Smart Scheduling: The Key to Practice Efficiency

Debra C. Cascardo


June 05, 2000

In This Article


Perfecting the art of scheduling patients so your practice is busy but not overbooked will keep patients happy and revenue stable.

As we discussed in the previous column, today's patients expect a level of service similar to what they experience in an upscale department store. One important way to achieve this is to perfect the art of scheduling patient visits, so that your practice is busy, but is not overbooked.

For most practices, this requires some self-evaluation. While most appointments are scheduled in a standardized manner, some staggered hours should be available to accommodate patients who require early morning or late-evening appointments. For example, one day of the week a practice could see a patient as early as 7 a.m. but end appointments by 3 p.m., or start at noon and end at 8 p.m.

Staff should also be trained to be respectful of both the physicians' and patients' time. Neither physicians nor patients like to be kept waiting. It is very expensive for the practice to have a physician available with no patients to see. It can be just as costly to the practice when patients, faced with unreasonably long times to see the physician, decide to find a new doctor.

Staff should avoid large gaps in the physicians' schedules and, when necessary, apprise the physician of any sudden cancellations by patients. In some cases, that time can be filled from a waiting list, same-day appointments, emergencies or walk-ins. If that's not feasible, the physician should be given adequate notice so he or she can catch up on dictation, follow-up calls or other tasks normally completed after patient appointments.


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