63 percent of physicians reported symptoms of burnout in 2021 compared with 38 percent in 2020. Burnout results in anxiety, high stress levels, blood pressure issues, and several other health problems.
A large change is needed to address the growing burnout crisis among physicians. Major reasons for burnout rates are the work system, documentation, number of patients seen in a day, work-life balance, no breaks between appointments, and much more.
Jumping down to the core of the problem, it is the routine or the schedule that hampers a clinician’s ability to work efficiently and produce results. So, how can appointment scheduling tools work in a practitioner’s favor and reduce their burnout rate? Let’s find out.
1. Optimizing Work Schedules
According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2023, physicians work 50 hours per week, which also includes treating patients, charting, paperwork, and admin tasks. Prolonged working hours, no breaks, no holidays, and no time for family lead to unhealthy work patterns, eventually resulting in burnout.
Appointment scheduling software can help ease the burden on physicians and allow them to eliminate prolonged working hours. Pre-built templates on appointment scheduling software allow healthcare providers to create daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly schedules.
Shifts, time-offs, and vacations can also be included in the schedule. Moreover, a provider can set appointment limits in a day to maintain healthy working patterns. According to a study presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ ADVANCE 2022, the Anesthesiology Business Event, AI-based scheduling significantly improves physician engagement and reduces burnout by creating fair and flexible schedules that support work-life balance.
The study further stated that the AI-based scheduling software granted more vacation days, reduced ungranted vacation days, and provided flexibility and predictability, compared to the previous staff-created scheduling system, resulting in significantly improved engagement scores from anesthesiologists within six months.
Apart from this, automated patient reminders reduce no-shows and help physicians manage their work routines better. They can easily fill in the gaps or take a long break if needed. Furthermore, mobile-optimized appointment scheduling tools allow physicians to cancel, reschedule, or swap appointments with another provider, thus optimizing the work routine efficiently.
2. Implementing Patient Self-Scheduling
Administrative tasks like appointment scheduling can be one of the major burdens for any medical practice. Imagine going back and forth through a log book to accommodate patients based on provider’s and patient’s availability. It can be tiring at some point and is a time-consuming task. With the patient self-scheduling tool, clinicians can cut down this time and utilize it on patients or simply to take a break from work.
In September 2022, the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) included the option of self-scheduling a physician’s appointment. Patients can book right from their smartphones or computers. AHN is now one of the few large healthcare systems in the country to provide self-scheduling for specialty and primary care services. The idea was to eliminate the hassles involved in scheduling a doctor’s appointment. With patients taking taking initiative in booking appointments, doctors can only focus on care rather than on non-medical tasks.
Missed appointments or no-shows hamper a physician’s routine and can lead to uneven breaks or even prolonged work. Self-scheduling can solve this problem. A study conducted involved the analysis of 1,995,909 appointments booked between January 1, 2019, and June 30, 2021, at more than 30 practice sites. Over the study period, uptake of self-scheduling increased from 4% to 15% of kept appointments. Younger, commercially insured patients were more likely to be users. Missed appointments were lower and cancelations were higher for self-scheduled patients.
The patient self-scheduling tool offers features that can significantly contribute to reducing clinician burnout rate. These are:
- Automated Reminders: This feature sends personalized messages to patients via SMS or emails about upcoming appointments. It also offers instructions to cancel, confirm, or reschedule appointments. Reminders reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations, moreover, it helps physicians to manage their schedule better and not over-burden themselves with work.
- Patient Intake Forms: Patients filling up their forms decreases the administrative burden on the support staff. Data from intake forms preps the physicians for upcoming appointments throughout the day. Based on the information, they can decide which patients need more time and manage their routine accordingly.
- Fix Appointments Any Time: Clinicians no longer have to worry about managing or fixing appointment slots, the scheduling tool does it for them throughout the day. Clinicians can fix appointment limits, based on which the tool offers slots to patients.
Patients feel more satisfied if they’ve control over their appointment scheduling and healthcare treatment. So, tools like patient scheduling not only promote a higher satisfaction rate but also patient engagement. Consequently, patients are more likely to recommend your practice to friends and family or leave online reviews.
3. Integration with Other Software Tools
A medical practitioner uses multiple healthcare software such as practice management, EHR, telemedicine, billing and payment, etc. So, the integration of appointment scheduling software tools allows practitioners to view everything in one place and not open multiple tools at once.
For instance, connecting appointment scheduling with patient portals enables healthcare providers to access patient records during the scheduling process, ensuring that appointments align with medical histories and treatment plans. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago implemented a similar plan to centralize the scheduling process by bringing in patient portals.
Scheduling was a time-consuming process for the hospital, hence resulting in burnout. With patient portals and different engagement systems, functions like appointment scheduling, digital clinic visits, feedback, and digital registration became integrated.
Furthermore, integrating appointment scheduling with analytics tools provides valuable data on appointment trends, resource utilization, and customer behavior. Enables organizations to make data-driven decisions, optimize resource allocation, and improve overall operational efficiency, reducing burnout.
Switching through multiple software tools takes up a lot of time in a day and can leave a practitioner exhausted. Integration of essential software in one healthcare tool can increase the productivity and efficiency of practitioners.
In conclusion, the integration of appointment scheduling software tools has emerged as a pivotal solution in alleviating the burden on clinicians and addressing the alarming rates of burnout within the healthcare industry. By streamlining administrative tasks, optimizing work schedules, and software integrations, these tools empower healthcare professionals to focus more on patient care and less on logistical challenges.
As we continue to witness the positive impact of such technological advancements, it becomes increasingly evident that prioritizing the well-being of clinicians not only benefits healthcare providers but also contributes to a more sustainable and resilient healthcare system. The ongoing evolution and adoption of appointment scheduling software are paving the way for a future where clinicians can fulfill their professional duties with greater ease, ultimately fostering a healthier healthcare environment for all.
Arkenea offers a range of healthcare software solutions such as practice management, telemedicine, EHR, medical billing, and more. With over 13 years of experience in the field, our team of expert developers delivers world-class software solutions that match industry standards.