If the idea of “automation” makes you think of spammy Robo-callers and cringe, there’s good news. There are many benefits to automating certain aspects of your practice, and they result in better communication, more efficient time usage, more accurate medical billing services, and even increased interaction and better relationships between your patients and your practice.
Online Data Gathering Gets More Complete Records
Traditionally, patients arrive at the office and are handed a stack of forms to fill out. No one enjoys that, and many patients are annoyed at the repetition of having to fill out demographics on every form. Collecting their information online eliminates the need to rewrite the same things over and over again.
More importantly, having patients fill out forms online while they are at home allows them to comfortably gather information, which results in more complete records and medical histories for physicians to reference.
Having intake forms filled out in advance also makes check-in smoother as you don’t need to have front-desk staff handing out and reviewing so many forms. It also makes medical billing services more efficient, as insurance verification can be done more accurately, and it allows time to get any issues and referral requirements taken care of before the patient’s appointment.
Automation Makes Communication with Patients Easier
It takes a lot of staff time to call each patient with a reminder of their upcoming appointment, but an automated system requires minimal time and can be more effective. Not only can you have an automated message call and leave the relevant information, but you can also have the appointment confirmation done via text. Many people don’t check voice mail very often, but they are very responsive to text messages.
Another way automation can increase communication is by having birthday and holiday cards sent to patients. This extends a personal connection outside of appointment times, which does a lot to build a sense of personal relationship and makes patients feel appreciated.
You can take it up another notch by setting up a system to automatically send health-care tips and reminders to patients that correlate to their conditions. For patients who come in only with occasional medical issues like colds and minor accidents, you can send out updates on general topics like the expectations for the upcoming flu season or new discoveries in nutrition.
Where the system becomes highly personalized is with patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or a heart condition. You can have an appropriate automated message to go only to the patients with each condition that gives them reminders about ways to sleep better, cut stress, avoid sugar at holiday parties, or whatever is most relevant for their particular situation.
Incoming Communication Is Handled More Efficiently
You can easily reach patients with an automated system, but you can also make it easier for them to reach you. It takes much more time for office staff to answer calls, find out what the patient needs, and route them to the right person—who the patient then has to explain their question to again—than it takes to let the patient handle them online.
Scheduling and changing appointments can easily be done online, which is especially convenient for those who have restricted times they can come in. An automated system can show available times and let patients pick, but a more simple (less expensive) system can still allow patients to enter their available times so one of your staff can slot them in with less back and forth discussion.
Prescription refill requests can also be easily done online, which not only saves your staff time from not having to be on the phone but cuts down on errors because the medication information is already in the system.
Automating Statements Makes Medical Billing Services More Efficient
Filing claims electronically is much faster than filling out claim forms on paper and mailing them into insurers, and following up by having statements sent to patients is a great way to complete the billing cycle.
Since the status of the claim is already in the electronic system, adding the final step of generating a patient statement isn’t difficult, and it lets medical billing services automatically use the information that is already there instead of having to pull information from one system into another.
Used Correctly, Automation Is Highly Beneficial
While automation has made many aspects of life impersonal, it can easily be used to improve communication and efficiency. Putting new systems in place takes some work but it pays off in the end. It is very important to monitor the new procedure and make corrections until everything is working well.
A word of warning for starting the automation process—setting up an online page where patients can schedule appointments is counterproductive if the appointments aren’t making it onto the actual schedule for each day. Likewise, if prescription refill requests aren’t processed and sent to the pharmacy, you end up making it more difficult for patients rather than being helpful, so be sure to test the system, and when patients tell you about difficulties, get the tech team to take them seriously and resolve any glitches in the system before you stop monitoring it.