SCHEDULING POLICY #18: If a patient is late for their appointment by five minutes, the chairside assistant tries to find them. The assistant doesn’t throw this problem into the lap of the appointment secretary.
Not every office handles late patients like this, but we found it to be the most efficient way to go about things. Why? When a patient is late, the appointment secretary is normally busy while the assistant is waiting on the patient. So, it seemed the most efficient use of everyone’s time was for the assistant to find out what was happening with the patient and help decide the best way to proceed.
If the patient would be there shortly, we would try to hustle them into the operatory and get back on schedule; however, if they were going to be significantly late, the assistant could help decide if they could be seen later in the day or possibly later in that same week.
The assistant and the appointment secretary can work together to help deicide the best way to proceed with patients that are running late.
SCHEDULING POLICY #19: If you are running behind schedule by 20-30 minutes, someone has to be moved out of the schedule. If the next patient is there ask them if they would like to reschedule. If they choose to wait, go to the next patient and get them rescheduled. Do this until the doctor’s book is freed up enough so he or she can get back on-time.
No one likes running late. When you’re significantly behind, (by 20-30 or more minutes), something has to be done to get back on time. Otherwise there’s a domino effect on the rest of the morning or afternoon. Lunch is not a time to “get caught up” and no one likes going home late. Once in a blue moon is fine – done on a regular basis and you have a recipe for stress.
So if you’re running behind you have to do something proactive to get back on-time. Someone has to be moved out of the schedule. It was rare that we called a patient and had them get upset that their appointment was being rescheduled. Let’s face it, no one really likes needles and drills inside their mouth. So don’t worry that patients will be mad that you have to postpone their treatment.
They will be much happier rescheduling than waiting in your office for an hour; that I can assure you.
SCHEDULING POLICY #20: Fill cancellations with an equal or greater dollar value.
This should go without saying; if a major procedure is lost off the schedule then it should be replaced with a procedure of equal or greater value. We aren’t trying to “be busy” we are trying to be productive.
If there didn’t seem to be any hope of filling a primary procedure opening with another primary procedure then we would put an emergency patient or new patient into that spot. There was at least a 50/50 chance that we could do a major procedure on this new patient and salvage the day.
I hope you’ve found some of the advice in this series helpful! If you can use any of it to keep your appointment book under control, I’d think it will have been worth your time! And remember, an efficient schedule doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something that needs to be constantly worked on. Effective scheduling policy gives the appointment secretary guidelines to quickly make decisions and allows them to keep the appointment book under control and productive.
Good luck and I hope to see you soon at an MGE seminar!