Pre-visit Planning: What is it and What are the Benefits?

Pre-visit planning is an excellent strategy that helps a medical office operate more smoothly and efficiently. The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates that pre-visit planning can save 30 minutes per day of physician and office staff time. This translates into a saving of $26,400/year (when estimating the cost of physician time at approximately $3/minute and staff time at $1/minute).

Our client study at SkywriterMD demonstrated an even greater time savings of approximately 4 minutes per patient in office and 16 minutes per patient in pre-visit discussion. This is an average time reduction of 44-80 minutes per day in office and depending on how many patients need to be called, an average time reduction of 80-128 minutes per day for clinical staff (based on most physicians seeing 11-20 patients per day and pre-visit planning for around 5-8 patients per day).

Benefits of Pre-Visit Planning With pre-visit planning, a dedicated team of virtual medical scribes are assigned enhanced responsibilities to save your team valuable time by assisting you and your office staff with new patient documentation.

Pre-Visit Planning Tasks

A substantial amount of medical information must be collected from a patient before or during their medical visit. This can take a significant amount of time for both you as well as your office staff and patients. Important information that needs to be collected includes information about the patient’s past and recent medical, social, and family history. It also includes information such as:

  • Chief complaint and comorbidities
  • Current medications
  • Allergies
  • Preferred pharmacy
  • Insurance information verification
  • Health maintenance reporting
  • Regular care team information

Why Utilize Pre-Visit Planning?

The purpose of pre-visit planning is to collect and organize patient data before a patient visit. This allows you to analyze and interpret the patient’s medical information before meeting with the patient. Pre-visit planning frees up more time to discuss this data with the patient during the visit and establish a plan of care in collaboration with them. It also provides you with more time to focus on what is important to the patient and identify any potential gaps in care.

Pre-visit planning helps make patient visits more focused on the patient rather than administrative tasks. The result is often improved patient satisfaction because they spend less time in the office and more time speaking with you which is why they booked an appointment.

As a physician or healthcare provider, pre-visit planning also saves you time with each patient visit. This improved efficiency can reduce costs and result in more job satisfaction for you and your office staff.

Other Benefits of Pre-Visit Planning

Physicians have found pre-visit planning that includes pre-visit lab tests and a reminder phone call helps reduce the number of “no-show” appointments as well. This reduction in no-shows is attributed to a more patient-centered approach that respects patients’ time and gives patients more control over their care, including when they would like to return for a visit.

1. Pre-visit lab tests

Having patients complete pre-visit lab tests is an important part of pre-visit planning. Lab tests that are completed before a patient visit saves time for both you and the patient because less time is spent trying to contact each other to discuss the lab results or sending the results to the patient.

Lab results that are completed before a patient visit may also improve patient safety since the results can be discussed with the patient face-to-face during the visit when the medication review has already been completed. Patients are also able to participate in the decision-making process around their lab results when discussing these face-to-face with their healthcare provider rather than receiving them by phone or email at a later time. They are also more likely to adhere to the treatment recommendations they receive when discussing their lab results during a face-to-face visit.

2. Pre-visit reminder phone call

A reminder phone call is another component that can be incorporated into pre-visit planning. Besides reducing no-shows because the patient forgot their appointment, this is an excellent time for the nurse or office staff to collect important information from the patient such as the patient’s purpose for the visit and any special needs the patient might have. This is also a good time to perform screening for falls and depression and review current medications which is usually performed when rooming the patient on a visit. Reminder phone calls are also useful for reminding patients to bring any completed forms, test results, or medications that may be required for their visit.

3. Able to set an agenda for patient visits

By having as much of the patient’s information as possible in advance, the physician or healthcare provider is able to set a tentative agenda for the patient’s face-to-face visit. This can help you determine how much time patient visits will take and can help reduce “surprises” from patients in the form of additional problems near the end of the visit. By planning for patient visits, you are able to see more patients per day and have a more streamlined process for doing so.

4. Cost savings

Although minimal data has been collected regarding the cost savings attributable to pre-visit lab testing, one study estimated a cost savings of $25 per patient visit by using point-of-care lab testing. Other benefits included 21% fewer lab tests ordered, a 61% decrease in patient revisits due to abnormal lab results, and an 89% and 85% decrease respectively in follow-up phone calls and letters sent out regarding lab results.

In a practice with 220 clinic days a year and 11 to 20 patient visits per day, the cost savings for a medical practice is significant at $60,500-$110,000/year.

Using Virtual Medical Scribes in Pre-Visit Planning

The pre-visit planning process is performed by using virtual medical scribes to contact patients before visits to gather, review, and directly document patient information into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). By using virtual medical scribes for pre-visit planning, physicians and healthcare providers are able to optimize clinic staff schedules, improve patient and staff satisfaction, spend less time per patient visit, and improve cost savings and clinic profitability.