When people postpone, cancel or miss surgery, it's a serious headache for healthcare providers and surgery schedulers. Not only can a single missed surgery cost more than $7,100, but the wasted OR time also impacts subsequent surgeries. And, of course, missing surgery is also bad for the patient's health. Considering that patients miss between 5 and 20 percent of surgery appointments, it's quite a problem. For more insights on the ideal time to use surgical scheduling software, and tips to ensure the best ROI, check out this guide.
Of course, there are many reasons patients miss their scheduled procedures–or don't schedule them in the first place. Patients often simply forget about an appointment, or it clashes with something on their schedule. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic also caused some patients to delay or avoid treatment.
Often, however, you are simply dealing with a reluctant patient.
What makes people reluctant to schedule surgery?
Each reluctant patient has different histories, beliefs, and expectations. Some may have had negative experiences in the past and may automatically have some mistrust. Maybe they lack information or think their health issues may improve over time. Language barriers and visual or cognitive impairment can hamper communication and cause misunderstandings. Or patients may be anxious about their health or the procedure.
Understanding why patients are reluctant is key to reducing that reluctance and limiting its impact. Whatever the reason for the patient’s reluctance, their concerns must be addressed and handled sensitively.
Let’s examine why the reluctant patient is so hesitant and the number of ways that patient communication and surgical scheduling workflows can be improved to build confidence in the reluctant patient.
How can surgical scheduling help with the reluctant patient?
While it will never be possible to put every reluctant patient at ease, practices can assuage concerns. In particular, surgery schedulers can take simple steps that make a big difference in terms of communication and scheduling workflows:
Improve your communication with patients
Two of the main causes of missed appointments are miscommunication and patients simply forgetting about the appointment. As such, improving patient communication can go a long way toward improving patient attendance. Paper-based and manual scheduling processes offer too many opportunities for data and scheduling errors and omissions.
Communication must be relevant and appropriate to the patient. Official, complicated, or generic and impersonal communications may be off-putting for many people. Older patients might prefer written communication or a phone call. The quality of communication between surgery staff and patients is vital to building patient trust. The word “surgery” conjures up fear and trepidation in many patients. Consequently, although the surgeon may spend significant time reviewing a particular procedure, often little is retained from the clinical encounter. With the volume of information received in the clinic, simple details like even the name of the planned surgery and the relevant diagnosis are sometimes forgotten. Providing case specific information for the patient as soon as they leave the office gives confidence in the process and information to guide their discussions with family.
Avoid frequent cancellations and changes of schedule
Bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the system can also impact patient confidence. The reluctant patient may have been put off by previous cancellations or rescheduling of their surgery.
Poor surgical scheduling data management, missed clearances, or delays in authorization frustrate patients and can fuel more reservations.
Surgery scheduling workflows that keep both patients and staff engaged in the lead-up to surgery will be beneficial for both patients and the practice. With responsive scheduling workflows, your practice can give the reluctant patient confidence in the process and professionalism of their healthcare.
What are some tips for improving communication with the reluctant patient?
Here are three keys to improving communication to address the needs of the reluctant patient.
1. Send notifications
Studies show that simple phone or SMS reminders can avoid two-thirds of no-shows. Ensure that patients receive a timely reminder of their appointments, with personalized push notifications to their case, in their own language. AI tools and surgical scheduling software can deliver automated communications that are personalized to the patient, without adding extra administrative burdens onto scheduling staff.
2. Provide information clearly and accessibly
Miscommunication, confusion about the procedure, or even just preoperative nerves, can all fuel the reluctant patient’s resistance. Good communication, on the other hand, is vital for ensuring patients feel informed and prepared. A one-size-fits-all approach is not enough. The reluctant patient will have questions about their own specific case, so avoid generic information. Make sure that patients have all the information they need ahead of time, especially any special arrangements or instructions. Ensuring follow-ups and two-way communication with the reluctant patient and their family or caregivers can help give them confidence.
3. Give power to the patient
Involving the reluctant patient in the surgery preparation processes can increase their satisfaction and confidence in the procedure. As AI and digital tools replace outdated and inefficient manual systems, surgical scheduling communications are more directly accessible and convenient for both surgeons and patients, especially given the widespread accessibility of smartphones and tablets. Provide your patients with access to information resources so that they can find answers to their own questions.
What are some tips for improving surgical scheduling workflows to support the reluctant patient?
Scheduling workflows can improve the overall patient experience, helping the patient feel better prepared for their surgery. Here are three strategies that can help reluctant patients:
1. Integrate your workflows digitally
If your ASC or hospital relies on paper-based scheduling or offline data management, your workflows will be prone to communication failures. This can lead to medical errors or damaged patient confidence. However, communication platforms with data-sharing and mobile technologies are much more effective at getting the right information to the right people at the right time. Adaptive and responsive surgery scheduling software improves coordination between surgeons, perioperative staff, and schedulers. By allowing surgical staff to access patient information and get real-time updates on schedule changes or issues, integrated scheduling systems can significantly improve patient care.
2. Know your patient’s history
The risk of no-shows or cancellations can often be predicted from previous patient behaviors, such as noncompliance with clinic visits or other procedures. This history can indicate when a reluctant patient may need specific outreach to improve the likelihood of their attendance. It also allows schedulers to check in advance with patients who need to complete lab tests or cardiac clearance prior to surgery. Taking these steps in advance can avoid issues of patient frustration or dissatisfaction on the day of surgery. Understanding which patients are disengaged and not consuming educational content or reminders can help busy staff focus on patients at high risk of cancelling or rescheduling.
3. Schedule surgeries smartly
Redesigning systems can have a great impact on reducing missed surgery. Scheduling timely pre-assessments and sending reminders to patients can increase attendance. Schedulers can sequence surgeries more efficiently by scheduling patients at high risk of no-shows later in the day to limit the impact on other procedures.
How CaseCTRL’s surgery scheduling software helps to reassure the reluctant patient
With the right software platform, you can be equipped to cultivate a good relationship with even the most reluctant patient. Your software solution should provide tailored case information, help prepare patients for surgery, and reduce any anxiety about the procedure.
CaseCTRL’s surgical scheduling software incorporates end-to-end communication and workflow tools to enhance the patient experience from the moment surgery is recommended. Digital forms, with predictive autofill options, make patient data management thorough, standardized, and user-friendly. Personalized notifications provide the reluctant patient with specific information they need. The communication tools include automated reminders, notifications of surgery scheduling changes, pre-operative information, and customized post-op follow-up. What’s more, the Risk Analyser tool flags not only patients at risk for complications with mitigation strategies, but also identifies patients at high risk of not showing, so that staff can nurture these patients.
For the reluctant patient who is unsure about the procedure, Virtual Patient Guides provide round-the-clock access to relevant key information. The integrated AI chatbot use historical scheduling details, responses, and queries to allow patients to find context specific answers for their specific surgery in seconds.
CaseCTRL also produces surgeon and service line summaries, and reports of scheduler performance. It provides custom business intelligence and predictive analytics to monitor and continually improve OR utilization, enabling hospitals and ASCs to improve their efficiency and patient care. To see how CaseCTRL can reassure your reluctant patients by improving surgical scheduling and patient communications, schedule a demo.