A WebPT Membership is pretty darn fantastic—just ask this PT clinic or this PT and OT pediatric practice. Because even with a basic membership, you score a whole host of truly web-based, therapy-specific tools and resources that are anything but basic. In fact, they’ll help you be better in business.
When I woke up after a night of boot-scootin’ my way down Lower Broadway—Nashville’s famous honky-tonk alley—my head wasn’t the only thing that hurt. In fact, the moment I stepped out of bed, I knew I was in serious trouble, even if I wasn’t quite ready to admit it to myself.
Here’s six ideas that’ll help you remain engaged with your patients and prevent patient dropout from therapy.
You—or your front office staff—may be incredibly organized, but that doesn’t mean your patients share your appreciation for schedules. While therapists define “cancellation” many different ways, there’s no gray area with no-shows. If a patient fails to appear for a scheduled appointment and fails to notify you, it’s a no-show.
In the words of the great William Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage; and all the men and women merely players.” Whether we’re talking about the world’s stage or an actual stage, the success of every great performance hinges on each actor’s ability to fully embrace his or her role. In the case of a rehab therapy ensemble, each role is instrumental to ensuring the success of the entire practice.
WebPT’s intuitive EMR can help you cover all your clinical and logistical bases. But, to get the most bang for your buck, you and your staff should be using the application to its full potential. On that note, even the experts among us could benefit from a brief reminder course in Front Office 101 to get their practices running a little smoother. With that, here are five hacks to make your life a little easier when using the WebPT Front Office Package.
1. Schedule recurring patient visits.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’ll almost certainly take several days, weeks, or months for you to restore each patient’s level of function. So, instead of manually inputting each patient visit one-by-one, it makes sense to schedule out these appointment reminders all at once.
To save yourself time, use the Copy feature (shown above) to schedule multiple appointment reminders for a specific patient. This option allows you to “paste” the patient’s profile into future appointment slots. Just be sure to avoid double-booking patients.
According to John Strobot, an enterprise training specialist at WebPT, this feature is also great for scheduling recurring interoffice tasks and to-dos—like department meetings, employee time-off requests, and lunches. That way, you’ll waste less time scheduling—which means you’ll have more time to get down to business.
2. Adopt a patient-case naming convention.
Scheduling can prove difficult—and just plain confusing—if:
- one or more of your patients share the same name;
- a patient receives treatment in multiple disciplines; or
- your rehab practice has multiple clinic locations.
To ensure each patient sees the correct therapist, shows up to the right clinic, and receives the correct treatment, Bradley LaFave, WebPT’s training manager, suggests developing a system to limit any confusion. For example, if multiple patients have the name “Brian Spencer,” you may want to capture specific demographic and treatment information—found in documentation—that denotes the patient’s date of birth, therapy discipline, injury, and original date of service. Use this simple hack to not only limit confusion, but also maintain a better running log of individual patient care.
3. Create clinic-specific calendars.
If your rehab therapy practice has multiple clinics, it’s imperative to have a specific calendar for each location to avoid:
- documenting in the wrong patient charts;
- reporting inaccurate or invalid patient data; and
- creating confusion when trying to schedule patients.
Strobot urges providers to create clinic-specific calendars—rather than using a master calendar that serves the entire company—to avoid generating confusion or errors. Plus, as shown above, your front-office staff can easily send out patient appointment reminders that are specific to each clinic.
4. Manage daily patient documentation progress.
When you’re busy treating patients all day, it can be tough to keep track of your documentation tasks for each one. Looking for an easy way to identify which notes you still need to complete and/or finalize? WebPT has you covered.
Stacey Kulm, Member Care manager at WebPT, encourages therapists to use the color-coded guide within the application’s Agenda feature to quickly get a pulse on the documentation progress for each patient. Here’s what each color means:
- Red: You haven’t started the note.
- Yellow: You’ve started the note but haven’t finalized it.
- Green: You’ve finalized the note.
In a perfect world, you would have green dots next to all your patients’ names.
5. Set up a mobile shortcut.
When you’re leaving the clinic after a jam-packed day, the last thing on your mind is checking the next day’s schedule of appointments. I mean, you love your job—but you have a date with your DVR to watch The Voice and the season finale of Westworld. Tomorrow can wait.
We carry our smartphones everywhere—and when you have the power of a cloud-based scheduling software, you can quickly pull up your calendar anywhere, anytime. With that in mind, we encourage you to bookmark the WebPT dashboard on your smartphone’s browser. This way, you can easily check appointment times and details. Pssh, and they say we spend too much time on our gadgets.
We’re all for helping physical therapists create and retain loyal customers. After all, improving patient retention is one of the absolute best ways to grow your business. All the hard work you put into branding and marketing your practice won’t go very far unless you’re able to attract your target audience, help them successfully complete their plans of care, and send them out into the world as raving fans.
As sports rehabilitator Heidi Dawson writes in this article: “No-shows [are] the bane of a therapist’s existence.” We’re inclined to agree. You’ve got your schedule precisely booked—often down to the minute—and a no-show or late cancellation can turn your well-balanced plan for the day into a disheveled mess of frantic “are-you-still-coming?” phone calls followed by thumb-twiddling boredom. Oh, and then there’s the lost time and revenue to consider. Despite how frustrating no-shows can be, though, all hope is not lost. There are several things you can do to tackle the no-show problem and increase the odds that your patients will show for their appointments. Here are five:
1. Set a Policy
Dawson writes that “time is money,” and that’s especially accurate for therapists because you don’t make money without treating patients. To take that several steps further, if you don’t make enough money, you won’t stay in business, which means you won’t be able to continue serving your community. And that’s a huge piece of the puzzle patients often overlook when choosing not to make their appointments a priority. So create a policy that outlines specific rules for scheduling and canceling and present it as part of your initial consultation forms along with a sentence or two about the impact of missed appointments. It’s not enough to just set rules. Instead, make sure your patients understand the reasoning behind your policy and you’ll immediately increase their compliance. (Hint: avoid language that is critical, dramatic, or punitive. Rather, be polite and appeal to your patients’ empathetic sides. Most will understand and respect you more for your honesty.)
So what kind of rules should you set? That’s totally up to you. Some therapists opt for a 24-hour cancellation notice requirement; otherwise, they charge for the full appointment amount. However, most also understand that there might be mitigating circumstances that warrant a penalty waiver. Other therapists request a pre-payment or deposit from patients as soon as they book appointments, but as Dawson point out, this might make your patients feel like you don’t trust them, which could potentially drive away business. Still other therapists keep patient credit card details on file, although you can only do this if you have record of a pre-authorization agreement with the bank or patient demographic query (PDQ) supplier (a similar arrangement to that of a hotel that places a hold on a consumer’s funds until the stay is complete, at which time they charge the card.) Otherwise, keeping card details on file is a bad—and possibly illegal—idea.
Regardless of what policy you choose, just make sure you clearly communicate to patients what you expect of them before they begin therapy. That way, there are no surprises when you go to enforce your policy.
2. Identify Trends
If you’re not already tracking your no-shows and cancellations, start doing so now. You may come across some interesting demographic and logistical trends that can help you predict the likelihood of patient attendance at a given appointment time.University of Missouri faculty Howard Houghton, MD, and Patricia Alafaireet used electronic medical record and billing system data to identify missed medical visit characteristics. They found:
- Medicaid recipients had a higher rate of no-shows than any other insurance beneficiary type. Additionally, Medicaid patients who had appointment times outside of the public transportation schedule never showed.
- Patients who lived five to 10 miles away from the practice were most likely to make their appointments, whereas patients who lived 19 to 60 miles away were more likely not to show. Patients who lived more than 60 miles away almost always made their appointments.
- Young, single men had the highest no-show rates. However, attendance was better for mid-morning appointments on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
While quite interesting, Alafaireet says, “We really do think [the findings are] probably practice-specific.” She recommends starting a simple Excel spreadsheet. “You want to look for the factors that can be controlled,” Dr. Houghton advises. Then, once you’ve identified some common missed appointment trends, start implementing ways to change them.
3. Schedule Better
The University of Missouri study found something else interesting: Patients were more likely to show up for an appointment at a time of their choosing. According to the article, many traditional schedulers “followed practice protocol” by “scheduling the first caller for Monday at 8:00 AM, the second for Monday at 8:30,” and so on. Dr. Houghton and Alafaireet found that the most successful schedulers asked patients on what date and at what time they wanted to come in—an easy change that could significantly increase your yes-shows.
You work your PT keister off, and we love that kind of work ethic. Still, we want to help make your professional life easier. A lot easier. So we’ve put together a list of tips, tricks, and tools to help streamline your front office. That way you can take a vacation. Or at least a lunch break.
Automate your appointment reminders.
You’ll save more than just time—WebPT’s automated appointment reminders reduce no-shows by 30%. Think about what that might mean for your bottom line.
Session one of our May webinar is complete. I appreciate everyone who attended the webinar today. I would also like to thank my co-host, Jake Nero for presenting all the new features in WebPT that will enable clinics to communicate in a simple, secure manner. Here is a quick overview of the Webinar Topics including questions that were asked during our session.
Feature Roll this weekend (May 27th) – On Monday you will see the new features.
WebPT recently added a game-changing feature to our Front Office Suite for scheduling. The appointment reminder service integrates with the WebPT EMR system to automatically look at your physician schedules and notify patients of upcoming appointments via email, phone or text messages.
Imagine the time savings if all of your calls and email were automated vs. having your front office constantly on the phone reminding people of their appointments.
WebPT is committed to maintaining and enhancing the features of our system. We consistently resolve bugs in the system, update new tests and clinical tools, and add functions to make the system work better for our members.
As a result of all of the great member suggestions and ideas from our innovative development team, WebPT is prepared to release on March 5th what will be a series of great new features. This release of new features is going to give our members some new functions that are going to make working in the clinic even easier.