4 Ways to Keep Your Practice on Schedule
It will come as no surprise that more than 1/3 of patients say that the factor that has the most negative impact on their satisfaction is a long wait time. And yet, many practices still struggle to keep their practice on schedule.
Physicians get sidetracked with refill requests, reviewing labs, returning calls to patients. Patients take up more time than they are allotted. A registration person calls in sick and your front desk gets a little behind. There are a hundred reasons why you might get off track. But once it happens, it’s hard to get that time back.
Here are a few simple strategies that might help avoid bottlenecks or turn things around when they start to go south.
- Set clear guidelines for staff about not interrupting the physician with calls or questions between appointments unless it is a true emergency. Establish a process for the physician to receive messages and manage tasks as specific times of the day—first thing each morning, at the end of the day, perhaps a break at midday. He or she can take care of refills or return calls during those appointed times. Some of these patient calls can be eliminated all together with a patient portal. So if you have one use it and if you don’t, then set one up. And make sure that the staff reroute patients to the portal if their issue can be addressed there.
- Prioritize tasks for staff. Make sure your staff know what their top priorities are so that if they get busy they know what to let go of for the time being. Sometimes people are trying to do too much when they should just be focused on moving patients swiftly through their appointment. This is also a good time to analyze your staffing. If thing are routinely dropped or incomplete then perhaps you are understaffed. Consider adding staff or outsourcing tasks like billing, eligibility and pre-authorizations, or inbound and outbound calls. You can outsource most tasks these days and it can be more cost efficient than adding more fulltime staff.
- Do an analysis of your time management, including your scheduling process and task management. You may need to look at your days from nuts to bolts. Is your schedule inefficient? Maybe the problem is that your longest patient visits are at the wrong time of day and they are causing backups everywhere else. Perhaps your providers just aren’t managing their tasks well. Many practice management and electronic health record systems offer task management tools. If everyone isn’t using them to stay on top of tasks and priorities, now might be a good time to start.
- Cross-train your staff. In case of emergency you need some backup. So train your biller or medical assistant to check in patients and schedule appointments. In a jam, that person can step in and help for a bit with answering the phone or getting patients checked in to get you back on track and caught up.
In the end the most important things to remember when trying to keep things on track are making sure that everyone knows exactly what their role is, what their priorities are, and what they should do if things get busy.