This article appears in the December 2021 issue of the
PE GI Journal
Tips for reducing your patient backlog
Colonoscopy is often considered the “bread and butter” of a GI practice. However, too much of a good thing might choke an unprepared gastroenterology clinic. Gastroenterologists can take steps to avoid a backlog of patients.
Create or add to staff dedicated to colonoscopy.
A well-rounded colonoscopy team includes staff dedicated to scheduling the procedure, providing patient information, and managing workups, intake forms, and patient records.
Implement a triage.
Establishing colonoscopy triage priorities can ensure that the patients at highest risk receive screening promptly.
Offer alternatives for average-risk patients.
Clinics inundated with colonoscopy requests may benefit from developing a tiered approach to recommending colonoscopy. This approach is based on assessing each patient’s individual risk for developing colorectal cancer. While colonoscopy is the recommended best practice and gold standard for screening, alternatives like fecal immunochemical testing or stool DNA can be considered.
Identify and address factors likely to slow patient throughput.
Increasing throughput may involve scheduling patients in groups, then taking patients on a first-come-first-serve basis. Keeping procedure times to a minimum, asking patients to send in their paperwork earlier and having ancillary staff available to process it can also speed up procedure times. Also, calling patients to confirm appointment times and answering questions prior to arrival can avoid bottlenecks at the time of arrival.
Beef up the business office.
While healthcare organizations encourage payers to update their policies quickly, it may take time for insurance companies to follow through. Adding temporary staff to the Billing & Insurance office can help GI clinics avoid a backlog of paperwork and payments.
Use a “Direct Endoscopy Referral System” for eligible patients.
Direct endoscopy referral system (DERS), sometimes called “open access,” allows nurse practitioners and other care providers to medically clear and refer patients directly for colonoscopy.