In behavioral health, mid- to large-sized organizations with more than 100 employees (and potentially thousands of patients) have specific needs when it comes to patient scheduling software. For organizations of this size, you might wonder whether comprehensive software is integral for streamlining workflows and improving efficiency.
While it may be tempting to opt for standalone scheduling software, it’s critical to consider factors such as operational efficiency, patient experience, and employee satisfaction. With this in mind, does investing in comprehensive EHR solutions make sense?
Let’s take a closer look at the features and functions of standalone patient scheduling software and how it compares to a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) that integrates registration, appointment scheduling, clinical documentation, as well as claims and billing.
An Overview of Patient Scheduling Software
There are a lot of moving parts to traditional patient scheduling. Any good scheduler will tell you that getting it right requires both art and science.
Some of the considerations are: How can providers give each patient the optimal amount of care while limiting wait times? Efficiencies are important, but what about the quality of care provided to patients? In addition to keeping the schedule on track, a scheduler also must take into account the complexity of care needed. How does one estimate the time needed for the intake of a new patient?
It’s no wonder that automating and digitizing patient scheduling is one of the most popular processes in healthcare technology right now.
At the most basic level, patient scheduling software automates scheduling workflows. It provides a user-friendly tool that makes it easier to coordinate daily schedules with patient appointment times based on factors like new patient information, appointment type, open time slots, and corresponding complexities.
Key Features of a Comprehensive EHR vs. Standalone Software
In addition to appointment booking, a comprehensive EHR for behavioral health can streamline other workflows to improve efficiency, extend access to care, and even speed up the revenue cycle by integrating clinical documentation and payment systems. Here’s how standalone patient scheduling software compares to a unified EHR in some key areas.
Patient Registration and Intake
Manual registration requires patients to fill out paperwork and forms by hand. Not only does this time-consuming process negatively impact the patient experience, but it also increases the opportunity for errors. Additionally, manual registration methods are inefficient for a company’s administrative team.
With ContinuumCloud’s unified EHR system, behavioral health organizations can utilize a patient portal to get patients registered faster. There’s also the option for client self check-in, also called contactless check-in. Standalone patient scheduling solutions may not include advanced patient registration workflows.
The importance of correctly calculating each patient's bill cannot be overstated. Patients should know what they'll have to pay on the day of their appointment, regardless of whether they have private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare.
However, with manual systems there’s a risk of errors because each patient's responsibility amount can differ greatly. There may be a fixed copayment owed by some patients and a full or partial deductible owed by others based on their specific healthcare plan. Despite meeting their deductible, patients may still be required to pay coinsurance. Standalone software that only focuses on scheduling appointments probably won’t help with medical billing and payments.
ContinuumCloud's EHR can help you accurately estimate payments due and also enable online payments, which is a game-changer for many behavioral health practices. Don’t expect advanced functionality like online payments and revenue cycle management support with standalone scheduling software.
As value-based care continues to connect payments to quality of patient care, you can support the financial health of your organization by ensuring adequate clinical documentation is available to support higher acuity charges.
ContinuumCloud’s intuitive EHR can predict what you’ll need for each visit and provides you with common order sets, note templates, and e-prescribing data for patients ahead of time. These are advanced features most standalone appointment software doesn’t include.
It should come as no surprise that the most common reason for patients to miss their scheduled appointments is because they forget about them. Some patient scheduling software might offer automated reminders. The question is will it be compatible with your patient database, patient portal, and EHR?
ContinuumCloud’s comprehensive EHR can be easily configured to send automated notifications like appointment reminders via email, phone, or text message so patients don’t miss important care or follow-ups. Moreover, ContinuumCloud’s solution seamlessly integrates with patient data.
Research shows that patients are less likely to no-show if they are able to reschedule on their own versus getting a call back from their provider.
ContinuumCloud’s EHR facilitates patient self-scheduling and rescheduling. As well, patients can use HIPAA-compliant messaging to reach their healthcare providers in real time. When it comes to HIPAA regulations, you can never be too careful. The intricacies of behavioral health and the general healthcare industry should be understood by every software vendor.
Access to Care
Does your behavioral health organization have a waitlist? Online scheduling for telehealth is one way to use your appointment scheduling software to extend access to care. Teletherapy is vital to providing mental healthcare to patients who cannot make it into the office as well offering a way for organizations to offer online appointments.
ContinuumCloud’s HIPAA-compliant direct channel teletherapy is part of a full-featured patient engagement platform that allows you to deliver care through telemedicine when in-person care isn’t possible. The majority of appointment scheduling software does not support teletherapy access.
Cloud-Based Software vs. Standalone Software: Which Is Better?
Patient scheduling software may refer to standalone software that focuses on one or two internal workflows like booking appointments or self-service online booking. Scheduling software may also refer to a specific set of features within a larger system such as a cloud-based comprehensive EHR software.
Choosing between an in-house or cloud-based software solution is one of the first criteria you should consider. The cost of implementing a new scheduling platform for your organization depends on many factors. Depending on whether you host the software yourself or use a web-based version, your biggest expenses in money and time can be:
- Selecting a medical scheduling software vendor
- Purchasing medical appointment software and licensing it for a year or more
- Training and onboarding your medical practice or behavioral health staff members
- Having internet access that is fast enough to support the patient scheduling system
- Ensuring HIPAA-compliant systems (consulting with or hiring a compliance officer)
- Hiring or consulting with health IT pros to maintain your data and security
Other considerations can include making sure that your scheduling software works with any practice management software you might need or already use such as:
- Revenue cycle management (RCM) system
- Electronic medical record (EMR) or EHR software
- Patient portals
Cloud-based software may eliminate some or all of the expenses associated with in-house patient scheduling software. For example, ContinuumCloud’s EHR solution integrates patient scheduling. You don't need to purchase and store a server to host your EHR system because it's 100% cloud-based. Access to information (and your patients' information) is secure, 24/7, regardless of where you are. In addition, since your service is managed remotely, you won't need to hire extra health IT professionals.
ContinuumCloud offers an all-in-one EHR with a patient portal and telehealth solution, as well as a mobile patient engagement app. Plus, you get systems to help you manage your workforce and support your revenue cycle. The best part is that it’s built exclusively for the behavioral health industry.
Behavioral Healthcare’s Best Choice: EHR With Patient Scheduling
All healthcare organizations can benefit from technology that automates complicated workflows like patient appointment scheduling. However, for medium to large behavioral health organizations, such practice management solutions are a necessity.
Standalone software solutions exist but they lack many of the features needed to streamline scheduling workflows and improve patient care. Can you be sure that the scheduling software you choose will integrate with your existing EMR, EHR, RCM, and patient engagement software? How much will the workarounds cost if it doesn’t?
Perhaps it’s time to consider investing in an all-in-one solution made just for behavioral health. Contact us today to learn how a comprehensive EHR with built-in patient scheduling functionality can help you improve organizational efficiencies while boosting patient satisfaction.