Remember the personality tests you completed in high school, to get to know yourself better? It was always a challenge to select the true choice, as opposed to the option that would result in the character description we’d love to be described as.
How organized is your surgery scheduling process?
Below are a couple of questions you should ask yourself to evaluate what the present surgical scheduling process at your practice is like.
- The phone rings with a patient on the line, ready to schedule surgery. The surgical coordinator replies:
- Sure! Did you discuss the details of surgery and your insurance coverage status with the physician at the consultation?
- I’m sorry, but the surgical coordinator is out for the week. If you provide me with a couple of minutes to try and collect the paperwork regarding your case, I may be able to help you schedule.
- Of course, let’s get you scheduled. After scheduling and discussing the specifics, I will have a letter including the details discussed and other relevant instructions to you for reference as the surgery date approaches.
- How is necessary paperwork completed and processed?
- There is a designated staff member who prints the necessary forms, completes them with the patient’s help, and enters the data into the relevant database or submitted to the proper address.
- Using a robust PDF editor, the scheduling coordinator enters all data into the correct forms, later carefully uploading them to the patient’s file for further use.
- In just a few clicks, your surgical scheduling system generates the customized forms, which are then completed and saved to automatically move to the next step of the scheduling process.
And then there are the pre-op checklists, multiple authorizations, and the actual calendar being utilized. If you aren’t convinced yet about the importance of a streamlined process, here’s how this is likely the difference between a surgical coordinators’ Miserable Monday or Tranquil Tuesday. Every day.
What does a Surgical Scheduling Coordinator do?
The main responsibility of a Surgical Scheduling Coordinator is to schedule surgeries for their assigned physicians. This includes coordinating surgeries with hospitals or ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs).
When scheduling surgery, many details have to be pre arranged to ensure all runs smoothly for both patients and surgical staff, all or many of which are executed by the coordinator.
- Are surgeries booked in the correct facility?
- Is the surgeon’s block-time being utilized?
- Were relevant insurance authorizations processed?
- Does the patient have the necessary medical clearance?
- Was the required surgical equipment ordered and put in place by surgical reps?
Often, coordinators must also complete insurance, hospital, or ASC paperwork, and act as the liaison between surgeons, patients and equipment vendors. Of course, this amounts to quite a cumbersome workload. Thankfully, it’s one that can be streamlined with the help of a variety of digital tools available.
Scheduling Optimization: An Attainable Goal
In the ideal situation, all the surgical coordinator must do when a patient would like to schedule surgery is begin an optimized and streamlined scheduling process. In the best case, this means that every requirement of the process is digital and thorough, so the scheduling coordinator wastes the least time and energy possible doing things that can be automatically triggered and executed.
Attested to by a growing number of surgical scheduling teams, implementing a process, whether partially or fully automated, is key to
- a secure system – no sudden scramble for an overlooked authorization,
- increased revenue – no last-minute surgical cancellation due to miscommunicated pre-op instructions,
- improved patient experience – quick and efficient scheduling, simple and clear guidance on paperwork completion, and clearly communicated expectations and procedures.
It’s a win-win.
Implementing Change:The Surgery Scheduler Checklist
Below is a checklist of vital tips for how to organize surgery scheduling in a timely manner. Aside from the huge improvement for staff processing surgeries, these points also have the potential to drastically improve, both the patient and surgeon experience.
1. Is there a consistent workflow?
When everyone in the practice knows and follows the same steps for each surgery scheduled, it allows for transparent staff expectations and easy transition or temporary replacement of staff members.
2. Are relevant forms automatically generated?
Utilize a robust PDF form filler and mail merge features to increase the speed and accuracy of your paperwork, or upgrade to using a dedicated form generator feature for the most efficient experience where relevant forms are auto-generated for each scheduling scenario.
3. Do patients have customized information about their surgery?
Scratch pre-op patient anxiety and prevent miscommunication by providing patients with a customized surgery letter detailing all aspects of the procedure.
4. Do you have a digital checklist to track items leading up to surgery?
Having a digital checklist ensures that there is one single place where everyone can track whether each step was completed, or not. You may choose to create a checklist as a shared Excel or Google sheet, or use a customized surgical scheduling checklist based on procedure type for a more thorough solution.
5. Do you have preference cards/templates for each procedure type?
By creating preference cards as templates – using simple shared files or a dedicated system – your staff will be aware of the facility (i.e. an ASC or hospital), as well as what CPT and ICD-10 codes to choose for each surgery. This can also include what equipment is needed and the case length.
6. Is there a cohesive system for surgeons to submit codes post-surgery?
Having a defined process where all surgeons must capture codes and return them to the office within a designated time frame following a surgery will significantly improve the workflow and decrease the revenue loss that results from failure for the billing department to submit codes for insurance reimbursement in a timely manner.
For an easier, error-free, HIPAA compliant solution, go digital through your EHR or an app which automates the confirmation of post-surgical codes.
7. Does your practice have a central repository for all surgery-related information?
Especially important for practices with multiple locations, be sure to create a HIPAA compliant shared location for all surgery related data, so anyone on the staff can access the information they need whenever they need it.
8. Do you have an easy way to access surgical data for reporting?
At the end of the day – or year – be sure you have a manual or digital tool to create Performance Reports by analyzing all parameters of your practice, whether it is the count of surgeries performed, scheduled, recommended, or cancelled, or revenue generated per surgeon, facility, or location.
Take the Leap by Starting Small
As is key when implementing any change, taking things one step at a time is vital.
If anything on the above surgery scheduling checklist is not yet streamlined at your practice, do yourself, your staff, and your patients a favor and get the ball of change for the better rolling.
With over a decade of helping surgical practices optimize their procedures, Surgimate is here to discuss how to organize surgery scheduling and how your practice can benefit from the variety of tools available today.
Here’s to enjoying many Merry Mondays!