Which scheduling approach is right for your organization?

Helen Limjoco

Is centralized scheduling a good fit for your organization, or does decentralized scheduling make more sense? Knowing the pros and cons of both approaches can help you decide.

With centralized scheduling, trained staff devote their workday to scheduling appointments for multiple clinical areas.

  • Pro: Eliminates the stress of bouncing between patients on the phone and in the office. Because schedulers are not interrupted by providers or face-to-face patients, they can finish each patient encounter faster.
  • Con: The scheduler must understand the protocols of every practice in your organization. For example, one pediatrician won’t see patients older than 18; another sees patients through 21. Schedulers may need to check protocol books while making appointments.

With decentralized scheduling, staff members in each department make appointments, along with other duties.

  • Pro: Schedulers know their providers and the rules governing their department.
  • Con: Multitasking can be stressful for staff. Patients may face long hold times on the phone or long wait times at the front desk.

Hybrid approach
Organizations may combine methods, with some departments having a dedicated scheduler and smaller clinics relying on centralized scheduling.

A scheduling system to suit your needs
Whichever approach you take, look for these features in your scheduling system:

  • Question guides. A wizard walks the scheduler through a list of questions and determines the correct appointment type.
  • Built-in rules. Rules will present when specific scheduling criteria is met, warning the user that an appointment may not be appropriate or actually preventing the user for continuing the scheduling process For example, if a scheduler tries to make an appointment for a 22-year-old with a pediatrician, just-in-time messaging advises that the doctor won’t see patients over 21.
  • Appointment sets. Care coordination is easier if the system schedules multiple types of appointments that depend on each other.

What is your experience? I invite you to post a comment with your tips on scheduling.

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