A structured appointment scheduling system can go a long way towards improving revenue and increasing patient satisfaction in a medical practice. Patient scheduling is an integral part of daily work for a health care professional either in family practice or at specialist clinic, in a physician’s office or at a hospital. Scheduling can be managed well online with the help of a good appointment management software. The staff can manage the doctor’s schedule, patient’s case records and also take appointments. Many doctors and small medical offices have already established their websites which enables a patient to book a slot for themselves. Scheduling appointments online will help you manage time better so that time can be rightly devoted to patient interaction. Its easy usage, functionality and reliability will help the doctor as well as the patient ease out access and reduce waiting time at clinics.
A few steps for successful management of appointments should include the following- A doctor should decide the number of patients he wants to see, also he must decide the time period that he wants to give for this work. This basically helps to judge and appoint other doctors as well as the staff that is needed for the management. Care must be taken while giving appointments to new patients as a new case may take slightly longer than follow up patients. To avoid chaos one can keep specific week days to attend only new patients.
How to streamline appointments:
- Many large medical offices use one or two key schedulers/receptionists who look at the schedules of all the panel physicians and with an eagle’s eye, meaning they are quick at rescheduling and attending to sudden cancellations etc. They work deftly to avoid any collision of timings of the specialists who consult on few days.
- If you see a variety of patients from various social strata, from high profile to those receiving subsidised treatments, then consider grouping them on a specific day.
- Keep two or more examination rooms at the clinic. The doctor can then see one patient while the other one is getting screened or is getting his history taken to an assistant. This will allow you to attend to more patients without compromising on the time spent in interaction and delivering optimal healthcare. Also, the patient feels that he has been adequately attended to.
- It may so happen that a few patients might require more time for examination. At such times, the follow-up routine appointments can be postponed and scheduled for the start of the next week.
- The staff must be trained to understand which patients need to be seen urgently by the doctor and which can wait. This will make scheduling and managing appointments much easier. If you will be seeing patients all day at the same clinic, then morning and evening hours should be clearly demarcated to patients.
As the old adage goes- failing to plan is planning to fail. When these simple practices are not followed, there is an obvious adverse impact on the appointments that follow. The staff should behave humbly and politely with the patients; knowing that each one visits a doctor only for a problem, refraining from adding to their anxiety or demoralising them. So plan out your day and week as far as possible with your staff and run as per your schedule, not as per the schedule runs you!
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD
M gallaghar, P Pearson et al. Managing patient demand a qualitative study of appointment making in general practice. Br J Gen Prcact April 2001, 51(465) 280-285.