EHR Appointment Type’s the Headwaters of Workflow

Posted on January 8, 2014 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of, a free service for matching users and EHRs. For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manger doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst.

It’s a rare EHR that doesn’t include scheduling an appointment’s time and purpose. Usually, there’s a line for the patient, which doctor and an appointment type. Patient and doctor are straight forward, but practices may not take advantage of what appointment type can do for them.

Even having meaningful types can be difficult. One practice I worked with just wanted minutes as appointment types, 15, 30, etc. That took a while to work through, but we finally settled on Initial, Pre Op, etc., which made tracking their work a little more meaningful.

Many EHRs leave the subject at having categories or adding insurance requirements. Other EHRs do more and can save a lot of time and work. Rather than seeing appointment type as a handy pigeonhole for patient types, these see appointment type in a critical workflow role of reserving resources for an encounter.

For example, if you schedule a patient’s annual physical, you’ll need a room and someone to do vitals, weight, etc., and an EKG. If you’re a male doctor with a female patient, you’ll want to have a woman staffer scheduled for part of the exam, too.

Rather than schedule these ad hoc, some systems allow you to define the resources needed for the appointment type and schedule them as needed. Greenway’s PrimeSuite, for example, does this. Here’s how it sets up a new appointment type:

  • Click the + sign under the appointment type tab to add the new appointment type.
  • Once you click on the + sign, enter the appointment type in the yellow box
  • To the right of the appointment type name, click the drop down and pick the duration of the appointment type
  • Enter the abbreviation of the appointment type (this will appear on the schedule screen)
  • In box #2 – Enter the patient instructions for this appointment type. This is a friendly reminder to your staff as to what they need to instruct the patient to bring or do.
  • In box #3 – Pick the color of the appointment which will appear on the schedule screen
  • In box #4 – Select and move to the right which resource/provider/room can see this appointment type
  • In box #5 – Select the visit type – category as to which superbill you will want to pull for this appointment type
  • In box #6 – Enter an alternative appointment type that can be printed on confirmations for the patients. This can be the same as box #1, which is your appointment type
  • Click the Save disc at the top
  • Repeat steps until all of your appointment types are entered into the system.

Greenway’s Box No. 4 lets the user specify the resources that go with this appointment type. The user can assign personnel, equipment, rooms, etc. When selected the system checks for availability and reserves them for the needed times.

Greenway’s PrimeSuite Appointment Type Definition Screen

Many practices will be shopping for a new EHR in the coming year. Their shopping lists would do well to include a robust appointment type. Of course, I encourage anyone who’s in the EHR market to use our free resource, The Selector’s Practice Management category has these two appointment type features:

  • PM50 (895) Appointment Type can reserve resources, for example, room, equipment.
  • PM51 (896) Appointment Type can schedule supporting personnel, such as technicians, aides etc.

Brazen Self Promotion
Recently, I created a new LinkedIn group, EHRUsability. This is the type of issue discussion I hope it will promote. All are welcome.