What do physicians expect from surgical scheduling software?

November 24, 2022

Fax, email, and phone calls remain the staple of communication in private medical practices. However, this doesn’t mean they are convenient or effective. Quite the opposite. Lost documents, surgery delays and cancellations, constant staff retraining, wasted hours, and stressed-out employees are familiar to all facilities that still rely on these communication channels. 

And when you consider that a facility’s revenue stream begins with the scheduling process, you’re blown away by how much potential profit facilities lose each year by continuing to communicate using fax, email, and phone calls.

Fortunately, innovators in the healthcare industry have taken it upon themselves to create surgical scheduling software to streamline surgery scheduling.

But before you pick a system to introduce to your facility, there are some key factors you need to consider. What functionality is crucial for surgical management solutions? What do physicians expect from this software? What features can greatly reduce the demands placed on employees while increasing profits? Let’s review.

What functionality should surgical scheduling software have?

Only a practicing physician can truly understand what other physicians and facilities require from surgical scheduling software. Insights in this article were collected from practicing physicians and surgeons who have experienced all of the above-mentioned issues and were able to resolve them by adopting a surgery scheduling solution in their facility.

Fast and convenient surgery scheduling

Without scheduling software, for a surgeon to book a case, they need to send a fax or an email containing 70 pieces of information about the patient. Keeping all of this information updated and organized is labor-intensive. Schedulers chase down physicians for documentation, closely monitor any changes in cases, and update information right up to the day of surgery.

A surgery scheduling solution should take away the redundant labor when booking a case. 

With the right tool, your surgery scheduling process should have no more steps than these:

  • Click a button to create a surgical booking
  • Enter information about the surgery
  • Review insurance information
  • Upload required documents
  • Confirm the booking

Moreover, it’s vital that every case has communication attached (e.g. a chat between a physician and office staff) and that any changes can be viewed in real time. Having one central source of information will put a stop to the guessing game of Who’s got the final version?

With an efficient scheduling surgery process, surgeons can greatly reduce the time it takes to schedule and spend the hours saved on delivering a positive patient experience.

Integrated communication functionality

Integrated communication functionality in surgical scheduling software is a must. 

Let’s say that a surgery date has to be changed. Maybe a scheduler made a mistake, the surgeon is overbooked, or the patient can no longer make it for the surgery on the agreed date. To alter the date, a scheduler needs to call and send faxes and emails to all parties, chase after the surgeon, confirm alternative dates with the patient, and coordinate schedules with vendors and the facility. 

And it’s unlikely that a given facility has just one such scenario happening at a time. All of this back-and-forth communication makes keeping track of all cases and their changes challenging.

Integrated communication functionality for every case makes the surgery scheduling process less chaotic. For software to improve the scheduling process, there should be at least three chats for every case:

  • Chat between the patient and the physician
  • Chat between the patient and the facility
  • Chat between the physician and the facility

This way everyone stays on the same page and instantly sees updates. In addition, you don’t have to constantly check for which case a change was made, since the case and all of its details (like a patient’s demographics and documentation) are right in front of you.


A surgery scheduling solution cannot get far without calendar functionality. A calendar acts as your dashboard, and it’s where a lot of work gets done. 

Ideally, a physician should be able to do the following from a calendar:

  • Schedule an appointment
  • Create a surgical booking
  • View existing surgery bookings and appointments separately and together
  • Filter surgical bookings and appointments by physician
  • Check brief information about an appointment or surgery
  • View details about an appointment or surgery just by clicking a button

A calendar should also display the status of a surgical booking or an appointment, such as new, accepted, canceled, ready to submit, submitted, completed, or archived. Statuses indicate the current stage of an appointment/surgery and let the physician or staff know whose involvement is needed at this stage so they can take care of that appointment/surgery without needing to go around and confirm the status with multiple people.


When choosing surgical scheduling software, pay attention to whether software has automatic notifications. Notifications enhance communication and save time, which is crucial since there are a lot of moving parts in the scheduling surgery process. Notifications keep everyone in the loop by instantly alerting patients, staff, surgeons, coordinators, assistants, and everyone else involved in the surgery about changes.

Regularly alerting patients, staff, and surgeons can help to reduce tardiness and ensure that surgeries begin promptly. In addition, you can use automatic notifications to help patients get ready for surgery. There are probably lots of staff members and physicians who, after carefully going through the surgery scheduling process, have had to deal with a patient who showed up unprepared for the procedure. Hence, to reinforce the information given to patients at their appointments, you can use automatic notifications to remind patients of crucial preoperative steps and when they should arrive.

It’s also advisable to opt for a surgery scheduling solution that has a wide variety of notifications, such as dashboard alerts, SMS, email, and in-chat notifications. This way every step in communication is accounted for.

Prior authorization and benefits verification

Prior authorization and benefits verification are both extremely labor-intensive processes. 

Front desk staff obtain documentation from physicians, then fill out a form and send it to the insurance company. Then someone at the front desk has to be on hold on the phone for up to two hours (or longer if they get disconnected), talk to the insurance company, make sure they received the information, discuss pre-authorization, and negotiate coverage. 

Unfortunately, if a caller doesn’t get the right information the first time, they have to repeat the process, resulting in wasted time and money. On top of that, lots of facilities struggle with staff turnover, so new employees need to be trained on how to get insurance information over the phone. This is difficult because the new hire and the mentor must wait for at least an hour on the phone before training can even begin.

Luckily, some surgical management solutions can offer professionals to do these processes for you. With such solutions, you don’t have to continue hiring and training personnel or keep four schedulers when just one will suffice.

Surgical scheduling software companies have well-trained and experienced callers who can get insurance information for you. You can just upload documents, submit a request, and let them follow up with insurance companies. Outsourcing benefits verification and prior authorization processes will leave you with more time to focus on patients and actual treatment.

What else is crucial for surgical scheduling software?

All of the above-mentioned functionality will make your physicians’ and surgeons’ lives easier. Actually, it will make all of the facility’s processes easier and at the same time more efficient. 

While these features are must-haves, there are some other crucial things you need to be mindful of when choosing software to combat your surgery scheduling challenges.


Protecting patients’ private medical information is one of HIPAA’s key objectives. HIPAA Security Rules define a set of requirements for medical software used in facilities to store and handle Protected Health Information.

Surgical scheduling software processes a large amount of patients’ personal data. Because this data is going to be shared with medical professionals, it’s considered to be Protected Health Information, and the software that processes that data must be HIPAA-compliant.

If you choose to adopt non-HIPAA-compliant software, you risk exposing people’s medical histories and endangering your patients. Make sure that you’re using HIPAA compliant scheduling software that transmits all data through encrypted channels to steer clear of those situations.

Technical support

Software breaks. But it shouldn’t delay your work. That’s why it’s crucial to have competent, knowledgeable, and prompt technical support when the unavoidable happens. 

Tech support is an integral part of a software business. The tech support team is in charge of dealing with installation errors, user issues, and other technical issues preventing you from using your software effectively.

Check with the vendor of your surgery scheduling solution and ask what kind of technical support they provide. You should opt for software that has live online tech support.


If you’re switching from legacy systems or haven’t used software for your surgery and OR scheduling, moving your processes onto a new platform can feel intimidating. Moreover, sometimes employees are resistant to change due to fear of the unknown. That’s why your software vendor must provide a comprehensive training program to make sure your staff quickly gets the hang of the system and sees its value.

It’s best that your software vendor provides training via video chat but also has a video library so that after the initial training is completed, personnel can look up tutorials if they forgot something.

User-friendly UI

A software product’s user interface, or UI, determines the look, feel, and interactivity of the platform. All of the screens you navigate and the buttons you press are part of the user interface.

A solution that’s difficult to use probably won’t increase your facility’s efficiency. Your staff and patients should feel at ease when using the facility’s surgery scheduling software, not fight to comprehend it.

How can you check the usability of software before you purchase a subscription?

Most surgery scheduling software companies offer to schedule a demo meeting with a representative where you can take a look inside the system from the facility’s, physician’s, or patient’s perspective. If you’re not ready to go on a call yet and want to get familiar with the UI of different scheduling software to pick your favorites, companies will likely be glad to help you through email and share videos and screenshots of their platforms.

When comparing surgical scheduling software, pay attention to the process flow. Are the steps intuitive? Will your staff understand what to do at each stage? Is it simple to find various functions? How does the calendar display bookings? Is the organization in the UI understandable?

Since the software is likely to be used by people with different roles, from different demographics, and with various abilities, it’s also important to consider whether the software is able to meet the needs of a wide variety of users to allow everyone to easily achieve their goals.

As an example, a patient with vision impairment should be able to use the platform to check the results of their lab tests. The platform should accommodate their needs by providing options to change the font size and contrast.

Medical history forms

With every new case, a physician or office staff member needs to ask a patient many questions to fill out medical forms. Some surgical management solutions offer to automate this process to make it more efficient. 

Scheduling software should include standardized default medical history forms and allow you to create questionnaires from scratch or based on those default forms. 

Once you create a form that meets the needs of your facility and cases, you can save it and send a request to your patients to fill it out whenever it’s needed. Once a patient starts filling out the form, the software on your side should display the progress and notify you when the form is completed.

Since there are a wide variety of questions that you ask your patients, your software should allow for various types of answers.

For instance, some questions can require a patient to type their answer. In this case, the form should let you insert a text field under the question. 

In other cases, where a simple yes or no is required, the form should let you insert radio buttons under the question.

Preferably, a medical history forms feature should support these types of answers:

  • Text field
  • Radio buttons
  • Drop-down
  • Check boxes
  • File upload

These types of answers should cover all of your needs and provide you with the necessary flexibility when creating forms. 

Nice-to-have features for surgical scheduling software

If you’re solely looking for how to organize surgery scheduling at your facility, these features might not look essential for you. Many users, however, say that these functions have positively impacted their surgical facilities’ operations. 

Check out these nice-to-have features and maybe you’ll find they would be a great addition to your software needs.

Appointment widget

How do patients currently find your facility? How do they book appointments?

Chances are that most of the time your patients find you through your website and then contact you through email or phone to book an appointment. Some facilities’ websites provide a contact form where patients leave their information so that front desk staff can write or call them back.

Every day, your front desk employees get tons of calls, emails, and contacts to go through and pick convenient meetup times for physicians and patients. This takes up a lot of your staff’s time, so you need to keep multiple people on board to handle appointment bookings. 

Still, mistakes happen. While one front desk staff member is scheduling an appointment for a patient with the only available physician at 11 am, another staff member could be scheduling another patient with the same physician at the same time. This obviously causes an issue and results in the need to call one of the patients to pick another date.

Some surgical scheduling software providers offer to integrate an appointment widget on your website for easy appointment booking. Everything you previously had to clarify over the phone patients can enter themselves. They can choose a physician, date and time, and reason for the visit, and can indicate whether they have seen the physician before.

The system automatically books the time slot, puts it on the facility’s and physician’s calendars, and marks that time as booked. 

Refer a patient

It’s not always obvious which physician a patient should turn to. A health issue can look straightforward enough but stem from another problem that should be treated first. That’s why physicians refer patients to each other when they see a condition that is not in their area of expertise.

Software that has a patient referral feature speeds up this process. All a physician needs to do is pick a specialist, enter a patient’s information, and push a button to make the referral. 

The patient then receives a notification with a link to the specialist. By following this link, the patient can schedule an appointment with the specialist.

Physician credentialing

Every facility has to keep track of medical credentialing to uphold the quality of healthcare services they provide. However, many facilities still handle credentialing manually by relying on spreadsheets. This often leads to inconsistent and outdated information, data security issues, and, worst of all, losing track of expiration dates. So when the time comes for re-credentialing a physician, it’s nearly impossible to find all the latest paperwork.

Managing physician credentialing is much easier with the right software. 

First of all, everything can be done in one centralized system. You can sign, upload, and track documents in one place without having to go through tons of hard copies each time. 

Second, everything is paperless. You can request licenses and custom documents via email and text notifications to any healthcare provider. By doing so, you’ll avoid mix-ups and huge delays because you’ll be able to complete missing information quickly.

Lastly, with the right software, you’ll be able to get ahead of deadlines and expiration dates thanks to automatic notifications that will alert facilities and physicians when expiration dates are approaching. Moreover, you’ll be able to view and filter application statuses for all physicians on your dashboard.

To sum up

Facilities lose a lot of potential revenue by relying on phone calls, emails, and faxes for communication and on spreadsheets to keep track of documentation. Don’t let your facility be one of them.

There is a rich selection of online surgical scheduling tools to help you follow the best practices for surgery scheduling. 

Our surgical scheduling software, PreferredMD, was created with the help of over 50 physician practices and facilities, so you can be certain it has all the features you may need now and in the future. It’s not the invention of businesspeople in offices but of practicing medical specialists who have experienced the same bottlenecks, wasted hours, and messy documentation (not to mention stress) that you have. 

If you want to see PreferredMD software in action, click here to schedule a demo and we’ll show you how much value it can bring to you and your facility.

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