5 Things to Look for in Your Surgical Scheduling Communications with Patients

5 Things to Look for in Your Surgical Scheduling Communications with Patients

A lot of complexities go into successful surgical scheduling. Practice staff must verify patient pre-surgical clearance with other physicians, coordinate the best OR time against competing cases and ensure the right equipment availability, to name just a few.

Yet one of the biggest—and easiest to improve—aspects of surgical scheduling often doesn’t receive nearly enough attention.

How effectively is the practice prioritizing the presence of a ready patient?

The Need for Better Patient Engagement in Scheduling Processes

Easier Surgery Scheduling Process

A big challenge with on-time surgery starts is that patients often show up unprepared or late or are no-shows. Much of this could be avoided with better preparation. It’s estimated that patients miss between 5% to 20% of their surgery appointments, with many not receiving important education, instructions and reminders.

Patients often need to take key steps to prepare for a surgery, such as possibly limiting food and drink, ceasing use of certain medications in advance, taking special steps with washing and/or shaving, and arranging for transportation or packing for a hospital stay. If patients don’t receive or understand these instructions, at best they may end up calling the surgeon’s office with questions. Staff will sometimes need to find the patient’s history and procedure information, and then solicit a response from their busy surgeon prior to being able to share instructions—a dissatisfying and potentially anxiety-producing wait for patients and not the best use of staff’s time due to the repetitive nature and focus away from immediate tasks. At worst, the patient may be confused and arrive on surgery day unprepared—potentially creating a situation where the surgery is cancelled at the last minute or the likelihood of an undesired effect on health.

Something as simple as a well-timed reminder regarding the date and time of surgery can be incredibly important. A study by Tulane University  found that avoidable patient no-shows were a common cause of surgery cancellations, with 30% of patients failing to show up on the day of surgery due to transportation issues, uncertainty about the date of the procedure or simply forgetting about the appointment. 

Patient no-shows and cancellations also are costly. The study estimated one missed surgery can cost upward of $7,100 on average. A cancellation also can create dissatisfaction with the patient and surgical team and potentially leave the patient in pain or impact the quality of their health during the delay before rescheduling can occur.

Taking a More Customized Surgical Scheduling Communications Approach

customized approach

The good news is that a more proactive approach to working with patients can often mitigate many of these issues. Providing clear, appropriately timed preparation instructions leading up to the surgery and verifying the patient’s commitment to the date can go a long way to heading off no-shows.

What does an ideal approach look like? If practice staff are merely phoning or texting patients with reminders—even if they are using an automated system—that’s not nearly enough. Active outreach is important, but it’s equally necessary to ensure communications are relevant and feel personal. For something as important as surgery, patients often prefer over communication than lack of communication.

The right communications approach should be customized around patient need. These communications must be effective while also being easy enough to execute that consistency can be assured regardless of how busy the physician practice’s staff may become. As such, savvy surgical scheduling teams make use of a blend of personalization and automation.

5 Things to Look for with Patient Surgical Scheduling Communications

Consider how the following advances provide a meaningful and supportive care experience for patients, while ensuring the greatest likelihood for surgery readiness without overburdening staff.

templates
  1. Smart, multimedia templates. Some surgical scheduling systems will allow clinicians to send out stock letters to all patients. While this can be helpful, it doesn’t sufficiently address the level of support many patients need. Patients are often overwhelmed with packets of generic instructions they receive in the clinic. CaseCTRL’s AI-Enabled Virtual Patient Guides engage the patient with education that is specific not only to the patient, but also the case type and surgeon, so patients can be confident that all content is applicable to them and there isn’t any guesswork. The surgeon’s office makes use of pre-formatted material and then, using rule-based workflows, can automatically deliver relevant educational components in the combination needed for the individual patient, including the use of personal YouTube videos.

    Creating and using your own educational content this way also has marketing benefits for your business. As search engine algorithms detect audience being drawn to your content, they will rank it higher and be more likely to improve ranking on search engine results pages. Furthermore, providing patients with your own content lessens the likelihood of them needing to seek information from alternate sources—such as content that may have originated from a competitor.

Communication with Staff
  1. Patient-centered communication timing. The best communications are those that occur exactly when needed. With CaseCTRL, once a scheduler registers patients for surgery, the patients is added to a communication pathway. Predictive text cues will then push reminders, encouragement and more to patients on a timetable personalized to their surgery, rather than a generic schedule. This personalized communication instills confidence in their journey and the surgical team.

Multiple-devices
  1. Multiple modalities for communication. A modern surgical coordination system will permit outreach in many different formats, such as phone, voicemail, text and email concurrently to ensure messages get disseminated. In this day and age, many patients ignore phone calls from unrecognized numbers that they may believe are spam. Using a consistent phone number and clearly disclosing the origin of the number reduces the chances phone calls or texts will go ignored. For certain patients that are not comfortable with exchanging text messages or emails, voicemail reminders can be critical.

at-risk patients
  1. Engagement tracking to identify at-risk patients. Also important is having a gauge for the effectiveness of communication. CaseCTRL’s software provides the practice staff with information on which communications have been opened and clicked. If a patient hasn’t engaged with some or all of the communications, then the surgeon’s staff knows they should prioritize reaching out to the patient with the missed education. The result is greater efficiency and effectiveness of effort. Most of the scheduler’s time can be spent focusing on those patients most at risk of not being adequately prepared and tailoring education specific to their needs.

Patients Guides
  1. Instant chat with sharing capabilities. In addition, use of an AI-enabled chatbot makes it easy for patients to get fast answers to common questions, such as confirming surgery time and location or what to bring when preparing for an inpatient stay. After surgery, patients can send photos of their wounds to their care team, fill out pain scales and submit data, such as use of pain medication, for healthcare professionals’ evaluation. Such convenience increases the likelihood of patients receiving the information they need right when they need it and reduces the time and frustration associated with playing phone tag for both patient and staff.

To see how CaseCTRL is improving surgery scheduling while also revolutionizing patient communications––all in a HIPAA-compliant manner—view a demo here.

Download the eBook: How to Improve Your Surgery Scheduling Process: A Comprehensive Guide

Supercharge your surgical scheduling. See how caseCTRL can work for you. Show me a demo.
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