The Love/Hate Relationship Practices Have with Waitlists
We recently spoke with a practice manager and asked him if his staff used the waitlist. He paused, verbally shimmied, and replied, "we'd really like to, sometimes we do, but not really". In other words, "No."
In theory, having a waitlist can be great to fill canceled appointments, get patients in earlier, and organize your staff. But, in speaking with one health practice scheduling system, they estimated that 90% of their practices don't use the waitlist. So what does that tell us?
Why don't schedulers use the waitlist?
Staff simply aren't trained to use the waitlist. Training doesn't consist of just showing them how to access this feature in the practice management system or the steps to take in adding a patient. But it is most importantly training them to regularly offer the waitlist option to a patient. We also need to take into consideration the different scenarios in which this option should be offered. Different processes should be established and documented for the staff to follow, their own health practice playbook.
However, it's also possible to train a scheduler, checking every box above, but can't prevent mishaps and forgetting to follow the steps in place. If your health practice uses a management system that offers this very useful feature, be sure it can be integrated into workflows and take the time to properly train your staff. It literally pays in the long run! Especially if you implement an automation around filling canceled appointments, reaching that increase in revenue goal is closer than you imagined.
2) Not a feature
If your system doesn't offer a waitlist, it's worth researching other options or add-ons. The last thing that any health practice needs are a paper waitlist or a desktop pollution of post-it notes on monitor screens. Every scheduler has a different way of working and managing their patients, get to know them, their style and their pain points. With their involvement in finding a solution, this collective activity will encourage adopting the solution and loving the idea of change.
3) Patients don't ask for it
Getting your office staff accustomed to being proactive is essential in taking the first step towards change. What's the use of a waitlist feature if it isn't on the offer table? Sometimes a patient will say "if an earlier appointment comes up, can you put me on a waitlist?", but most of the time they won't ask. And the reality is, patients sometimes have had no luck with being on a waitlist in the past or don't think it exists as an option since it wasn't offered. Many practices take this as a lack of demand for a waitlist and for earlier appointments. It is not.
4) A waitlist creates extra work
Schedulers are very busy. Using a waitlist not only requires adding a patient to the waitlist, but also requires a call to patients when there is a cancellation. If filled, the scheduler must then remove the patient from the waitlist and schedule their new appointment. This is a perfect example of a pain point for which a solution already exists. Investing in an automation tool to do this for your staff would free up precious time in the day for other important tasks such as interacting with patients and building lasting relationships with them.
What are schedulers trying to tell us?
There are two valid conclusions to reach. One, waitlists are worth implementing and if health practices follow the simple steps mentioned. Two, the system is broken with a dire need for a solid process.
We believe the answer is in the middle. The concept of waitlists can be very valuable, however, the system and implementation are so broken that it's counterproductive to force schedulers to use the waitlist.
At QueueDr we think a lot about this question. In the age of self-driving cars, having to use paper waitlists seems off.
It's why QueueDr has now incorporated a Neural Network into our algorithm to find patients that want earlier appointments without them having to tell us. We will use the same machine learning techniques to find patients the best appointments that self-driving cars use to drive us into the future.
The QueueDr Team