Consistent Scheduling

April 1, 2004

In my solo pediatric office I offer same-day appointments for sick visits. What drives me crazy is that, too often, I have a really slow day in the morning and I get so busy in the afternoon that I feel rushed. I am tired of telling my receptionist to spread the patients out. How can I have patients distributed evenly throughout the day?

Question: In my solo pediatric office I offer same-day appointments for sick visits. What drives me crazy is that, too often, I have a really slow day in the morning and I get so busy in the afternoon that I feel rushed. I am tired of telling my receptionist to spread the patients out. How can I have patients distributed evenly throughout the day?

Answer: I do think your staff is influencing this trend. Many pediatricians have a high volume in the morning because the kids were sick all night, and the parents call to get an early appointment. You seem to have the opposite problem. Without knowing all of the details about your practice, here are some questions to ask and ideas to try:

  • When are your phones turned on? I generally recommend a 7:30 a.m. start time for pediatrics. The earlier the phones are on, the earlier the appointments will begin.
  • What is your call volume like when you're on night call? When you're talking to parents, you can say, "I would like to see you in the office, and I have appointments starting at 8 a.m. Please call my office at 7:30 a.m. to schedule your appointment." That should boost morning appointments.
  • Offer a contest to your staff. If you see 15 patients (or whatever your ideal pace is) for five straight mornings, give everyone two free movie tickets. It's amazing how something small motivates people.

If you truly feel like your staff is trying to block your schedule, it's a serious enough issue to consider a more serious reprimand or even dismissal. It's your business, and the scheduler is a critical link between a positive bottom line and a negative one. You may want to address it in a performance evaluation, document it, and conduct disciplinary action as a warning. Some staff aren't aware of what a serious issue scheduling is.