Banty Co-Founder and Medical Director, Dr. Richard Tytus, provided the subject matter and direction for this article. The author would like to thank Adam Grant for his editorial assistance in writing the article. Dr. Richard Tytus takes responsibility for the content of the article.
In an ideal situation, the telemedicine solution you have implemented into your medical clinic has been a roaring success. Your patients have taken well to the option of meeting with you over a video call, while your support team have become online medicine aficionados along the way.
As a result, your online doctor visit schedule is consistently packed with appointments from those you’ve been treating for years, as well as new patients who began seeing you because their previous clinic did not offer virtual medicine services.
You’re busy. This is awesome! Until a pebble on the racetrack that is your day derails the virtual visit schedule carefully crafted by your clinical team.
The pebble, in this instance, are appointments that run late, go long, or pop up out of the blue (due to emergencies, or something similar).
When your telemedicine appointment schedule goes haywire, it pays to know what the next steps should be, or how to limit the likelihood of this happening in the future.
Keep Appointments Concise
One pre-emptive contingency plan is to – on your part – keep appointments as concise as possible. Be friendly, but don’t let the social element leave you with a small window of time to properly treat a patient during a live video chat online.
If your schedule is rammed, listen intently to a patient’s concerns, but don’t waste any time when subsequently offering your opinion, or recommending next steps. For many patients, this approach will be appreciated. Not only will they get the information they need in an efficient fashion, but the appointment will not interfere greatly with their day.
Have Clinical Staff Keep Patients Apprised of a Disrupted Schedule
There will be instances where no matter how hard you try to keep doctor-patient video calls concise, the person you are treating will not allow this to happen. They either showed up late and still want the full appointment experience, or they have a seemingly never-ending series of questions.
When this inevitably happens, your clinic team should have a protocol that it follows in order to keep impacted patients apprised about why their appointments will no longer be starting on time.
While these individuals could be miffed about having their appointment pushed back, they will appreciate someone at the clinic stepping up and letting them know that their online doctor’s appointment has been delayed. By miles, this is way better than a patient sitting in limbo unaware of why they’re still waiting for their video conference to begin.
Create Flexibility in Your Schedule
If keeping an appointment concise – or patients on-time – is proving to be a challenge for your clinic, then it is time to readjust how your schedule looks.
For all telemedicine appointments, schedule in 10-minute buffer zones between patient video calls. This will give your virtual visits more wiggle room in the event calls start later, or go longer than anticipated.
Another scheduling consideration should be not scheduling in-person and virtual medicine appointments during the same chunk of time. To stop you from running all over the place, perhaps only schedule patient video calls in the morning, instead of randomly dropping them into any open appointment slot?
Be Apologetic When Necessary
Sometimes, no matter your best efforts, a day’s schedule will get away from you due to a multitude of situations that are out of your control. When this happens, remain calm and be honest with those in your appointments as to why their telehealth call started late.
After that, be apologetic. Acknowledge that you believe all patients’ time is valuable as well and that your clinic will do whatever it can moving forward to prevent this from happening next time.
You want those patients who have learned how to see a doctor online to walk away happy from their experience with you, even if their virtual visit didn’t begin when expected.