How might we help ADC patients schedule appointments more quickly?
The Austin Diagnostic Clinic’s Centralized Scheduling section is responsible for taking patient phone calls and scheduling them with the majority of more than 150 physicians and mid-level practitioners who practice at ADC.
They faced an efficiency problem. They were using a manual process for keeping up wit updates and rules from the various sections and doctors. As a result, their average time to schedule patients during a call was higher than their goal.
They needed a better way to manage patient scheduling.
Staff members needed to be able to access information quickly.
ADC’s Centralized Scheduling asked Standard Beagle to come up with a solution that would help the department meet its objectives.
Through research and design we developed a website that would help the department keep information in a central location and improve response times.
Since the microsite launched, it remains a critical part of the day-to-day operations at ADC Centralized Scheduling.
Based on feedback from other departments, the site was opened up to be viewed by ADC staff outside of Centralized Scheduling, and processes were put in place to request rule changes. This increased transparency about scheduling practices and improved communication. Provider complaints have decreased significantly.
This was a 12 week project to complete the solution. We were budgeted for one designer/researcher and one developer.
While we were provided with access to the centralized scheduling team, we were not able to talk to patients because of HIPAA concerns.
It was important to the client that the department and managers be able to update the site information themselves. This is why we chose WordPress for our final implementation.
In order to fully understand the challenge, we conducted a series of stakeholder interviews and initiated user research.
In the meeting with stakeholders, we met with senior staff who oversee the centralized scheduling department. They explained that this department is responsible for taking patient phone calls and scheduling them with the majority of more than 150 physicians and mid-level practitioners who practice at ADC.
The staff handles hundreds of phone calls daily, and they are expected to quickly and efficiently schedule patients with the appropriate provider at the appropriate time.
Next, we conducted ethnographic observations of the staff at typically busy times during the day. We watched as managers and staff members answered incoming calls and scheduled appointments or re-routed patients to the right place.
Each manager explained their processes and allowed us to watch in real time so we could understand common issues and pain points.
- ADC’s departments and providers have a number of custom scheduling rules that Centralized Scheduling staff need to know and understand when scheduling patients.
- The clinic’s intranet was not updated frequently enough to keep up with the frequent scheduling changes. In order to keep track, Centralized Scheduling managers were tracking rules and schedules manually, with large notebooks of scheduling instructions. Some documents were hundreds of pages in length and finding information was highly inefficient.
- What’s more, because of the manual process, some of the information differed from staff member to staff member, which meant the information was not uniform. Phone calls were taking longer than expected and there had been complaints from departments and their staff if mistakes had been made.
Our next step was to analyze and synthesize was we had learned and turn that into a recommendation for moving forward.
Analysis and Synthesis
All staff members needed to see a central source of information that could be updated frequently. An electronic method would be ideal in this situation. What we used would need to be updated by several managers with changes immediately visible to the staff. An intranet site would work well in this capacity.
Make the information searchable
Information needed to be accessed in seconds, rather than minutes. Because of the sheer amount of information, the information architecture should be cataloged in a searchable database, ideally in multiple ways, so that data is always at the user’s fingertips
Use a CMS with role-based access
In order to track changes and protect proprietary information, we felt a role-based access system would be essential. The data could be protected from anyone who did not have password access. In addition, user roles would allow users to have access to only those areas of the site that they needed. The site would keep a record of who had edited content on the site.
We recommended WordPress because the company was already familiar with the CMS. The platform is also relatively easy for users to manage by themselves.
The next most important piece of the project was understanding the user so we could organize the data. How would the staff use the site? What was their current workflow and how could we improve their productivity?
We designed a very simple architecture for structuring the information on the site. We designed it to be flexible and scalable so the data could be organized in a way that would grow or contract as information changed over time.
We designed wireframes to determine layout of the pages next. This would form the blueprint of how the site would be structured visually.
Simplicity was key for these frames. Users would need to find information quickly and easily, so it was important to keep the structure extremely simple with an emphasis on white space.
Intranet or Internet?
We made the decision not to integrate the data tool with the company’s intranet. The current intranet was more than a decade old and did not use a CMS, so it was difficult for most users to update.
The company had plans to update their intranet, but there was no timeline in place. Centralized Scheduling agreed that the best, most cost-efficient method for the tool was to build a stand-alone microsite.
It was important to choose a CMS that the client would be able to use and update themselves. The department’s managers would be editing and entering information for their staffers.
The company’s IT department also felt the microsite could be hosted outside the company’s firewall if it was password protected. The company already hosted its external website on a host that specialized in WordPress.