4 Ways to Improve Medical Office Scheduling to Reduce Wait Times

1
Appropriate Scheduling of Patient Appointments

It can be a challenge to create a balance between seeing enough patients to meet the financial needs of the practice but still offer a high level of quality patient care. Keep these things in mind:

  • Patients should not have to wait longer than 15 minutes for their scheduled appointment.
  • Considering how unpredictable health care can be, it is understandable that there may be times that patients will have a longer wait.
  • The types of patient visits vary depending on the practice specialty, the diagnosis of the patient, and procedures being performed during the visit. This means that a different time requirement should be allocated to each visit type.
  • The number of daily patient visits should be able to cover the expenses of the office and, of course, make a profit.
  • When developing the design or structure of your patient scheduling system, it is important to consider any possible events that could cause disruptions to patient flow.

2
Reduce Disruptions to Patient Flow

Patients on line at medical office reception area
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  • Late arrivals: To assist with this problem set some restrictions on how late a patient can be without having to reschedule, allow a patient that is early for their appointment to move up to the late patient's slot, and schedule chronically late patients towards the end of the day.
  • No-shows: There are three ways to prevent missed appointments.
    1. Reminder calls to patients 24 - 48 hours prior to their scheduled appointment time.
    2. One way to reduce no-shows is by the use of online patient scheduling. Patients can manage, schedule or reschedule their own appointments which make no-shows less likely.
    3. Billing patients a no-show fee for missed appointments. No-show fees not only make up for some of the lost revenue but also teaches your patients to give a notice if they are going to cancel their appointment. This also allows the opportunity to reschedule the appointment while the patient is on the phone.  
  • Walk-ins: Review the trends on when the medical office tends to see more walk-ins such as on Mondays or during flu season and make adjustments accordingly.

3
Open Communication with Patients

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  • Notify patients when appointments are running behind schedule
  • Teach medical office staff on how to answer non-clinical patient questions
  • Develop and distribute patient satisfaction surveys
  • Communicate in writing when appropriate. Any easy and effective way to make sure your patients receive information important to their care is to give them handouts such as basic information about the medical practice, a list of items to bring to each visit, payment policy, and notice of privacy practices.

4
Telephone and Electronic Communication

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Telephone

As one of the most used means of communication, telephone communication should not be taken lightly.  It is often the first interaction a medical office has with a patient. Here are a few basic tips you can offer your medical office staff to improve telephone etiquette.

  • Active listening
  • Good phone manners - professional and courteous
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Always thank them for calling
  • Never hang up first
  • When taking messages, get as much information as possible
  • Stay calm and polite, even when a patient is rude to you

Electronic 

The same professionalism you would use on the phone, mail correspondence or face-to-face should also be expressed in an email. Always remember that email is a form of communication and the way in which the receiver interprets the message is the only thing that matters.

  • Make sure that email is the appropriate form of communication for your message instead of a phone call or a meeting. Keep in mind that the content should reflect the image and the level of professionalism expected of your Medical Office.
  • Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Also, be sure to keep the message concise and use the proper layout for your message which makes it easier to read.
  • Make sure the email is being sent to the appropriate recipient(s). Information in a Medical Office, especially related to patient information, should be shared on a need to know basis only.

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