When adding a new type of care to your schedule, there are often questions related to how to include these patients into your daily routine without disruption to existing structures and without missing appointments. New and innovative care delivery also must be easy to access for the provider and patient, and it can’t disrupt in-person care or push the remainder of the schedule behind. By evaluating your workflow as well as the goals for telehealth, groups can choose from several solutions that work alone or in tandem to meet your needs.
Telemedicine Time Block
By far the most popular scheduling solution we see is the telemedicine time block. Telemedicine time blocks reduce double scheduling while keeping the schedule organized. Providers or administrators will determine a period that is set aside for telemedicine scheduling only. This could be a considerable stretch or a short burst, but the most common increment is about 2 hours.
On the master schedule, this time is blocked out for telemedicine, and all the appointment scheduling happens on the telemedicine platform. For patients who are self-scheduling, they are only able to schedule within the time block. While staff can schedule at other times, it is recommended that telemedicine scheduling be restricted to ensure that patients do not get missed or left waiting.
Some groups block out time daily while others reserve it for a single period throughout the week. This will be dictated by volume and the needs of the organization, and can be designed specifically depending on the use case.
For providers who will frequently be remote or who may provide administrative services that keep them out of in-person examination rooms, days dedicated to telemedicine may meet their availability. In this case, they offer telemedicine services throughout the day on one or more days per week, and they provide those services as scheduled while still completing non-clinical work. Providers who travel or may frequently be outside of the office can benefit from this workflow if they know that they will be in one location for long periods of time.
In situations where providers want to offer telemedicine services during off hours, maybe in lieu of after-hours phone calls, on-call scheduling offers flexibility. Often, providers who utilize on on-call schedule also require prior approval of all scheduled appointments to ensure that availability at the scheduled times. On-call schedules can still be limited to specific time periods, and appointments that are scheduled at inopportune times can be rescheduled with a few clicks. Groups with multiple providers can use on-call scheduling similarly to the how they provide phone coverage for after-hours calls. The biggest difference between the two is that an after-hours phone call is rarely reimbursed, while an after-hours telemedicine session is considered a reimbursable office visit in many cases.
This is the least used scheduling option, but it is a tool that providers who have open schedules or who provide clinical services secondary to another position may use. For those who have are able to review and approve appointments throughout the day or who want to offer urgent care appointments with some flexibility, the open schedule option is available.
It’s highly recommended to use an appointment approval process to ensure that the provider is notified prior to the official scheduling of any visits. Open scheduling is a great tool for large groups who use a queueing system and can transfer patients to the appropriate provider. It’s more complicated and requires more management for patients who are trying to schedule for a specific provider, but it is still an available solution in the right situation.
Use One Or All
The scheduling solution that fits best for your organization will vary based on your needs and use cases. You might opt for one or have different situations where all of the above are used. The trick is to work with a platform that has flexible tools that can support your needs as well as workflow experts who can help you design the best solution. Mend has both of the tools and the support, and we’ll help you to design these solutions in a way that is easy to implement. For more information, request a demo above!