Healthcare Finance: Self-Scheduling Eases Patients, Workloads and Appointments

Susan MorseNovember 12, 2021

The revenue cycle automation enabled Baptist Health Care to quadruple the number of diagnostic appointments made online.


Baptist Health Care has combined two strategies – revenue cycle automation and patient engagement – to attract and retain patients in a competitive Florida market.


Two of the largest competitors for the Pensacola-based Baptist – a three hospital system – are Ascension and HCA Healthcare.


"Patients absolutely have choices," said Amy Purvis, corporate director of Patient Access for Baptist Health Care.


Baptist Health Care is very focused on attracting consumers and referrals from both employed and independent providers, Purvis said. To give patients another reason to schedule with them, Baptist began using revenue cycle automation called R1 RCM for online self-scheduling.


The push to add more online scheduling has been ongoing for two-and-a-half years, maybe three, Purvis said. It started with mammogram screenings.


Why this matters

Like other digital innovations such as telehealth, the new technology got trial by immersion during one of the COVID-19 surges. The team used the online self-scheduling technology to manage the vaccination process.   


During the fourth surge in August, Baptist had more admissions due to COVID-19 than it ever had before. A conference room was converted to an ER triage area.


One good change was that Baptist did not experience the decrease in elective surgeries that it did in early 2020. Vaccinations have a great deal to do with that.


Through online scheduling, Baptist was able to quadruple the number of diagnostic appointments made online, according to Purvis. The health system was able to use these same online tools to facilitate vaccinations for the community.


At first there was some angst about patients doing this for themselves. 


But the online scheduling flow was the same as if a patient called in to schedule an appointment. Patients were guided through a question-and-answer scheduling process. 


Once a patient scheduled the vaccination for the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, a future appointment was added for the second shot. 


The initial vaccine rollout was for people over the age of 65. They wondered, Purvis said, whether the older population would engage with the technology. 


"Within hours, we had appointments with 90-plus-year-olds," she said. "The first block of appointments was booked within four hours.


Baptist has received great feedback from patients, Purvis said. They've told them they're very happy with the experience and the ability to schedule online.


The staff did 32,000 vaccines in 90 days. This is compared to a typical month of scheduling with 8,000 to 15,000 appointments.


Another benefit is how self-scheduling frees up employee time. The system integrated guidelines so patients were automatically screened as to their eligibility for the shot. 


The ease of use is an advantage when the competition for staff is fierce and turnover in the market is high, Purvis said. They are able to onboard people quickly because little training is needed, she said.


"The increase was managed without any increase in FTEs, it speaks to the role technology plays and how important the partnership is," Purvis said.


The larger trend

Baptist Health Care is expanding self-scheduling by adding an automatic patient scheduling invitation when a physician places an order. When that order is placed, it triggers a text message. This will increase self-service adoption significantly, according to Purvis.


When a new facility opens in 2023, the self-scheduling option will expand with that. 


"We're wondering what's next," Purvis said. "We have the goal of making it easy for our patients."


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Author Bio: Susan Morse is a Managing Editor at Healthcare Finance.