10 Tips to Improve Scheduling

1. Reserve the first appointments. Preference should be given for established, dependable patients, especially at the start of the day.

2. Limit new patient appointments. Block time each day for new patient visits. Try to accommodate their desires for appointment time as much as possible. Don’t make them wait when they come in.

3. Get paperwork done ahead of time. Mail required forms and a practice brochure to new patients in advance of their appointments to reduce no-shows and speed flow.

4. Block specific times for specific appointments. Difficult exams and procedures should be reserved for mornings. Block specific times for emergencies and for certain types of appointments. Block times for physicians to return calls rather than interrupting them during exams.

5. Schedule accurately. Use a scheduling book with 10-minute units instead of 15-minute units for greater accuracy.

6. Measure accuracy. If a physician is late more than half the time, your schedule is unrealistic (for a sample wait time tracking form, see p. 155).

7. Discharge repeat no-shows from the practice. Don’t try to charge for missed appoint ments because it may result in more cancellations from angry patients. It also is hard to collect this money and doesn’t compensate the practice for lost time.

8. Limit cancellations. When patients try to cancel, sound disappointed and try to solve the problem or overcome their excuse in a courteous manner. Try to get them to honor their appointments before rescheduling. Aim for a 50% conversion to compliance.

9. Fill in cancellations. If you have a cancellation or no-show, move a patient up from later in the day or from following days to fill the gap. Say, "We’ve had a change in schedule," not, "We’ve had a cancellation." Maintain a will-call list of patients who want to be seen sooner or can respond on short notice to changes in schedule.

10. Build in buffers. Schedule 10- or 15-minute blocks of time for when a physician frequently runs late, such as late morning or afternoon.