Process for orders is patient friendly

Providers are happier

Provider's offices are no longer the "middleman" between schedulers and patients at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI, due to a newly implemented process.

Previously, if a patient needed a diagnostic test, the provider's office would call the scheduler at the hospital, who then contacted the patient.

"The physician office was the middleman, translating information back and forth," says Jennifer Nichols, director of patient access. "I don't know why we never had this revolutionary idea before, that maybe we should just be talking directly to the patient."

Referral coordinators at physician offices were unhappy with the process because they spent extra time making redundant phone calls to patients, says Nichols. Patient access staff worked with physician offices to simplify order requests. "We switched from being primarily an inbound center, waiting for orders to be faxed or e-mailed to us, to being primarily outbound," she says. "We still need an order like everybody else, but we can get the process started with just five pieces of information."

This information includes the time and number where the patient wants to be contacted. "If the patient wants us to call them at 6 p.m. on their cell phone on their drive home, we will do that," says Nichols, adding that there is a 24-hour turnaround for all phone calls.

The patient is given the name and phone number of a specific person in the Spectrum Health scheduling department to call with any additional questions or concerns. "It's not, 'Let me call the department and call you back.' We answer the question right then,'" says Nichols.

Moving to a patient-centric, outbound calling model "has dramatically decreased no-shows and cancellations," says Nichols. Previously, patients often later realized the date and time picked while at the doctor's office would not work.

Sam Mulliken, senior process engineer, says, "In the old process, we could have as high as 50% reschedule rates. With the new process of contacting the patient at home and when they have time to look at their calendar, we find less than 5% reschedule rates."

More flexibility

Some providers have stated that they will encourage patients to choose Spectrum Health for their radiology test because the scheduling process is so much easier, says Nichols.

"We went into this with the philosophy of 'Never turn a patient away.' We looked at every slot we had out there. The departments made a huge effort to revamp that and make it as open as they could," she says.

This change gives schedulers more flexibility in scheduling urgent exams, says Nichols, and staff in provider's offices spend more time with patients due to fewer incoming calls. "This has led to offices preferring to use us as a provider," she says.