5 Steps to Better Provider Scheduling

Helen Limjoco

Having good control of your medical practice schedule can have positive impacts for your bottom line and patient satisfaction.

Some practices over-complicate the schedule with too many types of appointments. Others structure their schedules too rigidly.

If your practice is grappling with provider scheduling, try these five steps to get better control of your practice.

  1. Limit the number of appointment types.
    Many practices need only a few. Common examples of appointment types are: new patient visit, established patient visit, complete physical exam, in-office procedure. Some practices list different appointment types for every different ailment. That level of complexity adds a lot of guess work for staff, who must wade through too many options.
  2. Allow all appointment types at all times.
    It generally doesn’t work well to set specific time slots for specific types of
    appointments — like scheduling back pain patients only into specific afternoon
    slots. Keep it flexible.
  3. Set aside a few appointments at the start or end of the day for same-day
    The last appointment before lunch and the last few slots of the day often work well
    for patients who want to be seen that day. If no patients need those slots,
    providers get a longer lunch or get to leave on time.
  4. Keep patient comfort in mind if procedures require special preparation.
    If patients need to fast for eight hours before a procedure, be sure to schedule
    them first thing in the morning. Generally, being the first case of the day means
    their appointment won’t get delayed.
  5. Help yourself stay on track.
    Many practices find it helpful to schedule a 15-minute catch-up slot every couple
    of hours. If you don’t need the catch-up time, you can see a patient.
    Encourage new patients to fill out needed paperwork ahead of time or come in early so the appointment can start on time. If they don’t bring the paperwork with them, place the patient in a room while they fill out the forms. If possible, have them do it on a tablet rather than paper to avoid re-entry.

What are the greatest scheduling challenges in your practice? Share your insights in a comment.


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