Overview

This article focuses on setting up your Appointment Types, customizing the appointment notifications messages, etc. You will also find tips and recommendations of best practices in this regard. 


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Details

Since the schedule type ties into a few other system features, you should ideally decide whether you'll allow patients to request appointments through the portal at all. You can certainly employ a dual approach, such that some appointments are available for request on the portal and others are meant to be requested in-person, over the phone, etc. 


When a patient requests an appointment, the request appears in both the Patient Portal Queue, and the Appointment Request Block. You and your staff will need to accept/confirm the appointment and add it to the schedule, or cancel/reject the request, etc. In effect, the appointment request from the portal is not confirmed until a member of the clinic's staff does so. The interface for responding to patients' Portal requests is pictured below.



Pictured: the Patient Portal Queue, in which a patient has requested an appointment and the interface for add the appointment to the calendar has opened. 


Appointment types are the options patients will have while scheduling with you (be it on the Patient Portal, or through you and your staff directly) and can also be used to block time on your schedule for a staff meeting, or when you're out of the office. In this article Appointment Type and Schedule Type will be used interchangeably. 


Add an Appointment Type

To add a new Appointment type, or to manage an existing one, you will go to Admin >> Manage >> Schedule Types. When this pop-up opens, in the top right corner there will be a green button that reads +Add New Schedule Type. Below is a image of Create New Schedule Type window.


Pictured: New Schedule Type Menu. Explanations of fields below. 


Each field plays an important role in managing your schedule: 

  • Appointment Type (Name): This is for internal use, and it defines the name of the appointment. This is how the appointment will display on the calendar in the EMR. Think about what information you and your staff would want to glean from the titleow at first glance. Sometimes clinics will include price or duration of appointment here as well
  • Appointment Name on Portal: If you want the name of the appointment type to be presented differently to patients, you can specify the alternate naming convention here. The software will use this name on all patient-facing content, e.g. the display name on the scheduling feature on the portal. If appropriate, you could include the duration and/or price of the appointment in the title. Or you could include these details in the portal display message for this appointment (more info on this below).
  • Default Length of Appointment: will be the number of minutes that the appointment will block off in the calendar. This can, however, be manually overridden by staff when adding the appointment.
    • TIPTo add a buffer between appointments, you can make the Default Length of Appointment longer than the actual appointment by the desired buffer period. Then let us know to hide the appointment end time on the Patient Portal.
      • Example: If the appointment runs for 30 minutes, but you know you will need time after that appointment and before your next appointment, you can set the Default Length of Appointment to 45 minutes. Because we had hidden the end time of the appointment on the Portal, it is still a 30 minute appointment to the patient, but you will have an extra 15 minutes to clear the exam room, or read the chart, or check out and schedule the previous appointment.
    • If you are including a buffer period, we also recommend including the patient-facing appointment duration in the Appointment Name on Portal (the appointment name that is shown to the patient).
  • Color:  each appointment type must have a unique color within the system. Clicking the color button will bring up a palette to select a color. This field is optional
  • Providers who use this appointment Type: this field is used to link the appointment to the relevant provider, or clinic staff. Selecting at least one provider here is necessary if you want patients to have the ability to request appointments through the portal. If the appointment type has multiple providers associated with it, hold down the Ctrl key (or Cmd key in Macs) while selecting the users. Even if you are the only provider at your clinic, you must select you name if you want the appointment to be available for request through the portal.

  • Allow Pts to Schedule on Portal: If patients should be able to request this appointment from the Portal, select yes.

    • Tip: You may want to select no if you require patients to get your permission before scheduling or if you're using this schedule type to block time for an internal meeting!

  • Sort Order: This sets the order in which Schedule types will appear when scheduling an appointment on the calendar, and on the Patient Portal. Appointments with the lowest Sort Order Value will appear at the top of the list

    • Tip: This is not a required field! If the order is not important to you, you can leave this field blank!

  • Description of appointment type: This is optional and for internal/administrative use only. 

  • If patients can select this appointment type in the self-scheduling system, display this message when they select this appointment type (optional): This is optional! If you wanted to provide more information to the patient before they confirmed the appointment, or if you want to include a message thanking them for scheduling with you, this would be one place to do it!


When you have completed all of the fields to your liking, press the green +Add Schedule Type Entry to save and add the appointment type. 



Tips and Tricks

You can use Appointment types to block off time on your schedule to prevent patients from requesting an appointment during that time, or place a visual reminder to staff that you are not available at that time. In the example pictured below: Dr. Marcus Welby is using an appointment type called Block to block his schedule from 9:30am-4pm. This can be used if you are out of the office at a time that you would normally be seeing patients,  if you like to schedule yourself a lunch break, or any other reason you'd want to prevent scheduling at a time in which you would normally be seeing patients. 


Pictured: a daily schedule with a block from 9:30am-4pm




This article was originally published on 10/20/15 and edited / reformatted on 07/01/21

Additional Keywords: appointments, appointment types, schedule, notification, calendar