Are your agents struggling with patient scheduling? Especially during the pandemic when protocols seems to change almost on a daily basis?
We recorded a discussion over Zoom to talk about some challenges you will experience when you try to create call guides for reps who are scheduling medical patients. The discussion is broken up into several segments so you can scroll down to the section that interests you the most. Enjoy!
Why is scheduling patients so difficult?
Scheduling patients sounds so easy! Just write down the name of the patient, find an open slot, and you're done, right!?
Healthcare is very challenging. Call reps need to be able to navigate insurance, self-pay, and workers comp just to name a few things that make scheduling tricky. If a patient is calling in and they are using insurance Y, then you can't schedule them until you receive authorization. And if it's insurance Z, then you can schedule them but you need to fill out a specific form to go along with it. Add to that the nuances between different practices and physicians, and you've got quite a complex situation.
In addition to scheduling, call reps also need to be able to reschedule, cancel, answer questions about insurance, give directions, etc.
What are some common challenges?
No matter which kind of practice you are scheduling patients for, you'll need to account for these three things:
- Scheduling new patients
- Scheduling return patients
But each practice will do things differently, so you cannot create a universal call guide that will work for every call center (or even each medical practice). When you introduce physician preferences, state laws, the different types of procedures, and workers comp claims (and whether a lawyer is involved), then things begin to get very complicated.
How can you capture the complexities of scheduling patients?
The first thing you need to figure out is the critical path for scheduling a patient. If everything went smoothly, how would the call go?
It might look like this:
- Patient is already in the system and was seen 3 months ago
- The physician the patient wants to see works at the practice
- Patient has insurance that the physician accepts
- No authorizations or additional paperwork is required
- Patient is requesting a service that the physician performs
- Available times work out for patient
- Schedule a time
What a perfect world! But now, look at that list and start coming up with some things that would derail the perfect call. The list would look like this:
- Patient is not in the system
- Patient was seen over 3 years ago
- Physician the patient wants to see no longer works at the practice
- Patient's insurance requires authorization
- Patient's insurance isn't accepted
- Patient is requesting a procedure the physician does not perform
- Physician is booked four weeks out but the patient wants to be seen this week
The key is to identify those deviations and then figure out where those deviations come into play.
How do you identify the deviations?
The best way to identify all the deviations is to talk with somebody. When we do consulting, interviewing is the main way we determine what the critical path is and what all the deviations are that might come up. Then, we document those deviations either as a flowchart or as a narrative.
At this point, if you are missing some things, that's okay. Strive for progress, not perfection.
Can the complexities be documented in a Word Document?
Every call center we've worked with has come from using Word or a basic wiki and the common theme is that they've outgrown the basic features that come with those systems. Word was NOT designed to write call guides for reps scheduling patients.
When we work with call centers, the ScreenSteps feature we use most is foldable sections, inline links, and workflows. These allow us to capture the complex situations without confusing your reps.
What are some common mistakes that can be avoided?
The most common mistake is skipping over those difficult situations that you just wish didn't exist. Just because you pretend that dealing with workers comp is easy doesn't mean it is. It's worth it to dive into the weeds and figure out how to handle those complex situations.
This might require some time on your part! Most likely, you haven't actually figured out what the proper procedure is for handling those situations and so you and your reps just make it up on the spot. Schedule some time with the stakeholders to figure out what needs to be done when a call goes down uncharted territory.
BUT...don't wait to launch your call guides until you've nailed down every twist and turn. Seek progress, not perfection. If you provide a call guide to your reps that is 90% complete––you just have one or two paths that haven't been fully fleshed out yet––that's good enough. For those paths that are still in progress, just include a note: "Contact your supervisor when this happens." That's what they're doing right now, anyways, so you're not losing anything. Better to give your reps a guide for 90% of their calls than none at all.
Advice for Supervisors or Managers who are building guides
First: find somebody to talk through your procedures with. Talk out loud about how a call should go and what can derail a call. Then write down the critical path and the deviations. The biggest challenge for subject matter experts is remembering what it's like to not know something. When you have another person interviewing you, asking you questions, you'll have to articulate the process and you'll either have a clearer guide.
Second: Figure out the best sequence of questions to ask and the order they should be asked in. The more branches you can eliminate at the beginning of the call, the smoother your calls will go.
Need to create a call guide for your call reps scheduling appointments?
If you are in charge of training, managing, or supervising call center reps who are scheduling medical patients, we'd love to show you how ScreenSteps can help! Schedule a time to speak with a ScreenSteps rep today!