The ability to properly control and maintain a medical practice schedule can have a positive impact on the practice as a whole. We all know how difficult it can be to achieve, but a well maintained schedule can increase profitability, patient satisfaction and will make the work life of physicians and staff much easier. Below are four scheduling tips that can make your medical practice run more smoothly.

Be Realistic with Scheduling – While industry standards may suggest a specific scheduling pattern, it is OK to try your own and see what works best. It may not be productive for your office to follow what other offices are doing. Scheduling should revolve around the physician, medical staff and how long a typical exam may take. Certain appointments may take longer than others and of course you don’t want to run behind. That’s where planning ahead and knowing your staff is most crucial. While following industry standards may work for some practices, it doesn’t always work for all. Be realistic with scheduling and do what works best for your practice.

Built in lead-time – Scheduling lead-time can be a very valuable tip for most practices. Let’s say a patient’s appointment is at 8:00 a.m. For some people, being on time means getting there at 7:45 a.m. and ready to be seen. For others, 8:00 a.m. is when the patient gets into the parking lot. To be fair, physicians are known to lose track of time too. It’s why the practice needs to be clear regarding lead times.

Built in lead-time – There are times when a doctor waits for patients to fill out paperwork and office staff to record height, weight and vitals. During these 15 minutes, the doctor could be helping another patient. So an appointment at 8:00 a.m. is now starting at 8:15 a.m. That’s 15 minutes of lead-time. If physicians know there will be lead-time it will help them be able to plan ahead.

Be Flexible and Plan Work-ins – While a booked solid schedule is often good to see, it can mean your hands are tied in case of an emergency. Having all of your practice resources already committed to one thing does not allow a lot of flexibility. Have certain times available for same day appointments. This could mean that you have to schedule a work-in slot a little bit before normal business hours or a little bit after closing time. Many practices allow one to two work-in slots per day.

Be Aware of Variability – Before scheduling a patient, it is best to know your numbers first. That means understanding on average how long an appointment will take. Let’s say a well-child check up on average is 30 minutes long. It may not be wise to schedule 30 minute appointments for everyone. While some appointments will certainly be on time there will undoubtedly be other appointments that take longer. You may run into a case where you are waiting on a family running late or one that cancels at the last minute. Be flexible and be aware of variability. Schedules hardly ever stick to plan.

Remember to Remind Patients – Because the doctors time is so valuable, you don’t want them to be “unproductive” because patients forget their appointments. Use a phone based, or even better yet, a SMS Text reminder service to remind patients of their appointment. Statistics show SMS texts are usually read with minutes of receiving them and is currently the best method of reminders.

Before putting a practice schedule together, make sure you follow these four helpful tips. It can save you a lot of time, trouble and headache in the long run. Our medical appointment scheduling software program should help you solve a lot of your scheduling frustrations.

Almost every medical office out there is using patient scheduling software by now, but there are still a few offices that are still stuck in their old-fashioned pen and paper ways. If you’re one of the few medical office professionals who questions whether or not they really need to invest in a scheduling software product, here are some things to consider…
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