patients and endless amounts of paperwork, we know how easy it can be to lose track of things.
Whether it’s the patient who forgot a document or the scheduler who misfiled an approval, a missing record can cause surgery to be cancelled or rescheduled.
How To Avoid Missing Documents and Reduce Surgery Cancellations
Honestly, this one is easy. Make a list and, er, check it twice. Maintain a digital checklist for each individual surgery and check it to see which items have been completed and which are still outstanding. And don’t forget to update it as you go along.
To keep stress levels low, set a final deadline of about a week out of surgery to ensure all the documentation has been completed in time.
For a foolproof tracking process, Surgimate’s powerful dashboard enables users to run searches and pull up a list of upcoming surgeries, and show which items are outstanding. These items can be sorted in a variety of ways, including by:
- Date of surgery
The dashboard also lets users build their own reports so they can pull up the information they need to see for easy data management.
3. Deal With Insurance Companies Correctly
No matter if all the paperwork is in place, there’s still the little matter of the all-powerful insurance company. If (and we all know there are endless reasons) the insurance company denies a procedure, then it’s a case of “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”
Just as problematic as flat out denial, is the reality that some people’s insurance policies are really, really complicated. All of which means, in short, don’t mess with the insurance companies and their strict procedures and requirements if you want to reduce the surgery cancellation rate.
How to Avoid Insurance Frustrations and Prevent Surgery Cancellations
There’s nothing for it, but to create another checklist to track patients who still need to receive approval for their surgeries.
To maximize efficiency, we recommend cross-listing patients according to the insurance carrier, so you can take care of a whole bunch of them in one phone call, without having to call each carrier for each patient (seriously, even with speed dial, that gets annoying. Fast.). This is part of a process called centralized scheduling.
4. Avoid Patient Mistakes That Cause Surgery Cancellations
Sometimes, patients do things they are not supposed to (eating on the morning of surgery or taking medication.) We know. You’ve been there. More than once.
While you curse them out (in your head, of course) for doing something that meant the surgeon had to cancel surgery, you now have to reschedule them for surgery on another date.
How to Avoid Self-destructive Patients
The only way to protect patients from themselves is to assume they weren’t listening the first bunch of times you told them not to eat, drink or take their meds on the day of surgery (or maybe even the night before.)
Sure, it’s a bit (a lot) patronizing and sure, it’s annoying for those who understand what you are saying from the get go, but it keeps things smoother in the long run.
Make it crystal clear exactly what patients can and can’t do in the run up to surgery. Lay out this information clearly (we’re talking big print) so there is no confusion. Be sure to highlight and bold the warnings about eating and stopping medications before surgery.
Schedule a reminder to reach out to patients on the week of their surgery (by phone, email, or text) and remind them they have to fast from the night before surgery. Don’t forget to stress that yes, this even includes that all-important morning cup of coffee.
Take a look at our free comprehensive Guide to Charging Surgery Cancellation Fees to discover more tips to reduce surgery cancellations, caused by patients.
Stay Calm and Reschedule
No matter how hard you try to prevent surgery cancellations, some procedures will be cancelled due to lack of paperwork, insurance refusals or even human error. Your job is to get those patients back in the system and rescheduled for surgery as soon as possible. If you’ve created tracking lists using a status tracker and kept them up-to-date, it will just take a few clicks and before you know it, they’ll be right back in the schedule.
Find out how using Surgimate’s care coordination software can help your surgical practice reduce and prevent surgery cancellations.