Coordinating a surgery date often necessitates a mastery of logistical planning. Among the countless items schedulers need to arrange, they have to find a date and time that is suitable for all parties involved – including the patient, surgeon, and the hospital or ASC. All too often, after the patient leaves the office, an endless game of phone-tag ensues. Securing the patient’s slot on the schedule can drag on endlessly, or fall through the cracks entirely.
Patients who don’t schedule surgery are missed revenue opportunities
Like any other business, surgical practices are competing with other practices in their vicinity. The longer it takes the schedulers to contact the patient to book their surgery, the more likely the patient is to go elsewhere. And we all know that every procedure added to the surgeon’s lineup is additional revenue for the practice. The schedulers need to be mindful of this, and be proactive in securing the patient’s surgery date.
Schedule a surgery date before the patient leaves the office
This is the most ideal scenario – to secure a date right after the surgeon has recommended surgery – before the patient leaves the office. However, as you know all too well, patients often can’t commit to a surgery date right then and there – and understandably so. Whether they need the time to weigh up the pros and cons, wait for their insurance, verify their family members will be available to assist them post-surgery, time the surgery around work commitments or their child’s graduation… or for whatever myriad of reasons – they always need more time to decide!
Having said that, you are still far better off sitting down with the patient while they’re still in the office and gauging a tentative surgery date. Just pencil something in the calendar! This way, at least you have a point of reference and can continue coordinating the other details of the surgery.
Sure, the surgery date may change because of the patient’s insurance plan or additional clearances they need to obtain. But if the patient leaves the office with a date in hand, they will feel more of a commitment to the surgery and more likely to respond to your follow-up.
Tips to encourage patients to schedule their surgeries before leaving the office
Here are a few ways to encourage patients to schedule before they leave the office:
- Create a more intimate environment in your back-office – A patient may not feel comfortable discussing their surgery details and personal health issues while sitting out in the open, with other patients and schedulers bustling about. If your office space allows for it, provide your schedulers with a more intimate and private setup. This way, patients are more likely to feel comfortable sitting with schedulers and setting a surgery date – even if it’s tentative.
- Ensure you have an up-to-date digital surgery calendar – If the patient is willing to sit down and look at potential dates, the last thing you want to do is pull out a paper calendar that has not been updated by other staff members and may be missing critical information. You need to provide your patients with an accurate calendar and open slots, so they will feel confident that the date(s) you are offering is indeed valid. Using a digital calendar that can be shared and accessed by multiple staff simultaneously is essential. Whether it be a Google or Outlook Calendar, set it up so that color-coding is used to indicate each surgeon and implement filters so block time and open slots can be easily identified. The Surgimate Calendar is the ultimate option when it comes to scheduling. In addition to providing all of the above listed features, it also enables you to filter by hospital or coordinator, and sync all the surgical information (codes, insurance type etc). It’s also HIPAA compliant, and the information can easily be shared with the surgeon’s cellphone via SurgiApp.
- Offer reassurance and guidance – Scheduling surgery can be daunting and overwhelming for patients. There are often many unknowns and patients may require a bit of ‘hand-holding’ and extra care. If the patient has taken that first step and agreed to a surgery date, then it’s your job to provide them with all the pertinent information so they feel secure and confident they are in good hands. Giving them a customized patient letter and packet with step-by-step instructions leading up to their surgery date, and any other details that will help them through the process, will go a long way. They need to leave your office with a concrete plan of action.
The more you do to encourage patients to set a surgery date before leaving the office, the easier it will be to stop the endless phone tag cycle. This will also prevent patients from falling through the cracks and ensure the surgeons’ block time is full – thereby increasing revenue for the practice. Going the extra mile to schedule patients’ surgeries in a timely and uncomplicated fashion will undoubtedly increase their confidence about their surgery, and they will leave the office knowing they are in good hands.