Decentralized scheduling is a simple fact of life for many practices, be they small or a part of a larger health system. Typically, patient access processes in these environments are run through tribal knowledge; only a select group of staff have a good understanding of the scheduling nuances specific to their location and the preferences of the physicians there. While centralization may be the eventual goal, the expertise of the existing access staff can lull leadership into a “if it ain’t broke” mentality. But it is broke. Decentralization is hurting your practice in a variety of ways you may not realize.
1. Tribal Knowledge
The drawback of a select few staff members possessing all of the deep knowledge about your patient access processes is that only a select few staff members possess that knowledge. This creates major problems when staff become ill or move on. It makes training new staff incredibly difficult. It also runs the risk of losing key insights that could be valuable for improving operations due to little existing documentation or guidelines. This brings us to the next on the list…
When only a few understand the nuances of your scheduling then it becomes their burden regardless of other responsibilities. Often in a decentralized environment staff are forced to wear many hats and may not always be working at the top of their license. Additionally, it takes a lot of time to ensure proper patient engagement and monitor scheduling-related metrics like no-shows or referral follow-ups. It’s easy for staff to become overwhelmed by the volume of access responsibilities and simply burnout, creating a vicious cycle as we have pointed out that they are difficult to replace.
3. Workflow Interruptions
When you do not have a centralized access department your workflows are frequently interrupted by other tasks. This can result in the neglect of important practices (like adequate monitoring) and disruptions in timely service for patients. Often patient access needs become an afterthought or a triage situation which contributes to staff burnout and a…
4. Poor Patient Experience
Decentralized access is not great for the patient experience. Aside from hold times, or difficulty getting a timely response, patients lose a degree of convenience and flexibility when it comes to their scheduling or provider options. If a patient requires a more urgent appointment and needs to be seen at a different location, they have to contact that office directly. Decentralized PSRs not only lack access to other physicians’ schedules but they often don’t even have the capability to transfer a call to them. Circling back, decentralized access impacts the on-site patient experience as well as PSRs must split their attention to also tackle the phones.
Optimizing patient access directly translates to system revenue. There is little visibility into performance or scheduling metrics that can be used to improve patient volumes in a decentralized environment. A dedicated access center is required for efficient operations to combat no-shows, ensure good patient engagement, execute reminders, and hit maximum scheduling potential. Effective access processes involve a lot more than answering phones.
Moving to a centralized access model can be easy when you have an experienced access partner. Envera’s proprietary discovery process tracks the guidelines and preferences unique to your organization to establish unified workflows as a part of your fully customized access solution. We even assign dedicated Patient Access Coordinators (PACs) to act as an extension of your in-house teams— improving the experience for patients and your staff.