Simplify Patient Scheduling

Software, Strategies, Best Practices, and Tips From Healthcare Leaders Optimizing Scheduling

Your patients, providers, and staff want scheduling to be simpler. Hear from some groups who are doing just that. 

Many medical practices are looking to increase efficiencies in their scheduling since it impacts numerous areas including patient access and engagement, provider satisfaction, and multiple appointment metrics. Additionally, Accenture reports that 68% of patients say they’re more likely to choose a provider with whom they can book, change, and cancel appointments with online.

Best-in-class groups are leveraging the power of easy when it comes to scheduling by simplifying things for their patients, providers, and schedulers. Hear from a panel of healthcare executives as they share lessons learned, tips, and best practices they’re implementing in order to improve staff and patient satisfaction as well as their bottom line.

Join Relatient’s VP of Implementation, Sarah Knox, for a conversation with three healthcare leaders to discuss:

  • Trends in scheduling and what patients want from scheduling with their medical practices and providers
  • Technology and processes that are streamlining scheduling for patients and staff
  • How simpler scheduling is benefitting their practices
  • Q&A with the panelists

Our esteemed panelists include healthcare leaders from various practices and specialty groups:

 LaDonna Collingsworth, Director of Shared Services, The Villages Health

 Lee Cothren, Director of Patient Services, Peachtree Orthopedics

 Graham Fox, COO/CFO, GI Specialists of Georgia




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Video Transcript

Sarah Knox: Hi, everyone, and welcome to our webinar on simplifying scheduling while maintaining control. I’m Sarah Knox, vice president of implementation for Radix Health and Relatient. And I will be your host and moderator for today.

[Some background on who we are and how we help medical groups]

Alright, so for those of you who aren’t as familiar with Relatient and Radix Health, some quick background on who we are and what we do.

In August of 2021, Relatient and Radix merged to provide a leading solution for healthcare access, inclusive of scheduling, self-scheduling, patient communication, messaging and more. While we help practices address patient touch points across the entire patient journey, today, we’re really going to focus the conversation on scheduling. I speak of lately, we’re hearing a lot of practices asking about how to simplify the process and technology for schedulers and patients to book appointments sooner, while also maintaining control of those scheduling rules and preferences.

When it comes to scheduling, we’ve got solutions to address both centralized scheduling or contact center scheduling, as well as self-scheduling. DASHcentral, which is our contact center scheduling tool helps you improve scheduling efficiency, optimize utilization, increase access and reduce scheduling errors. With DASHself your practice can also leverage those same rules that you’ve put into the contact center scheduling, to have patients self-schedule on any device 24/7.

Both solutions also provide metrics to better track performance for KPIs important to your practice and your executive team. We’ve got a wide variety of metrics that we track, including no show rates, provider utilization, percentage of new patient bookings, self-scheduling abandonment rates and a lot more.

[Introducing our panel of healthcare leaders optimizing scheduling at their organizations]

So, with that, I’d like to go ahead and introduce our esteemed panel today, who are all focused on improving patient access at their organizations. And of course, an important part of that is scheduling.

So first, please meet LaDonna Collingsworth who is director of Shared Services for the Villages Health in the villages Florida. LaDonna has over 20 years of healthcare operations experience and currently oversees various areas including their centralized call center, referrals, medical records and scheduling. LaDonna enjoys building and working with her team to incorporate technology, lean principles and out of the box thinking to improve processes and provide outstanding care for patients. The Villages Health offers a revolutionary style of care that puts the patient at the center of their own well-being. They’re primary care based practice that also offer 13 specialties to approximately 60,000 patients. So LaDonna, thank you so much for joining us. We’re excited to have you here.

Next, we welcome Lee Cothren, director of patient services for Peachtree Orthopedics. Lee served in the United States Army for 16 years where he served two combat tours in Iraq. Thank you for your service Lee. After serving the military, he began his career in health care and orthopedics. And over the past 10 years, Lee has served in leadership roles at growing ortho practices, and was recently appointed to the AAOE Leadership Academy. Peachtree Orthopedics provides the Atlanta community with complete orthopedic care via their 35 doctors and 20 locations including rehab locations, surgical centers and MRI facilities. They’re focused on providing cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art facilities along with personalized care. So thanks for joining Lee.

And then last, but certainly not least, we’re happy to have Graham Fox, CFO and COO with GI Specialist of Georgia. Graham brings over 18 years of executive healthcare experience, and this includes overseeing the strategic operational and financial growth of physician practices and health systems. He specializes in physician practice and health system integration and has held multiple senior leadership roles in both nonprofit systems and academic medical centers. Established in 2007, GI Specialist of Georgia is a leading gastroenterology practice with nine office locations and three endoscopy centers in northwest Atlanta. They’re board certified gastroenterologist, diagnose and treat many gastroenterology diseases and disorders. And they focus on providing patients with individualized treatment plans and high quality treatment for digestive disorders in a professional supportive and educational environment.

So, as you can see our panel is stacked today. Thank you, LaDonna, Lee, and Graham for joining us. Really excited to get some insights from you guys.

[Discussing how to simplify scheduling at your medical, specialty, or hospital group]

Sarah Knox: So, we’ll start with just some general information about each of your organization’s and how you’ve been addressing scheduling to benefit your patients and team. We’ll just go around the panel. And can you share a little bit about how you approach scheduling, and what you’ve been doing to streamline and simplify scheduling?

Lee Cothren: We, here at Peachtree Orthopedics we have centralized scheduling, we have between on any good given day, depending on the great resignation or not, between 11 and 14 schedulers who handle all inbound scheduling calls for 35 physicians and 26 physician assistants. And we also have the software that we use, obviously is Radix. We’re using DASHself and we’re going to hopefully be using DASHin really soon. And we’ve used DASHconnect in the past, but then we use DASHcentral as well. So that’s pretty much our approach right now.

Sarah Knox: Awesome. Yeah, Lee was wondering if you needed to be updated on something with DASHin there. That’s good to know.

Lee Cothren: Hopefully really soon.

Sarah Knox: Great. LaDonna?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Absolutely. At the Villages Health, we have approximately 140 clinicians within our group. So, our scheduling is a little bit broken up. We do have about 30 operators who take inbound calls and perform scheduling. But we also have, of course, our check in checkout staff and then some various other specialty schedulers themselves. So we incorporated the DASHcentral product to help us with that. And we’re looking to go, as Lee is also doing to go to the DASHin product in the future, as well as DASHself. The central product has been wonderful for us, it’s really helped us streamline and simplify our scheduling amongst all of our clinicians.

Sarah Knox: Awesome. That’s amazing to hear. Graham?

Graham Fox: Well, as noted in my introduction, our practice consists of nine different clinical offices spread throughout northwest Atlanta. So, that has sort of driven our operations to consolidate to a centralized call center. But as also mentioned, we have three endoscopy centers in our schedulers also scheduled for them. So, it’s a pretty complex process. It’s a very different process between office appointments and endoscopy appointments and procedures. And so, we already face a pretty complex set of problems in scheduling. So right now, we have consolidated those call centers, and then also implemented Radix’s DASHself to accommodate online appointments. And we’ve just done that really within probably the last year.

[How organizations are tackling patient scheduling challenges]

Sarah Knox: That’s great. Yeah, so to piggyback off and really kind of get into some of those details. Could you talk a little bit about some of the key issues you had to tackle to make improvements in scheduling, both is it related to implementing DASH and then just overall. LaDonna, why don’t we start with you?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Absolutely. I’m sure some of our issues are some of the some that everybody else in the panel probably faced as well. We had a lack of access, and we found that our schedules weren’t being very well utilized. So what we started doing was digging in and really seeing what could we do to improve our scheduling, both for the patient experience and for the clinic’s experience and for the clinicians experience. The first thing we really realize is that we had to look at our processes, our workflows, and really start standardizing some things because over time, we’ve seen rapid growth in our organization. And that is allowed a lot of one offs, a lot of individual processes to be kind of built. And so we felt that standardizing and really kind of level setting our rules and our policies around scheduling was the first thing we really had to tackle when it came to kind of optimizing our scheduling.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s great. And it’s something absolutely is one of the first things that we talk about with clients when they come into implementation is how varied our practices and where do we need to look at standardization. That change management is not something to be ignored as part of the process. That’s great. Graham, how about you?

Graham Fox: Yeah, I think, one thing is I probably failed to mention in my first answer was the standardization that we have done in our schedules as well. Even though we have a wide variety of sub specialists, we actually, all of our providers, all of our positions, at least, work off the same templates, both in the office and the ACDs. And so immediately that has removed some of the barriers that otherwise exist or get instilled into the process. So whether you’re calling for provider A or provider B, our schedulers notes be the same template and the same rules that apply.

Graham Fox: I think one of the other things that we did it, especially as we implemented the self-scheduling tool, was that we thought that a lot of this was going to happen on nights and weekends, when our call centers were not open. And, what we found out maybe a little counterintuitive. We see our major spikes during the workday since maybe that’s when patients are thinking about scheduling. But it may also be a function of longer wait times on our call center ACDs. And that may be what’s driving our volume. And so that actually has helped us open our eyes a little bit in terms of how we need to staff, and a little bit more into how our patients are thinking about scheduling and when they’re thinking about scheduling. Our assumptions were off there a little bit. So we’ve had to tweak.

Sarah Knox: All right. Yeah, good insight. Lee, how about you?

Lee Cothren: I think some of the key issues, probably early on, I inherited DASH half built or implemented, if you will, when I first came here about four years ago. But I think some of the key issues really was physician buy in, not having a couple of physicians who were really your champions in your practice to push this forward. Some of your same physicians that your other partners really look up to their advice and guidance. So one great story was I was sending an email out to all the physicians, letting them know that I wanted to meet with them about DASH and rules for their templates. And I met with, like 10 emails that said, what’s DASH? So right there it told me, hey, I really need to look at this, we need to get some physician buy in.

Another key issue was changing staff behavior. So you’ve got staff that, they spend their entire life in an EHR system. But now you’ve got to tell them, we need you to only schedule using this new scheduling system. So moving everyone in that direction. Again, I think Graham mentioned the processes, the workflows, building. In our practice, we’re a private practice. So each of the physicians can create pretty much whichever rules they want for their schedules. So there is no one template here. And so we’ve spent a lot of time in the very beginning building 100s, if not 1000s of different rules and algorithms to accommodate all of the scheduling one offs, if you will. So those are some of the key issues when we first started.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s helpful, and frankly, not uncommon. So yeah, I would love to dig in a little bit more on the major challenges and lessons learned that you guys had through implementing DASH and through other scheduling changes that you’ve made. We’d love to hear a little bit more about those and kind of what you think is important for other health care leaders to consider when optimizing scheduling, so they’re going into the process eyes wide open without any blinders on.

Lee, why don’t we start with you? So, you mentioned a number of things, physician buy in, educating schedulers on changing their practices, how did you start to address some of those issues to really kind of bring everybody on board?

[Scheduling change management in medical practices]

Lee Cothren: I think, we’ve heard of the saying the low hanging fruit, find physicians who are eager to make changes in their practice, to increase their patient volume very quickly. One of the things when I first started was, I was under this belief and assumption, and I had to learn myself that, oh, let’s get everyone on these open templates, it’s going to be better than biscuits and gravy. And yeah, it wasn’t the case.

Lee Cothren: So, one of the biggest things I learned was to work with each individual physician and let’s get what is best for them. And once we started doing that, I was able to find some of the new doctors, the sports medicine doctors who would want to put a patient every 15 minutes and double slot any patient or type. Working closely to find out what those rules are that we are really going to be using is super important there. So, that was one of the major issues.

Again, another major issue was that we were at a point where everyone who spends the majority of their time scheduling a patient — check out, check in — your scheduling department must use this software in order to make this work. It’s great, because you don’t know what’s not going to work until you break it, if that makes sense. So, we’ve learned that a lot with Radix.

And you learn that a lot with any other software that if you don’t use it and try to get 100% out of it, then you’re never going to know how to make the changes that you need to make and stick and work for your practice.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, it’s very true. LaDonna, why don’t we go to you and dig into some of the issues that you referenced? So, I know you talked about how you all experienced a lot of rapid growth – so you were bringing a lot of things together to make a melting pot and then trying to standardize that. How did you approach it?

LaDonna Collingsworth: I think it was a lot like what Lee just mentioned. We got some of the subject matter experts in their areas, and really let them understand what we were trying to achieve, and understand their pain points also, to see how we can help solve for those and the physicians as well.

We’re not a physician-owned practice. However, we have a large variety of specialties and each one is their own individual thing. So they don’t all work the same. And we had to personalize each specialty — what orthopedics does great, urology doesn’t even align with. So we had to sit down with them and really help understand what their needs were to be able to build the schedule templates to support that.

And as we started talking with them, and meeting with them — specifically, the staff who work in those departments, schedulers, phone operators, and the front desk staff really helped to bring others on board with it. And it really made it more successful. I completely agree with Lee that you have to have everybody using the product. And you all have to be swimming in the same direction for it to be successful. And so you really have to have all key players, and all stakeholders involved in the process. You can’t just have a small group of people who say we’re going to do this, it has to have everyone’s buy in.

I think our biggest struggle was probably just getting everybody to understand the end game with it. And then once they kind of started seeing how it could benefit their particular job or their function, it made a lot more sense.

Sarah Knox: Yeah. I think that’s great. I think transparency and making sure that you’re all-inclusive and communicating out what we’re doing is so important. It gets back to Lee’s comment around people saying what is DASH, as we’re about to move forward to going live. So, great. Graham, how about you? I know you’ve talked a lot about the standardization as well, also have some nuances in terms of complexity of endoscopy scheduling. What’s top of mind for you?

Graham Fox: Well, I guess I’m very fortunate. The organization that I’m a part of has a very, we call it a democratic approach, little D, to how we do operations and it’s really driven by a culture where we have not only equal partnership, but equal compensation schemes. And so when it comes to the implementation of a schedule template, it actually only makes sense for all of the providers to be on the same template. Because again, it helps create equality among the workload as well. So, our challenges were a little bit different in that we had to give up a little control in order to make a big difference.

And what we found was, we did have some struggle and creating some open access templates, particularly around screening colonoscopies at our endoscopy centers, that was a little bit of a challenge, because, again, providers physicians really wanted to hold tight to their schedule.

But honestly, in the implementation of DASHself, we had to give up a little control, because we were giving that scheduling authority for lack of a better word over to Radix, and it was outside of our organization. It wasn’t our employees scheduling that appointment. And so that took a little bit of change management, for sure, to get our physicians to the point where they were ready to give up that control.

But as I mentioned, it has helped relieve a little bit of pressure in our call centers, because again, our patients were utilizing them during business hours to self-schedule, as well as we think opening the funnel to where we are still capturing some patients after hours and on the weekends when we’re not normally staffed. So, for us, the argument was more about giving up some control in order to make big improvements.

Sarah Knox: Yeah. Make sense, finding that balance there is important. Well, I’m going to grab a question from the audience, because I think it’s pertinent to what we’re talking about right now with templates.

[How dermatology practices and other specialties handle scheduling for multiple procedures]

The question we got is — As a dermatologist, we have over 20 different procedures that require varying length of time. How do you handle templating when patients want to do multiple in office procedures at the same appointment, as well as a medical visit, like a skin cancer screening exam? So thinking about how we coordinate that care. Lee, why don’t we start with you.

Lee Cothren: One of the things that I’m thinking with that question is, with DASH, you have the ability to see whatever appointment types you create in your EHR. If you’re using DASH, you’re able to say, hey, this doctor only sees these appointment types, for example. So based on that information, then my suggestion, or what I would say is you create triage questions based on an appointment type in that situation. So if it’s a cancer screening, I’m going to the chief complaint would be cancer screening, and then it would ask you three questions. And then based on those three questions, it would tell you who you need to schedule with. And it would also, you create, again, the algorithms and the rules behind the scenes that say, okay, only offer a 10 minute appointment cancer screening slot at this time for this patient. Does that make sense?

Sarah Knox: Yeah, absolutely. And as we’ve mentioned, of course, there’s definitely functionality in DASH we can leverage to do that, or to assist with that. LaDonna or Graham, any thoughts on that question before we move on to the next?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Yes, certainly, I agree with Lee on that, maybe using your triage questions and the rules-based engine to kind of drive the type of appointment you want that patient to have. If the patient says they need a full scan exam, but they also need maybe to review medications and something else and they have an excision they need done, that’s going to make a lengthy appointment. So based on the type of response to their questions could determine the visit type in your EHR. We do similar things with motor vehicle accidents and workers comp related things and we ask questions and that can kind of drive the visit type. So if a patient’s coming in for a right arm pain and shoulder pain, well, if that’s related to a motor vehicle accident, it just triggered a different visit type with a different length of time. And that really helps the clinicians to be able to manage the appropriate time they need for that visit.

Sarah Knox: Awesome, thanks LaDonna. Graham, anything to add there?

Graham Fox: Really, no. I think Lee and LaDonna really hit it well. The only thing I would say to the person asked the question is also make sure you work with the revenue cycle team, because I hear some revenue issues in there as well.

[Key metrics in scheduling management and reporting successes]

Sarah Knox: Awesome. Thanks, Graham. So pivoting a little bit, where there key metrics you were looking to measure an impact with changes to your scheduling? And if so, how we seen improvements in some of those metrics, since focusing on that scheduling? And Graham, we’ll start with you this time.

Graham Fox: Yeah, I’ve already mentioned some of the volume metrics coming into our call centers and trying to alleviate that. So I’ll let that answer set by itself. But the other one that I really wanted to mention was no shows. We were really struggling with no shows. And really, in full candor, we did not see an immediate fix upon the implementation of DASH. But as we got through the implementation, and made some tweaks to our processes, again, going back to that theme of giving up some control, we saw some very significant impacts.

Our no-shows so far for this month are about half of where they’ve been in previous months and sort of our historical trending. So to be able to cut our no shows in half, obviously, you’re talking not only about a revenue impact, but obviously, it’s a huge impact to access because we were losing appointment slots, that then we couldn’t fill because the appointment time had already passed. So, given the demand that we have for our specialty in our market is very high, we do have wait times, but now we’re doing a much better job of utilizing the templates that we have.

Sarah Knox: That’s great to hear. LaDonna same question to you.

LaDonna Collingsworth: Yeah, I would say our biggest key metric, or measure we were trying to really impact would be our schedule utilization. Our individuals schedules themselves, some of them were being underutilized, and some of them were being very overly utilized. And we were trying to level load our schedules. But at the same time, be able to balance access for established patients and new patients. And it’s always this fine line, you’re dancing with your schedules trying to make this happen.

But with our specialty division, for example, we started when we went into Radix and about the 70% utilization, and with Radix’s help and being able to build the rules-based system, we are at 87% utilization now, which is the right sweet spot where we were looking to be at. So, it has really helped us a lot to be able to balance the schedules for the clinicians, balance our ancillary schedules, make sure that we’re getting the right types of ultrasound schedules where they need to be. So it really worked out very nicely.

Sarah Knox: Love to hear that. That’s amazing. Okay, Lee, what are key metrics have you guys looked at and hopefully seen improvement in.

Lee Cothren: So, one of the things that DASHself really does well is to help drive a lot of new patient volume. If you’re an analytic guru, and you love all the numbers, you can use the Power BI, and you can go in and break it down by how many people are new patients versus rechecks coming in. We see that roughly 80% or more of the patients that are scheduling their appointments online are new patients. So one of the biggest things more than a whole lot of numbers and metrics for us is providing the patients more access to be able to fill up those patients schedules. Like LaDonna was mentioning, we find that the utilization is so much better.

This year alone, we’ve had 17,000+ patients who went to our website and scheduled an appointment using DASHself. So right there alone, I mean, that’s a lot of great numbers and new patient volume that we’re looking at. And another thing that we like to look at when we’re looking at metrics is the total number of appointment calls versus the total number of patients who are going online to schedule an appointment using DASH. So, for example, we roughly had about 20,000 calls to our practice in October and we had over 2,000 patients that went to DASHself and made attempts.

Another thing that it gave us the ability to do with those metrics is that every hour if you’re using DASHself, it will give you an email. So, we had it set up to email our centralized scheduling team and share the data — these are the patients who scheduled successfully, and these are the patients who were turned out. So then we assign someone at the top of every hour to call back every patient that was turned out. So we’re making even more opportunities to capture even more patients by doing that as well.

And I’ll wrap this one up by saying, the great thing is, you’re always running into scheduling issues and with, okay, so why did this patient get scheduled in this slot, etc. We’ve used DASH since 2018 — DASHself. And we’ve had over 47,000 patients who have visited DASHself. And I can only think in the last four years, there’s probably a handful of issues from any clinician of why a patient was on their schedule that was able to self-schedule. So that’s huge — not having to go back and figure out how things happened.

[Benefits of optimizing patient scheduling at medical groups]

Sarah Knox: Absolutely. So, we’ve talked about a number of positive things around sort of metrics that we’re looking at, standardizations that we’ve done, but wanted to know from each of you guys, you had to say, what was the biggest benefit you’ve seen from optimizing your scheduling? What would it have been? And thinking about it from a patient perspective, provider perspective, scheduler perspective, kind of all the different facets. LaDonna, why don’t you kick us off?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Sure. I think for us, it was just simplifying the scheduling process. I think that access, of course, we had increased access, we’ve had reduced errors, we’ve seen both user and patient satisfaction increase because of it. But really, for us, we had so many resources, our staff were referencing so many changes happening every single day. And it was very difficult for them to keep up with it for as many clinicians and specialties that we have now. So to really simplify the process and let the staff focus on the patient experience. And the experience as a whole rather than just the day to day things to get the patient scheduled, has really been great. Our staff appreciate it. They don’t have to remember all the little rules for every single clinician, they can allow the system to drive them through the process. And that’s I think it’s been the biggest win for us. Very close second would be access for sure.

Sarah Knox: I’m glad there’s competing best benefits from it. Graham, how about at GI Specialists of Georgia?

Graham Fox: Yeah, one of the things, I’m going to throw a plug in here for patient engagement. I think we’ve covered a lot of things today. But one of the things that we made some pretty significant changes in our patient engagement. Of course, we’ve utilized technology for at least a number of years, in terms of communicating with our patients, but having that now be bi-directional, has really made a major impact.

And I mentioned earlier about our no-show rates, falling to almost half of what they had been. One of the major changes that we made during that time was actually making it easier for our patients to cancel their appointments. And that may sound really counterintuitive to most of you, it certainly did to me. But by making it easier to let our patients cancel their appointments, we found that they did that, they actually communicated to us. They told us, “Hey, listen, I can’t make my appointment on Thursday.” That gave us an opportunity to then fill that slot.

Some of the statistics that we talked about — I talked about no shows and LaDonna mentioned schedule utilization — that’s when we saw a major impact. And again, it really has taken a lot for me and honestly our physicians to understand that. But that was a really major step in our implementation. It’s that patient engagement and making it easier for them to communicate about a cancellation.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s a great call out. It’s opening up a seat on the plane. So having that happen earlier and more often. That’s great. Lee, how about you guys if you had to circle around the biggest benefit?

Lee Cothren: Well, I think there’s so many and I really mean that. I think probably patient access, you never know in a perfect world, you’re going to have your 100% of your FTE on the phones, and you’re going to have the right people there. But in the event that, there’s six or seven people out due to illness or things, then patients can really pop right over and schedule their own appointment if they need to it. It really makes a world of difference for a patient.

Another huge one and LaDonna hit around on this but is, I call it paperless scheduling for our scheduling departments. When I first started at Peachtree Orthopedic two years ago, and when I went and looked at everyone’s desk, there’s just mounds and mounds of books and sticky notes on the walls and on all the printer: “Don’t schedule this for this position.” If you were to look in my scheduling department now, there’s literally no paper.

As a matter of fact, when we built the new scheduling department, we removed all drawers from desk. So they have an open seating area with this computer, phone and keyboard, there’s no paper. So it’s completely sterile now, and that makes a huge difference because you can look at the rules there. And it saves an enormous amount of time, being able to do it this way as well.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s great. Sticky notes make me nervous. So glad to hear you guys getting rid of.

Lee Cothren: Yeah, what if one falls off. You know what I mean?

Sarah Knox: Yes, a little wind and everything falls apart. Alright, so let’s dig in a little bit in each of your kind of specialty in areas of focus, I would love to hear about any specific scheduling rules, preferences or considerations that you have to make there. LaDonna, anything specific that you guys thought about when focusing on a more senior patient population?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Yes, our patient population expects and really prefers a high touch sort of situation. Whereas the younger population tends to be a little more tech savvy and want to get text and text back and forth. I feel like the biggest thing that we were able to do to accommodate that was to free up our staff to be able to have those relationships and communication with the patient. They don’t have to be so focused on the actual task of scheduling, messaging, or rescheduling.

By allowing the rules that we build to do their jobs, it gives the patient time with the person to be able to have that good experience. And to be able to be available to do that, not to be doing all this manual work to make things happen. They’re now more available, they have more time to be able to take care of the patient’s needs.

I think for our population, that’s very important. Some of them, we are the only engagement they see in their day coming to the doctor’s visits. So it’s very important that that’s a great experience. So I think for us with our population, that was the biggest benefit.

[Managing rules in specialty groups like orthopedics and gastroenterology as well as general practice]

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s a great point. And it’s something we’ve not talked about today. Obviously, self-scheduling alleviates schedulers to take more volume, but it also really allows them to spend more time and care with patients.

Lee, how about ortho, thoughts around some of the specifics you to think about in implementing scheduling optimization related to ortho?

Lee Cothren: I think just really getting everyone on the same sheet of music. I mean, there’s so many rules and algorithms. And the great thing is, for the most part, I think DASH has been able to accommodate, they probably hate seeing my email come through every day. I’m probably sent them more emails to DASH than anyone else in my practice over the last four years. Changing okay, this position now only wants to see a new Medicare recheck at 8:45 and 1:45. Can we please take the roll off? And the response time has been phenomenal.

The great thing is that Radix and the DASH platform has been so easily accommodating and I think that’s what’s huge for us.

Sarah Knox: Lee, your messages coming in or the highlight of the team’s day, I can assure you that. Graham, how about for gastro?

Graham Fox: Well, as I said earlier, we’re kind of in a unique situation where we already crossed the bridge of open access and equal templates across all our physicians. So that’s not our challenge. But I just wanted to underscore some of what we’ve heard before, and that is, when you have a technology that can help you remember those sticky notes or follow the rules that are implemented, it becomes a lot easier. And so, I just really want to reiterate what Lee and LaDonna said, that if you can’t get to a point where you have essentially open access where there are no rules, then utilize the technology so that every one of your schedulers doesn’t have to remember every single nuance.

[Tips for rolling out patient scheduling solutions]

Sarah Knox: Great. We’ve gotten a lot of pearls of wisdom from you guys thus far. But before we move to answering some more questions from the audience, just wanted to give each panelist opportunity for any thoughts you’d like to share as a tip for anyone rolling out scheduling optimization. And Lee, we’ll start with you on this one.

Lee Cothren: So, the thing I would say to everyone is that realize that you’re using something called technology. It’s going to change; there are going to be a million changes. One day, something that’s going to work beautifully, the next day, it’s not. You can either get mad at a product. I mean, if you’re working in any medical practice, and you probably have at least five or 10 different vendors that you use for some type of IT related product. And I would say that, if you have zero issues with any of them, please call me and give me the names of them, because that’s who I really want to push our practice to start using.

Lee Cothren: But with scheduling software, like Radix and the DASH products. There are going to be times where you’re going to want to pull your hair out, because you’re wanting to create a rule that can’t get created in time or something’s not going right, but bar none, they’re the best ones out there. If you ever spend some time and you want to look around, ask yourself, can someone create the rules that we need for our practice? Do you have a vendor that’s going to be responsive to take care of our needs right away? Those are the big things I look for when I’m working with any type of IT vendor, because the expectation sometimes does not meet what’s really going to take place. And with Radix and with DASH, the scheduling software is really a great product, you just have to be take your time, roll it slow, get the right people involved, and it’s a great product.

Sarah Knox: Awesome, thanks, Lee. LaDonna.

LaDonna Collingsworth: Yeah, I have to agree with all the things Lee just mentioned. One of the key things I think, for us and what I would recommend for anybody to look into some scheduling optimization software is really to build a good team for yourself when you’re implementing and maintaining the applications. Just like Lee was saying, there’s no such thing as a perfect system. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be looking for scheduling optimization software for your EHR. So ultimately, it’s about having a good core team who has a little bit of subject matter expertise in different areas of your organization to be able to help you kind of drive, not only the build and implementation but the management of the application as you move forward.

I think for me and our team, that has been a very big piece of it. And we consider the folks at Radix as a part of our team, because they truly do help us make our processes and any new crazy ideas we decide to roll out come true, and it works out great. We actually stood up a COVID vaccination clinic within about seven days. And it was thanks to Radix’s helped that we were able to do that, develop scheduling triage questions and all of that within the system and make it work effortlessly. And that doesn’t happen with one person, it takes an entire team to do it. So I think that’s something I would definitely recommend to anyone looking at optimizing their software.

Sarah Knox: Awesome. That’s great advice, LaDonna. And Graham?

Graham Fox: Yeah, I think again, Lee and LaDonna have really hit the nail on the head. I think that anytime you go through any sort of implementation of a new vendor, you’re not implementing a new vendor, you’re implementing new workflows. And to find a vendor that’s just going to perfectly overlay every nuance of your organization, that’s not realistic. And those gaps that developed in that implementation are normally where the frustrations lie. So to find a partner that can be flexible to your nuances is really important. And not again, to just reiterate what Lee and LaDonna have said, but that is what we found with Radix.

I’ve shared with Sarah that we struggled with some of our implementation at first. I guess we expected Radix to just read our minds and figure out what we were looking for. And unfortunately, what had to happen is we turned it on, and we found some of those gaps. But I have to hand it to Radix, they were really quick to respond and to help us think through what we needed to do in order to make the implementation successful. And again, I hand it to them, because it has been just that and our statistics show it.

Sarah Knox: Great, thank you so much, Graham. Well, why don’t we transition to taking some more questions from the audience. So first question is something we’ve talked about a good bit around, getting buy in and feedback from folks within the organization as you’re implementing a new product. So the question for the panel is, how important is it to get buy in and feedback at all levels of the organization? And what type of feedback have you received from your schedulers after implementing this product? So, LaDonna, why don’t we start with you?

LaDonna Collingsworth: Certainly, I think you have to have all levels of buy in and that starts with education. You need to be educating your team members on what your goals are, what you’re doing, what your team’s goals are, if you’re looking for new software, if you’re entertaining software, there should be members of all of those teams involved in it at some point in the process. Even if it’s as simple as, tell me what your pain points are, what is it that you would like to see in the new software, that’s going to allow them to have a better understanding of what your end goal is. And when you’re beginning the implementation process, it’s not going to come as a wow, we’re starting this new thing. Oh, they’ve really been working towards this, it makes sense.

I think something we learned, if I’m honest about it, is we didn’t bring in some of our frontline staff into the process until implementation, we probably should have done that earlier on in the process. We’ve learned that lesson so now have one of our key frontline staff actually and part of our core team now, because she helps us kind of with the day to day. But to me, I think it’s very, very important. The communication and education of what the application can bring to those individual roles will help you when it comes time to actually roll out and start using the software.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that’s great. I think it’s really important. And that’s where we see the most success and implementations is when we do have kind of all of those levels of engagement and certainly frontline staff. Graham, anything to add?

Graham Fox: I think that was a great answer. We often think of buy in and think about, okay, we’ve got to touch all the providers, all the physicians and get their buy in but you’ve got to go 360 degrees. I couldn’t agree more LaDonna because, ultimately, as I said, the implementation of any software, any vendor is a change in workflow. You got to have your frontline staff. Not only educated but engaged in that.

[Tips for promoting your online patient self-scheduling]

Sarah Knox: Awesome. All right, and make moves to the next question. Graham, Lee, I will direct this to you guys for self-scheduling. So the question was, how did you advertise to your patients the new capability of scheduling online? How did you really kind of get the word out there?

Lee Cothren: First thing that we did was with social media. Our marketing team created a lot of nice cards and put them at the front desk of every one of our offices, and we sent a mass email out to all our patients informing them that we would be moving to self-scheduling. So, there was quite a bit of marketing effort before we rolled it out that took place.

Graham Fox: I’m taking some notes here, Lee. I can learn from you. I don’t think we did the mass email to our patients. But that’s brilliant. When we first went live, we did so very intentionally sort of with a soft approach. I mentioned earlier that some of our physicians were not fully on board with relinquishing control of that process. So, we had a soft launch. But we did do cards at our front desk and we did hand out some cards serve our referring physician offices as they like to schedule while the patient’s still in their office.

And then we also, as part of our on-hold prompts while patients are waiting to schedule their appointments, we did add a tag in there, “If you prefer not to wait, go to our website.” And of course, our website has a button, very prominently displayed where you can click the ‘Schedule an Appointment’ button. And that obviously redirects you to the DASHself page. But again, I do think that that helped drive some volume.

[Tips for rolling out the implementation of patient scheduling solutions]

Sarah Knox: All right. One last question– one around how you implemented DASH. Did you start with kind of a big go live? Or did you look at rolling out to specific physicians, facilities, and they kind of do a slow roll out from there? And what were lessons learned from the approach that you took? LaDonna, why don’t we start with you?

LaDonna Collingsworth: We started out I would say, 50-50; we didn’t go out with a big bang. But we didn’t do it in baby steps, either. We did start educating everyone from the get go and started training all of our schedulers or anyone who performs any scheduling functionality on how to use the application. And then we really went really heavy into our specialty division and started building out all of the rules and everything for that department first. They kind of launched it. And we worked through a lot of the technical ins and outs of learning how to build rules and apply them to templates and all of that. And then maybe about six months later, we delved into our primary care department and did the exact same thing.

And so, it’s worked out very well. And I think we’re scheduling as of this week, 93% of our appointments using Radix. We have about two departments, which is behavioral health and another couple of small departments that we don’t schedule in there, because it’s just a little harder to get that to work. But otherwise, all the other departments are scheduling in there. I am very interested to see Graham though, because we do some surgical scheduling too. But we haven’t incorporated that in yet. So it was nice to hear some of the ways you guys have handled your templates.

Graham Fox: Yeah, I’ll jump in there. I mean, as I think about the future, I know you’re asking about the current. But I when I think about the future, actually, that’s it LaDonna, I think, we have open access, as I mentioned around screening procedures. And we view that as the next phase of DASHself for us. There are some certain clinical questions that need to be appropriately answered in order to meet the screening criteria, mostly as defined by payers but also by the facility. So, we’re going to be working with Radix on exactly that to see if we can take self-scheduling into our procedural areas as well.

LaDonna Collingsworth: Interesting.

Graham Fox: Really excited about it.

Sarah Knox: Yeah, that will be great. Lee, how about at Peachtree Ortho?

Lee Cothren: So, at Peachtree Ortho, we really started out the implementation process with our centralized scheduling department. Then we moved it out to all our check in and check out staff. As far as open templates versus traditional templates, we really started out with two or three physicians who are willing to let themselves be guinea pigs for us to see how that would work. After that, and it was working well, we were able to convince others. I think, right now, we probably have 70% or more of our physicians who are on open templates. But we were able to take those and work with physicians and say, hey, look what these doctors are doing. And by the way, they’re seeing more patients than you are right now. So more opened templates up.

So now, I mean, it’s not an issue, everyone is pretty much using DASH. One thing I will say, something to keep in mind is when you’re rolling this out, and if you’re implementing it, keep in mind, again, who do you want? Who is your target audience to use this product? I used to get a lot of feedback, well, why aren’t the clinical teams using it? Well, they work for the doctor, they can fit a patient anywhere they want to, and the doctors never going to say a word to them.

So, the clinical team, they don’t really need to use DASH. They can just put a patient wherever they want to. Another thing that I want to say is, they were talking about the buy in and feedback a couple questions ago. Something to keep in mind is, throughout our practice, every year, we hire a ton of new staff. And I would encourage you, one of the things that we were thinking about recently, we were sitting here, myself and some other leaders, and we came to the realization wow, we’ve got a ton of new staff. And we have completed no training for DASH with them in over a year. So we really got on board with all the supervisors and leadership and said, hey, October 16, Saturday morning, it really stinks. But we need all your staff here for four hours to do some refresher because you’re getting a lot of new check in staff, checkout staff. And if you want error free, that’s the way to go.

Another thing that we did was I have my scheduling manager go out and meet with physicians a lot time and show them what DASH looks like and educate them. Because I’m sure Graham and LaDonna can attest that you get these doctors well, I’m getting calls, it says there’s no availability. Well, sir, that’s because you said you only want seven rechecks in the morning. If you would like me to fill this with rechecks, I’ll be more than happy to. The more they’re educated, the more that they know that there’s rules built behind all of this. And it’s not just a human making the decision, the better off you’re going to be for your practice. That’s all about. Thanks.

Sarah Knox: That’s great. Thank you so much, Lee. Well, thank you to all of our panelists for joining today and sharing your insights and really for sharing a lot of the lessons learned. I think that’s been some really helpful insight there. Really appreciate all of our participants joining and the questions that you guys sent in, we got a lot of really great questions. We weren’t able to get to them all, unfortunately. But we will send more details out with the email tomorrow to address some of those questions, which will also include a recording.

We will keep you updated as we have more webinars in the new year. But in the meantime, please be sure to check out our website, relatient.com for more content. We’ve got articles on there and you can access a lot of our past webinars as well. Thank you so much and have a great day.