Patient Scheduling Doesn't Have To Be Challenging
Depending on physicians’ style and the number of physicians in a practice, and the training of ancillary staff and their roles in the office, scheduling patients can be a challenging and frustrating job.
Physicians and staff need to be honest with themselves about what works most efficiently in their office. Can the staff do their roles in all cases or just on certain type of patients? Does the physician require specific lunch and/or break, or do they do just fine with a short break to grab some food when the schedule permits? Remember, some physicians will become bored or even angry doing the same procedure over and over all day, while others do just fine with it.
Some physicians want to schedule new patients or annual visits first thing in the morning, or only one day of the week. The staff needs to be able to ask the correct questions when making appointments. This way they will know whether lab, X-rays, or other types of tests will be needed; therefore, making sure the right type of appointment and the right amount of time is set up for that patient.
Not setting the correct time will cause the physician and the patients to become frustrated when things start getting behind in the office. Nothing is more frustrating to a patient than being put in a room and having to wait another 35 to 45 minutes for the physician to show up.
Let’s take a look at a few of the options available for physicians offices to help make their schedules work best for them.
- There is the standardized approach involving splitting the doctor’s schedule into consistent periods—such as four, 15-minute periods per hour—and scheduling one patient into each 15 minute block or allowing two blocks of time for more involved patients. This type of scheduling doesn’t take into consideration the emergency patient, or the no-show or the late patient. There are some procedures and patients that can be done in five minutes, whereas others take 30 minutes. Overbooking can case a backup of patients, quickly, which only gets worse as the day progresses.
- Another approach schedules six patients at the top of each hour. This approach allows the staff to take vitals and collect other medical information while the physician is seeing other patients. You would spread the patient outs over the hour, so as not to get behind.
- You can also do a modifier approach of the above by having the last 15 minutes of the hour left open. This allows time for dealing with patients that require more time or other issues that may arise, including building in a break to catch up.
- Understanding the physician’s work style and the practice will be a factor in creating an effective and efficient scheduling system. If the practices’ schedule isn’t working for the practice, try making some of the mentioned adjustments to find the right approach and fix for the scheduling of patients in your practice.
Remember, a medical practice is a business and many physicians need to have time set aside to attend business meetings. A physician office manager also needs time set aside for dealing with billing problems, staffing issues, and continuing medical education.