8 Tips for Effective Medical Office Appointment Scheduling
Whether a medical office sees a steady stream of patients every day or just a trickle of patients here and there, appointment scheduling is the key to running smoothly. It ensures that no patient becomes “lost” in the system. Not to mention that a smoother transition from patient to patient can allow doctors more quality time with each individual, answering questions and being more sensitive to each case file. In turn, patients are happier and have more peace of mind.
The satisfaction of patients and medical office staff alike is well worth the effort to revamp current appointment scheduling practices, especially if the current practices are creating chaos and losing revenue. The most efficient and effective medical offices follow these eight guidelines for appointment scheduling:
- Forge a Timeline – How many patients will be seen weekly? How many days is it okay for a patient to wait to be seen? How many hours does a doctor want to work? These factors all cohesively determine how many doctors a medical office will need and what the schedule will look like, as well as what protocols a scheduler will follow.
- Avoid Double-Booking – New and difficult patients should never be double booked. However, if double booking needs to take place with other patients, there should be a health professional in the office that is able to welcome and make the initial consultation with the patient prior to the doctor entering the exam room.
- Designate an Appointment Scheduler – Even if your medical office is large, it’s important to designate only one or two key appointment schedulers. Limiting the number of employees in this position enables a more regimented appointment scheduling procedure. The scheduler can learn the doctors’ individual preferences, hours, repeat patients, etc. and how to appropriately handle all of them combined.
- Modified Wave Scheduling – In this type of appointment scheduling, more than one patient is scheduled toward the beginning of the hour and the end of the hour is left open as a buffer in case the doctor needs to catch up from long appointments or other unforeseen situations. It reduces the amount of patient build-up later on in the day. Reduced wait times make happier patients.
- Group Similar Patients – Some doctors appreciate seeing patients with similar conditions or medical histories in the same day. This method of appointment scheduling allows a doctor to remain in a more focused medical mindset, enabling quicker appointments and diagnoses. In addition, the clinical staff can maintain a rhythm through the appointment needs. For example, a doctor can be speaking to the next patient while the first is having a radiograph.
- Out of Office Planning – Before and after a doctor will be out of office, reduce the number of follow up appointments. If the time is reserved for new patients and patients with new symptoms, there will be less chaos in the appointment scheduling process and less stress on the doctor.
- Clinical Collaboration – An appointment scheduler usually does not have clinical knowledge to ascertain things like patient priority by symptoms or conditions. It’s crucial for schedulers to be able to collaborate with clinical staff on appointment scheduling in order to meet patient needs most efficiently.
- Recognize Patient Needs – The patients set time aside and even take off work to make an appointment. Doctors should be punctual and keep the appointments that are set as well as try to maintain appointment times.
Appointment scheduling may appear very basic and these guidelines may seem simple, but that does not make any of them easy. Once the medical office gains a reputation for efficiency and exceptional care, more patients will be calling and walking in. The sheer volume can make appointment scheduling and other medical office tasks a nightmare. It might indicate that another doctor or more clinical staff needs to be hired.
In addition, a medical office might be bogged down with paperwork. Instead of hiring extra help to sort out complicated patient coding and medical billing, outsource the task to Billing Advantage.