Answering the Great Patient Scheduling Debate

Follow Us:

If there is one administrative burden that is also critical to the success of a mental health facility, it is proper patient scheduling. Most facilities schedule at least hundreds of appointments every month.

Some of these are new patients, while others are existing follow-ups. Despite being crucial, patient scheduling is a time-consuming task that often affects the operational efficiency of the staff. 

When done the right way, it offers benefits like –

  • Better patient experience
  • Better utilization of physician’s time
  • Increased staff productivity
  • Reduced no-shows

Up until the past few years, this process has been largely handled by a manual workforce. However, the scenario is changing (albeit gradually). The great debate today in the mental healthcare world is that of the self-scheduling of appointments. How does it work, and is it worth it? Keep reading as this article weighs both the pros and cons.

The Case for Self-Scheduling

Instances of patient self-scheduling are on the rise across various healthcare practice sites. Let’s explore in detail why this is the case.

1. Patient Convenience

One major benefit of patient self-scheduling or automation is the fact that patients need not wait for your staff members. They can schedule an appointment at a slot that is most suitable for them.

Your facility could receive hundreds of patient calls, emails, or messages on a monthly basis. It is possible to miss out on some in the midst of all the influx. Thankfully, self-scheduling does not leave any patient hanging as they’re not waiting for a callback or message.

2. No Worries Regarding Office Hours

Did you know that a significant percentage of your patients are mostly free outside their office hours? This study found that at least 29% of the patients surveyed booked their appointments during the wee hours of the day, and 73.1% rely on self-scheduling!

Being available 24×7 is not humanly possible. To make it happen, you may have to hire additional staff for the night hours. All this can be avoided through scheduling automation.

3. Time-Saving

In many mental healthcare facilities, one activity that majorly disrupts the workflow is entering patient names into the calendar. This also means your front desk staff spends a good chunk of their time attending scheduling calls.

A good mental health practice management software automates this entire process to a considerable extent. Hence, slot clashes can be avoided whilst your staff saves time.

4. Easy Refill for Empty Slots

As much as every mental healthcare provider wants to avoid sudden appointment cancellations, they are all too common. Through self-scheduling, empty slots can be refilled.

Once a patient cancels their appointment, their slot will automatically become vacant on the patient calendar. Any patient looking for an immediate booking can fill that slot.

5. Research Backs it Up

The National Library of Medicine published in a journal that automated patient scheduling has a myriad of advantages for both patients and mental healthcare facilities.

Some of the top benefits found included cost reduction, improved patient attendance, time savings, and increased patient satisfaction.

Exploring the Other Side of the Coin

As for mental healthcare providers who still need to adopt automated patient scheduling, the following drawbacks are their major hesitancies.

1. Lack of Tech Prowess

Not every patient is tech-savvy or wishes to be so. Some still prefer to take the traditional scheduling route through a call or message.

However, this need not become a reason to avoid automated scheduling altogether. Some traditional methods, like calls during specific hours or email, can also be used to accommodate different patients’ preferences.

2. Calendar Syncing Needed

Some mental healthcare providers are hesitant because having both automated and traditional scheduling means they will have to sync their patient calendars from time to time.

Any discrepancies in the online or staff calendar will lead to the issue of overbooking slots, double-booking, or untimely refilling.

3. Patient Reluctance to Share Details

Another barrier to automated patient scheduling is that certain patients are tech-skeptic. They are unwilling to share personal information such as insurance details, health info, demographics, etc. (all of which are vital to self-scheduling).

This may especially be the case with the Baby Boomers.

In Summation

If you’re sitting on the fence regarding the value of patient self-scheduling for your mental health facility, start by considering your patient demographics. Does your facility mainly serve younger and middle-aged clients who are likely to be tech-savvy?

If yes, then self-scheduling will be a lucrative option. Also, consider your staff’s capabilities. Are they overwhelmed with scheduling appointments? Then it’s time to reduce their workload. 

Finally, you can even conduct a feedback survey where your patients themselves answer what they would prefer the most.

Also Read: From Billing to Better Outcomes: How Behavioral Health Billing Software is Changing Patient Care


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

Scroll to Top

Hire Us To Spread Your Content

Fill this form and we will call you.