As a physical therapy clinic owner, you want your therapists to have full schedules. In a perfect world, the schedule flows smoothly, and everyone attends their appointments on time. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, and life happens. Patients get sick, no-show because they forgot, or maybe they don’t show because they weren’t entirely ready for therapy yet.
Whatever the case, cancellations and no-shows mean lost dollars. If you have a busy practice, a waitlist should be the first place to look to fill those spots. In this article, we’ll explain why keeping and optimizing a waitlist can be an incredible boost to your profitability while helping to get patients the timely care they need.
Why is having a waitlist a good thing?
While we would love to see every patient who comes in at their desired date and time, that isn’t always feasible. Plus, if you have more patients than therapists, space is limited — your therapists can only see so many patients in a day.
So, rather than focusing on getting new patients every day, leverage your current caseload for revenue. You already have a relationship with existing patients, and getting them into therapy sooner than expected is something they will appreciate.
Add every patient to a waitlist
You should generally encourage patients to schedule out their appointments in advance. But there may be days or weeks when a particular therapist has no openings. Your front desk can add them to a waitlist, so if their therapist has a cancellation or opens up more time, that patient has an opportunity to come in for a follow-up appointment sooner rather than later.
While it might be discouraging to a patient that they are on a waitlist, your therapists and front desk can encourage patients to take advantage of any openings — and that openings do happen. Educate patients to stay in touch so they don’t miss an opportunity for an appointment.
What does a waitlist look like?
This will vary depending on the practice. Some outpatient clinics use a simple Google spreadsheet with patient names and their availability; the problem is that your front desk is then tasked with keeping track of who needs what dates, and then must call every patient individually. This method can be tedious and time-consuming.
Another clinic may use software similar to what IT departments use, in which each patient has a ticket with their availability — and when they’ve been scheduled, that ticket can be marked as “called,” “in progress,” or “complete.” However, this is just as tedious for the front desk as keeping patients on a literal list. The front desk is a busy place, and adding more work may not be the answer.
Automate your waitlist to keep schedules full, without all the hassle
The right electronic medical record (EMR) system can make your life easy when it comes to a waitlist. Having the proper contact information in a patient’s chart is vital, but when there is an opening in the schedule, you want to make sure the right patients are contacted as quickly as possible to try and fill these newly available slots.
Software programs like Prompt EMR can help streamline your waitlist process and in some cases automate the important steps. Prompt’s Waitlist Automation tool:
- Refills canceled appointments and proactively fills empty appointment slots
- Identifies any patients whose preferred days, times, and providers match specific cancellations you want refilled OR openings you want filled in
- Sends perfectly matched patients a friendly invitation – “A visit just opened up that fits your desired waitlist preferences!” – with details about the specific opening
- Gives patients a simple way to answer, with a one-click response to accept or decline this visit invitation
- Allows you to mark waitlist patients by priority to help decide which patients to schedule in slots that open up
- Option to approve visits one-by-one
When it comes to EMR software, you have options. Consider how waitlist automation features might benefit your clinic, in addition to other elements that are most important to you.
Owning a practice that is busy enough to create a waitlist is not inherently a bad thing, because it means when cancellations happen (and they are inevitable), you can fill that slot quickly with a patient that is currently engaged at your practice. While you can keep your waitlist as an actual list, this is tedious for your front desk and not efficient for filling spots quickly. The right software can help to streamline the process and keep your appointments filled, so your therapists can spend more time focused on patients, and your patients can get better faster.
About the author:
Laura Vroman is a physical therapist, health content writer, and creator of The Humanist PT, a new continuing education source for therapists. Follow her on LinkedIn (Laura M. Vroman PT DPT) and visit www.humanistpt.com.