Every patient should be leaving the office with their next appointment scheduled. However, there is one more important step that should happen besides booking the appointment, and that is putting in good appointment notes.
When booking a patient’s appointment, it is important that staff add notes into the appointment screen detailing what the appointment is for, especially when it is marked as an evaluation or consultation. Even if treatment is attached to the appointment, be sure to add any notes stating specifics around that patient, what time of day they wanted the appointment, specifics of the appointment goals, or anything else that will help the team in the future. That way, anyone on the team who needs to confirm the patient, move the appointment up, etc., can clearly see any details they need to know.
If different doctors are seeing a patient and/or specialists are scheduled to see a patient, having specifics in the appointment notes helps them to prepare for the visit. This also helps with the morning huddle, as this is a synopsis about the patient and their appointment. The appointment notes by no means should replace clinical notes; however, this will give quick access to details, and then more elaborate information can be found in the patient’s chart note. It is exceptionally good for the huddle to have a note in the appointment screen about the goal of the consult. Either tell the front office staff when they book the appointment, or doctors can add it in when you are doing your notes and making sure they got appointed next.
For RDHs, the same thing applies regarding patient notes. If there is something specific that you want the next RDH to look at, in addition to putting it in your notes, it’s helpful to also put a reminder in the appointment screen for their next appointment so it does not get overlooked. This holds true even if you might be the next one to see them.
Also, front office staff can use this procedure regarding non-clinical notes. If there is anything regarding this appointment that you want to make sure others know (such as a note about collecting payment), use the notes in the appointment to make this clear.
And there’s one last thing I’d like to mention about appointment notes. Whenever possible, we want to get patients appointed today for the next visit, but there are the rare cases when they cannot do so at the time.
However, if a patient does not schedule their next appointment at the current visit, then staff should make an agreement with the patient as to when the patient will call back to schedule their next appointment. Either they have to check their calendar and call us back, or staff will need a reminder about when they are due so we can call them.
In those cases, put a reminder event in the schedule to remind yourself or a peer to get in touch with the patient. You can schedule this reminder for when the patient is due to appoint, or even a little bit before that so we can get a reminder call out to them to schedule the appointment. Be sure to document in your chart notes stating when you put in the reminder to call them about scheduling.