Home healthcare operations know that an effective, efficient scheduling process is essential for success; so why do so many still struggle to get it right? Disparate systems, a lack of real-time data, and manual processes result in scheduling bottlenecks that gum up the operation as a whole.
Eventually, these bottlenecks lead to reactive, last-minute scheduling stress, lost revenue, patient churn, employee dissatisfaction, and unnecessary idle time. Productivity and performance suffer, and retaining both top talent and clients becomes a costly challenge.
To eliminate these barriers, home healthcare organizations need a multi-faceted approach that optimizes staff coverage and capacity and encourages strong patient engagement.
Common Scheduling Bottlenecks
Scheduling home health appointments requires a great deal of time and energy, especially if your team doesn’t have the adequate processes and tools for support. Many organizations face a variety of common challenges that cause scheduling inefficiencies and bottlenecks, including:
1. Disconnected scheduling systems
To get their home health providers to where they need to be, some organizations use several systems to manage their scheduling processes. They may use a clinical system, like an EHR, for patient treatment or preference data, an HR system for time off and weekly availability, spreadsheets for appointment details, and more.
Various point solutions lead to fragmentation, friction, and gaps within the scheduling and dispatching process. They cause excess administrative costs and mental fatigue, too, in the form of manual scheduling entries and revisions, weighing options and trade-offs between resources, and wasted back-office productivity.
Understanding both patient and worker availability is crucial to an organization’s scheduling success, but disconnected systems hinder the transparency required for real-time accuracy. So while staff schedulers may have access to patient availability through their EHR and worker availability through their HR system, they don’t have the critical ability to reference both when building (or adjusting) the schedule.
If your team doesn’t have a centralized, dedicated scheduling system to pull everything together, then they’re likely working from multiple sources of truth. So when there’s a last-minute appointment change or a provider calls out sick, schedulers are left scrambling between separate systems to accommodate the change.
2. Mismatches of patient and provider
Though most home healthcare organizations have adopted advanced medical technology, many still schedule their caregivers by hand, with Excel, or through ad hoc systems they’ve cobbled together. When it comes to properly matching a patient’s long-term therapy needs to a provider’s consistent availability, these inflexible systems just can’t keep up.
Schedulers need seamless access to essential information (e.g. caregiver locations, credentials, and preferences and patient history), but the data is scattered across those different systems. They face difficulties in version control, which makes it nearly impossible for them to know if they have the most up-to-date information as they book appointments.
Receiving home healthcare is an intimate experience for patients, so an inability to ensure they’re matched with the right provider every time can lead to dissatisfaction and mistrust. As increased specialization and focus in healthcare becomes a driving factor for patient satisfaction and engagement, organizations that don’t have intelligent tools for matching caregivers to patients will likely lose their competitive edge.
3. Appointments not clustered by location
Without a sophisticated scheduling tool that shows provider locations in real time, your team can’t optimize their schedules for maximum efficiency and productivity. If, for instance, Sharon’s first home health appointment of the day is 40 miles from her next patient, she’ll be spending a significant amount of time traveling between the two.
With an ineffective scheduling process, staff schedulers may send an employee across town to a patient’s home that’s just a few blocks away from where another provider is already completing their work. Substantial travel time between appointments limits the number of patients providers can accommodate in a day and reduces the time they can spend on meaningful patient interactions.
Unfortunately, traditional scheduling tools don’t offer capabilities for clustering appointments based on proximity; so excessive travel time, downtime, and associated expenses often plague home health operations.
4. Day-of changes
Missed, canceled, and rescheduled appointments are a reality for any organization that depends on mobile workers to deliver its services, and each change comes with a cost. Worker productivity is reduced, revenue is lost, and—in some cities—the healthcare organization must pay extra wages to the affected employee to comply with fair scheduling laws.
While last-minute changes are very common in home healthcare, many organizations still don’t have the right scheduling tools and processes to mitigate their impact. A home health provider may need to schedule additional visits for a patient whose condition is declining, or may need to reduce the frequency of appointments for a patient who is recovering quickly. Patients can be discharged from a hospital early and need immediate home care, or halt their home health services without prior notice.
These abrupt changes can throw a significant wrench in the organization’s operations if they’re not able to access, evaluate, and modify schedules in real time. Day-of changes are even more of a headache if a team’s tools don’t help them oversee and prioritize dispatching based on patients’ acuity levels or conditions. Scheduling becomes an overwhelming, cumbersome process for already-busy schedulers, who must somehow keep track of myriad ever-changing details; frequently leading to premature burnout and inefficient use of company resources.
5. Manual data entry
Home healthcare workers are often burdened with time-consuming, frustrating manual data entry. The job itself already requires a hefty amount of documentation, so providers who must also re-enter data into a database tend to spend more time documenting information than they do actually caring for their patients.
Manual data collection processes require additional time between appointments, which means caregivers have less time to spend doing what they actually enjoy: Caring for their patients. They also increase the risk for duplicate data regarding when and where they perform their work, since they don’t offer transparency into job statuses or geolocations. Plus, without intelligent tools for data collection, patients, providers, and administrators can’t stay connected in real time, which causes inaccuracies and inefficiencies in decision making.
How Intelligent Scheduling Eliminates Healthcare Scheduling Bottlenecks
Gone are the days where manual or disconnected systems were enough to keep a home healthcare organization competitive and profitable. Modern businesses have started leveraging powerful tools to eliminate scheduling bottlenecks—enabling them to provide better patient care and improved employee experiences.
With the right scheduling solution, your home health company can:
- Optimize scheduling – Intelligent scheduling software, like Skedulo, is built to handle the complexities of home healthcare scheduling while maximizing patient flow. It automates the process and helps teams efficiently schedule multiple appointments and resources across a relevant time period; all while taking into account patient and provider availability, location, travel time, skills matching, and more. Schedulers always have the most up-to-date information on their workers and patients, so they can easily maximize billable hours and prioritize the care encounters for each patient.
- Provide real-time updates – The consumerization of healthcare has changed the way patients receive healthcare products and services: They’re no longer passive consumers, but instead play an active role in their own care. Robust scheduling technology can help home health organizations keep up with this shift, as they offer real-time updates that ensure the patient is always in the loop. Some tools automatically send an SMS to the patient when the clinician is on their way, along with estimated arrival times so they’re never left wondering when they’ll receive care. Providers benefit from real-time notifications, too, as they instantly alert them when there’s a last minute schedule change or cancellation. That way, they don’t waste time traveling to an appointment that a patient has already rescheduled or canceled.
- Centralize their scheduling – When you implement a centralized scheduling platform, you gain a comprehensive view of capacity across a larger pool of resources, which helps schedulers prioritize work based on urgency. This transparency, in turn, enables your organization to cut down on the patient waitlists that otherwise reduce client satisfaction and prevent them from getting the immediate care they need. Schedulers have all essential data in a single, easily accessible place, so they can quickly identify appointment slots where a patient can be seen by another, equally qualified caregiver instead of waiting for the provider they initially requested. Provider schedules, appointments, availability, and locations are updated in real-time, which helps schedulers streamline scheduling and appointment confirmations.
- Empower providers with a mobile app – Clinicians shouldn’t have to spend precious time toggling between various apps to collect appointment details, access their schedules, communicate with administrators and patients, or find the best route to their next client. Sophisticated scheduling tools offer a mobile app that ties together everything they need in one place. They make data entry quick and seamless, which reduces errors and enables providers to maintain their productivity. What’s more, they minimize physical paperwork and printing costs; and since 44% of organizations rely on paper-based processes to schedule and manage their deskless workforce, going mobile-first can boost your competitive edge.
- Cluster appointments – An efficient scheduling process requires savvy tools that automate appointment clustering based on providers’ location. Some solutions allow schedulers to see new appointment requests, then review which clinician may be able to treat that patient on their current route. That way, caregivers can maximize their time and serve more patients without wasting valuable time on the road. Patients don’t have to wait an extended period of time for a provider to arrive, but can instead receive care from the nearest qualified clinician.
Overall, modern scheduling software can eliminate the bottlenecks in your end-to-end scheduling process, which results in more efficient care coordination. They help organizations empower their in-home health providers to make the most of their time and improve patient satisfaction.
Powerful Home Healthcare Scheduling Software to Optimize Your Process
As patient and employee expectations continue to rise, home healthcare organizations must leverage tools that eliminate the time-consuming, frustrating elements of scheduling. Disconnected systems, paper-based scheduling methods, and the inability to access real-time information all contribute to workforce inefficiencies and reduced productivity.
Skedulo’s home health scheduling platform helps organizations manage their providers’ complex schedules with ease. With mobile-first tools for automated scheduling, job matching and clustering, route optimization, communication, and more, Skedulo can help your team eliminate the bottlenecks that threaten their success.