Your front office staff likely spends much of their day scheduling, rescheduling, and reminding patients about upcoming appointments. Smart scheduling is a strategic approach for organizing your practice’s day in a way that maximizes the use of everyone’s time and expertise to boost the patient experience and save you money.
Reserve specific time slots for specific types of appointments and make sure the blocks of time set aside for those appointments is appropriate. Allocating the ‘right’ amount of time is a more efficient way to operate your day resulting in fewer appointments running over and leaving fewer gaps in the daily calendar. Additionally, schedule similar types of appointments back-to-back to maintain a good flow for providers.
Another way to ensure you don’t have unused time slots is to keep a running wait list. This wait list can be used to fill canceled appointments, or to fill slots that were held but not filled for certain patient types, like new patients. Each morning have your front office staff review the schedule for the upcoming 2-3 days, spot any openings, and contact patients from the wait list to fill them.
Most providers are “in the zone” during a certain time of day – typically in the morning. Opportunity appointments should be scheduled during that period of time. A best practice is to schedule a minimum of two opportunity appointments per day, per provider.
With providers busy with patients, keep the responsibility of scheduling appointments to front office staff. However, you and your providers should check in with staff regularly to see what is working well, what isn’t, and whether there have been any scheduling-related complaints from patients. Keeping an open feedback loop will promote collaboration and ensure you are incorporating all perspectives into your scheduling strategy.
If you have a multi-provider practice, rather than closing down your practice for an hour over lunch, stagger lunches so patients are able to come in for their appointment any time within operating hours. Working professionals may only be available during lunchtime, and you don’t want to miss out on that potential business and revenue.
Finally, leave gaps in the day for cleaning and disinfecting protocols – but not too much time. You want to give yourself enough time to get rooms and equipment cleaned without leaving patients waiting, but you don’t want to end up sitting around for 15 minutes or more waiting until the next appointment begins.
You want your scheduling system to be convenient and efficient for you and your staff, but it’s also critical to make it work for your patients. Block two slots per week for new patients. You do not want to be booked out so far that they can’t get in for a couple weeks. Prospective patients who have to wait more than a few days often end up making an appointment at a competitor practice instead.
Plan fittings earlier in the day. A patient, especially a first-time hearing aid wearer, may experience sounds they haven’t heard in a long time that cause concern or have an issue with the hearing aid that they feel needs to be addressed right away. Because they had an early appointment, your office will still be open and they can reach someone by phone rather than waiting all night and perhaps deciding they just want to return them. A best practice is to enable those with brand new hearing aids to get their questions and concerns addressed the same day.
When incorporating smart scheduling into your hearing practice operations, it’s important to be flexible and not get stuck doing things that aren’t producing the desired results. Evaluate processes over time to identify trends – both good and bad – and make updates as necessary. Continuous improvement means you provide better quality care and ultimately have more satisfied patients that keep coming back.