How To Win The Patient Scheduling Lottery

Observation 1: The Bible has numerous stories of the sick and infirmed being healed.  There are no stories of the sick and infirmed being asked to provide their health insurance information prior to being healed.

Observation 2: Health insurance has become so expensive that it may be cheaper to use the health benefits included in your driving insurance or to rely on the health benefits of the individual who ran into you.

Observation 3: With all of the innovations in healthcare and medical devices, can anyone explain why nobody has thought to bring that same innovation to the design of hospital gowns.


The sign above the call center door: “Now open 24 hours…but not in a row.’

Many call centers came about because of a brainstorming session.  (Kumbaya moment.  “No idea is a bad idea.”)  Trust me on this, the idea to have a call center disproved the ‘bad idea’ premise.  (Sorry if telling you that makes you feel like you felt when you discovered that Santa wasn’t real.)  The last thing providers and payers need is having patients planning an Ocean’s Eleven style siege of your call center.  The patient/call center relationship is like House of Cards—we crush our enemies.

And it’s no wonder your callers feel that way.  I think people look at scheduling an appointment through your call center in the same way they look at trying to correctly pick all the winners in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Try this exercise with the blank bracket pasted below.  At the far left and right insert sixty-four names of people who are all trying to schedule the only available appointment with one of your specialists.  Assume each pair of callers is routed to a different call center agent and that each caller is placed on hold for some amount of time.  In round one of their calling, some of the calls are answered before other calls.  For example, if the first four names you enter are Bill, Nancy, Donald—not the Donald, and Becky.  If Bill’s call is answered before Nancy’s, Nancy is eliminated from getting that appointment.  If Donald gets tired of waiting and hangs up, he is eliminated.  Therefore, Bill and Becky move on to the second round.  And so forth, and so on, until only two callers remain, both of whom have a fifty-fifty chance of getting the appointment.

Fifty-fifty does not seem like bad odds.  However, when viewed from the perspective of sixty-four callers each vying for the same appointment, the chance of a specific individual getting the appointment is one in 9.2 quintillion.  That’s how it feels to callers trying to win the scheduling lottery.

If they had the option of online scheduling whenever they wanted to schedule, their chances of getting an appointment are one hundred percent.


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