Ten Ways to Stay on Schedule

If you run behind, you, your staff and your patients suffer. You feel rushed and disorganized. Patients feel insulted and post bad reviews. You never get home on time.

If your schedule is out of control, you should completely restructure your scheduling system. This can take many hours to analyze your patient load and treatment procedures, create a new scheduling procedure and train your staff.

However, if your scheduling system is sound, you can reduce or eliminate your patients’ waiting time with the following:

1. Become a punctual person. Decide to always arrive where you agree to be when you agree to be there, without exception. Punctuality requires self discipline. You must think and plan ahead. You must become focused and determined to be on time despite all excuses and distractions.

2. Start on time. If your first patient is at 8:30 and you arrive at 8:30 or later, you will be late all day. To see your first patient at 8:30, you need to arrive at 8:00. You need time to meet with your staff, check your messages and get yourself ready for the patient.

3. Each morning, huddle with your staff for five minutes to discuss the schedule and organize the day. Give your staff a chance to tell you what you need to know. Work out plans to deal with problems and interruptions you and your staff expect might happen during the day.

4. Define the appointment time for your patients. “Your appointment starts at 2:00, so you need to arrive at 1:45 to fill out some forms.” If you do not define the appointment time, the patient will walk in the door at 2:00.

5. Ensure your front desk staff has a list of procedures and accurate time allotments for each. When calculating the amount of time to block for each procedure, do not guess how long the procedure takes. Time it out as most guesses are wrong.

6. Plan for emergencies. Add up the number of urgent-care or add-in patients you have seen over the last six months. Calculate the daily average and keep that many slots available in your schedule. Alternatively, you can simply block out an hour each day for new patients, emergencies or overflow. If no one schedules the time, use it to catch up your paperwork, train staff or take a nap.

7. Ensure your assistants know how to prepare the room, the paperwork and the supplies before each visit. You never want to have to leave a patient to look for a report or a piece of equipment. You not only waste time, you can be distracted as soon as you leave the patient.

8. Work in front of the patient. Instead of reviewing the patient’s chart in your office, do it in front of the patient. When you are finished, record the details of the visit with the patient. You spend less time walking around while showing the patient all the time you devote to him or her.

9. Add more facilities than you need. For example, get an extra, fully equipped room ready for use at all times. Use it for non-routine situations, such as emergencies or overbooking problems. If you calculate the cost to rent and equip the space (e.g., $42 per day), you will see how valuable it is.

10. After the visit is over, avoid walking the patient to the front desk. Most patients are ready to leave and do not need more of your time. In fact, you can cause unnecessary delays for patients and staff by not moving on yourself. If the patient needs help walking or extra chat time, get an assistant help the patient for you.

Keeping on schedule has no downside and plenty of benefits. Your patients are happier as they wait less. Your staff are happier as they do not need to apologize for you as often. Your family is happier as you get home at a reasonable hour.

If these ten tips do not make much of a difference, you need to replace your entire scheduling system with a system customized to your practice. Such a system will maximize your productivity without making patients wait. Contact an ExecTech consultant for assistance.