How IU Health transformed patient scheduling with automation

Published: March 13, 2024 by Experian Health

How IU Health transformed patient scheduling with automation-blog

A recent study by Experian Health found that 62% of healthcare workers consider patient scheduling to be one of the areas hit hardest by staffing shortages. Labor gaps result in delayed patient care, staff burnout, additional hiring and training demands – not to mention snowballing overtime costs.

Faced with wide-reaching financial and operational ramifications, healthcare organizations must make a strategic shift in how they manage patient scheduling. For Indiana University (IU) Health, the answer lay in using automation to handle increasing patient volumes with less staff. Justin Baur, Alex Nussman and Josh Brown of IU Health’s Patient Access management team partnered with Experian Health to share how guided scheduling has allowed them to scale their operations, optimize staff efficiency and reduce scheduling errors, keeping both providers and patients happy. This article breaks down IU Health’s key successes with Patient Schedule (including some that were unexpected), as discussed on the webinar.

Discover how IU’s strategic shift to automated scheduling not only scaled their operations and optimized staff efficiency, but also significantly reduced scheduling errors, keeping both providers and patients happy.

“Guided scheduling helps us deliver better care, more efficiently”

Like many healthcare organizations, changing market dynamics forced IU Health to find a fresh approach to patient scheduling. Competitor closures led to an influx of new patients, while the precarious labor market demanded a solution be found within the existing headcount. That solution was Patient Schedule, a digital scheduling platform that uses automation to support convenient patient self-scheduling, more efficient call center scheduling, and targeted patient outreach.

IU Health piloted the platform across 52 service lines in 2023. Josh Brown, Program Manager for Provider Match at IU Health, outlined the key results:

“We were able to accomplish some significant achievements to set our system up for success in 2024. We’ve booked over 230,000 patients through Patient Schedule and 35,000 through the Self Scheduling platform. It’s as efficient as two schedulers doing similar work. We’ve had a 3% increase in one call resolutions and 16% growth in new patients since implementation.

“Overall, guided scheduling has given us an opportunity to transform our operations by improving our patient access and reducing some administrative burdens. We’ve seen a reduction in no shows and an increase in patient engagement. By leveraging technology and data analysis, the guided scheduling platform has helped deliver better care more efficiently and effectively.”

“Call Center Scheduling helps us minimize training and maximize referral capture rates.”

IU Health’s Patient Access Centre supports 31 specialties, 24 primary care clinics and radiology scheduling across Indianapolis, handling a total of 2.4 million calls in 2023. Finding innovative ways to meet growing demand was imperative.

Justin Baur, Manager of Patient Access and Referral Management, described how Patient Schedule’s Call Center Scheduling tool improves the workflow for call center coordinators:

“Patient Schedule simplified processes in all our call centers so we can work with more patients and more service lines than before. Coordinators are onboarded quickly and can schedule for more service lines. Patient Schedule builds specialty considerations into the algorithm, reducing the need for subject matter experts. This increases scheduling accuracy, and reduces cancellation and reschedule rates, resulting in more effective visits between patient and provider.”

The referral team also piloted Patient Schedule in urgent care and primary care facilities, successfully scheduling specialty referral appointments for patients before they leave their primary care provider’s office. In the emergency department, providers can send messages to registration staff to schedule follow-up appointments. Baur says, “checkout staff can schedule patients’ referrals within 3-5 minutes, instead of spending 30 minutes making follow up calls to reach those patients.”

This reduces wait times, improves continuity of care, and streamlines the entire experience for patients and providers.

“Self Scheduling does the work of two full time schedulers.”

IU Health’s pilot also involved using the platform to allow patients to book their own appointments. With Patient Schedule’s Self Scheduling component, patients can make appointments online when and where it’s most convenient. The sophisticated decision support technology means they only see relevant calendars and appointment types.

During the pilot, almost 40% of patients opted to use self-scheduling, with 28% of those patients succeeding in booking an appointment online, significantly reducing the pressure on call centers. Josh Brown observed that “around 64% of our patients self-scheduled during non-business hours, so we’re getting a lot of value-add when we’re not at work. This gives us an opportunity to meet the patient when they’re available. It enhances patient satisfaction and increases access to care.

More than 35,000 appointments were booked using Self Scheduling, without any staff intervention, which Brown said equates to two full-time schedulers. He also observed that the platform is helping to grow IU Health’s patient base and reduce no-shows:

“We’re seeing that the platform is very new patient-focused, with new patients accounting for over 59% of Self Scheduling bookings. With those bookings, we’re seeing an 87% show rate.”

Guided scheduling: the foundation of efficiency

To close, the team explained how Patient Schedule had cut the time taken to secure appointments, by ensuring patients get the assistance they need and eliminating unnecessary paper-pushing.

The next steps for IU Health are to roll out Patient Schedule across more specialties. They want to increase uptake of self-scheduling and ensure more patients can successfully book appointments using their preferred method. They also hope to implement location- and diagnosis-specific starting points for online bookings.

By 2025, the team hopes to introduce a single phone number to cover scheduling needs across the whole state. Patient Schedule will form a key part of the solution by supporting efficient, centralized scheduling across four additional regions.

Watch the webinar to hear examples on how guided scheduling was implemented in specific specialties, and find out more about using automated patient scheduling to create a resilient and efficient scheduling infrastructure that works better for patients, providers and staff.

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