Why Isn't Your Schedule Full?

Scheduling is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in a pediatrics practice. You never know how many sick appointments will be needed on a certain day so you don't want to overschedule yourself for check-ups, but you also don't want to leave gaps in your schedule.

Every practice I work with has some "rules" they follow at the front desk. These include things like always schedule same-day sick as long as they call by 4:15 and double-book sicks for the same time as well so the doctor can get in to see the sick while the nurses prep the well.

While these are the "official" guidelines for the scheduling staff, every practice I work with also has "unofficial" guidelines. These are the guidelines that either the staff wants OR they are picking up cues from you.

Here are some examples:

- In one off the front desk receptionist taught a Zumba class on Wednesday evenings so she never filled the 4:30 appointment slot.

- One office overheard a nurse practitioner complain about more than 22 on her schedule so she never booked the nurse practitioner to the 25 that was the goal for that provider.

- In another practice the front desk knew that the doctor said he wanted a 4:15 patient but always complained when there was a gap so she never scheduled after 3:30 unless others were already scheduled. When I asked a friend to see if he could get his sick child in at 4:00 he was directed to urgent care.

These unofficial guidelines trump whatever you you have in place because your staff is always taking cues from you. If you see that you don't have a full schedule, here are some things you can do.

1) Make sure you have a written scheduling policy. Make allowances for a variety of contingencies and open yourself up to be asked if there is a situation not covered on the list. You want to make sure you are making the decisions, not the strong desk.

2) Trust but verify. Have someone call and try to make an appointment. Learn from their experience.

3) Once a month compare the schedule against the guidelines and look for any patterns. If you never are scheduled after 3:00 on a Friday, there is a problem.

Your number one asset in the office is physician time so make sure you take control of the schedule and get those appointments filled!

Have a scheduling question or need some help? Feel free to reach out to me - emily@altussolutionsgroup.com - I would be happy to share some of the arrangements that work for our clients.

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