Common Issues when Scheduling Patients
As a Home Health Therapist you are largely responsible for scheduling your own patients. This can be great because you have the flexibility to make a weekly schedule that works best for you! Maybe you’re trying to fit in a few per diem patients. Or you’d like to be home on time to pick the kids up from school. OR, avoid the worst of the traffic!
BUT, there are a few common scheduling issues that can put a wrench in your best laid plans. We’ll cover these in this article and, of course, give you plenty of ideas for how to overcome them!
7 Common Scheduling Issues – Overview
1. Being too flexible when scheduling your patients
2. Patient won’t commit to a time, despite your best efforts to accommodate him or her
3. Patient never answers the phone!
4. Patient has trouble remembering appointment times
5. Patient says he just doesn’t feel up for therapy this week
6. You have trouble finding the house
7. No parking!
But First, Some Helpful Tips…
Best Time to Call to Schedule Therapy:
We have found that the best time to call to schedule therapy appointments with patients is between 3-5pm and 7-8pm on weekdays. Your patients are likely at home, sitting down, and not in the middle of eating.
Patient Scheduling Script:
“Hello, may I speak with (XXXX)? Hello, my name is (XXXX), speech/occupational/physical therapist with (XXXX) home health agency. I am calling to schedule an appointment for (certain day). How does (certain time) work for you?
Offer a specific date and time. This not only helps keep your schedule efficient, but also decreases the chances of the patient saying: “Well, let me think about what works best and I’ll call you back.” I’d say there’s a good 80% chance you won’t be called back! Keep in mind that you’ll be able to see most patients at the same days and times every week by the 2nd or 3rd visit.
7 Common Scheduling Issues
1. Being too flexible when scheduling your patients. It’s not uncommon for patients to not want me to come by before 11 am because they want a nice long breakfast. BUT, they also don’t want me to come after 2 pm because that’s when all their favorite shows are on. Keep it short and simple by stating that you have other appointments at these times, then give them two good options for times.
2. Patient won’t commit to a time, despite your best effort to accommodate him or her. Every once in a while, there’s a patient who is very hard to pin down. If you’ve had to miss visits because he or she won’t say “Yes” to a time, have a talk about what’s really going on. Avoid blaming the patient; keep it about you.
For example, “I feel that it’s hard for me to make an appointment with you. Is there something I can do differently to make it easier to schedule our appointments?” It’s a gentle way to address a patient’s reluctance to schedule an appointment with you.
4. Patient has trouble remembering appointment times: Write future therapy appointments on their calendars or place sticky notes on their fridges as a reminder.
5. Patient reports that he/she doesn’t feel up to therapy this week. If patients are sick and unable to reschedule for later that week, go ahead and miss the visit. But encourage them to call the nurse/PCP with any concerns. If patients have guests over for an extended period of time (common during the holidays), encourage them to prioritize their health and recovery.
We can’t make people participate in therapy, of course. But we can provide education about the plan for the next session. And about the general purpose of your particular therapy. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind patients that it’s doctor’s orders for you to come. Other times you can bargain by saying, “We’ll keep it simple today.”
6. You have trouble finding the house. Every time you call to schedule a new appointment, ask if there are any special instructions to get to the home. Common issues include house numbers that are hard to see, two roads with the same name in the same city, or an area of town that is so new that map apps don’t include them yet. Some people live in gated communities with no intercom.
* If patients do live in a gated community or a housing complex that requires a numerical code to get in the gate, there will likely be a note about it in their demographic information on your agency’s documentation system. You can also toggle through the resident list while you’re at the gate and speak with them through the intercom.
7. No parking: Some housing complexes have limited or no visitor parking spots. You may have to pay for public parking. Try to get a receipt so that you can ask to be reimbursed by your company. Many cities use the system Paybyphone which, as the name suggests, allows you to pay for parking using your smartphone. This comes in handy when you don’t have cash or you’d like an electronic version of your receipt.
Communicate with the patient, the patient’s family members (if applicable), and your team if you end up having any special or ongoing issues with scheduling.
Sometimes you’re going to have to miss a visit due to scheduling conflicts. Your patient may fail to mention that she will be out of town for an appointment. Or a family member may unexpectedly drop by and the patient won’t want any therapy that day.
That’s life! Try not to sweat it. Document what happened and move on!
Could you also use some pointers on how to be more productive on the job? See “19 Valuable Productivity Tips for Therapists in Home Health.”