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    “Maybe” Doesn’t Mean “No”: How to Handle Patients’ Reluctance to Schedule Surgeries
    “Maybe” Doesn’t Mean “No”: How to Handle Patients’ Reluctance to Schedule Surgeries |

    Did you know it’s the surgeries themselves that often account for 60% of a practice’s income? Despite this, the percentage of patients who come through the door and who actually require surgery is relatively small. That’s because Surgery is often a last resort treatment, and if an issue can be treated without surgery that is always preferable, and any good surgeon will give an honest assessment and recommendation. 

     

    Once it is clear that surgery is the necessary treatment, it’s common for patients to feel some apprehension and reluctance. This blog explores why this happens and what practical steps your practice can take to avoid losing these patients.

     

    What causes reluctance to schedule surgery?

    Being told that surgery is required can be a stressful situation for a patient. The prospect of being put under anesthesia or the fears of having to endure a difficult recovery period can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Some patients may want to seek a second opinion before agreeing to take the surgical route, and others might just need a few days to let the information sink in before scheduling a surgery date. 

     

    Today, the situation for patients and surgical practices is further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the initial ban on elective surgeries has been lifted in most places, many people are still hesitant to go to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Over 80% of all orthopedic surgeries in the USA, for example, were postponed or canceled in the first phase of the pandemic. While for many, delaying surgery by a few months won’t necessarily deliver a life-changing impact, it means that more people are living with chronic pain or risking potentially life-threatening situations. 

     

    What’s a surgical practice to do?

    On the one hand, you don’t want to pressure your patients to immediately schedule surgery if they have reservations. But on the other hand, the solvency of the practice does rely on a steady flow of surgeries. In addition to being supportive and trying to address any fears and anxieties that come up, there are also some practical things you can do to make sure these patients stay on your radar while you are waiting for them to make a decision.

     

    This is where it’s extremely useful to have a solid workflow in place that will ensure that these reluctant patients can receive timely follow-up. Here are the 4 simple steps that we recommend:

     

    • Categorize – within your EHR or surgical scheduling system, tag or categorize relevant patients as having been recommended surgery but have not yet scheduled. 
    • Reason – include a note with the reason for the delay in scheduling. Reasons may include things like getting a second opinion, checking on insurance coverage and co-pay information, timing considerations, assessing different facility options, or any other reason given. 
    • Follow-up – set a specific date on which someone from the practice should follow up with the patient to see whether they are ready to schedule or if they have additional questions.
    • Report – develop a reporting culture where staff can regularly run a report and see which patients have been categorized for follow-up and why so that they can reach out at the appropriate time. 

    Set up your system

    If you use a platform like Surgimate Practice, it is easy to store all of the relevant information in each patient’s record. You can include searchable details like reasons for reluctance, type of insurance, preference for hospital or ASC and more. From there, a simple search based on any of the chosen parameters and date range will provide a list of patients to call. 

    Even if you don’t use Surgimate Practice™, it’s important to make sure you keep track of all of this information in your EHR, spreadsheet or even in an old school notebook. Taking that extra time to reach out to these patients could be the difference between a surgery being scheduled or simply forgotten about – and this could impact both your practice’s bottom line and the quality of life of a patient.

     

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    About the author: Did you know it’s the surgeries themselves that often account for 60% of a practice's income? Despite this, the percentage of patients who come through the door and who actually require surgery is relatively small. That’s because Surgery is often a last resort treatment, and if an issue can be treated without surgery that is always preferable, and any good surgeon will give an honest assessment and recommendation.    Once it is clear that surgery is the necessary treatment, it’s common for patients to feel some apprehension and reluctance. This blog explores why this happens and what practical steps your practice can take to avoid losing these patients.  

    What causes reluctance to schedule surgery?

    Being told that surgery is required can be a stressful situation for a patient. The prospect of being put under anesthesia or the fears of having to endure a difficult recovery period can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Some patients may want to seek a second opinion before agreeing to take the surgical route, and others might just need a few days to let the information sink in before scheduling a surgery date.    Today, the situation for patients and surgical practices is further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the initial ban on elective surgeries has been lifted in most places, many people are still hesitant to go to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Over 80% of all orthopedic surgeries in the USA, for example, were postponed or canceled in the first phase of the pandemic. While for many, delaying surgery by a few months won’t necessarily deliver a life-changing impact, it means that more people are living with chronic pain or risking potentially life-threatening situations.   

    What’s a surgical practice to do?

    On the one hand, you don’t want to pressure your patients to immediately schedule surgery if they have reservations. But on the other hand, the solvency of the practice does rely on a steady flow of surgeries. In addition to being supportive and trying to address any fears and anxieties that come up, there are also some practical things you can do to make sure these patients stay on your radar while you are waiting for them to make a decision.   This is where it’s extremely useful to have a solid workflow in place that will ensure that these reluctant patients can receive timely follow-up. Here are the 4 simple steps that we recommend:  
    • Categorize - within your EHR or surgical scheduling system, tag or categorize relevant patients as having been recommended surgery but have not yet scheduled. 
    • Reason - include a note with the reason for the delay in scheduling. Reasons may include things like getting a second opinion, checking on insurance coverage and co-pay information, timing considerations, assessing different facility options, or any other reason given. 
    • Follow-up - set a specific date on which someone from the practice should follow up with the patient to see whether they are ready to schedule or if they have additional questions.
    • Report - develop a reporting culture where staff can regularly run a report and see which patients have been categorized for follow-up and why so that they can reach out at the appropriate time. 

    Set up your system

    If you use a platform like Surgimate Practice, it is easy to store all of the relevant information in each patient’s record. You can include searchable details like reasons for reluctance, type of insurance, preference for hospital or ASC and more. From there, a simple search based on any of the chosen parameters and date range will provide a list of patients to call.  Even if you don’t use Surgimate Practice™, it’s important to make sure you keep track of all of this information in your EHR, spreadsheet or even in an old school notebook. Taking that extra time to reach out to these patients could be the difference between a surgery being scheduled or simply forgotten about - and this could impact both your practice’s bottom line and the quality of life of a patient.  
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