The Importance of Timeliness at Your Medical Practice

October 18, 2012

Timeliness ties together all of our aspects of providing great customer service for patients.

Rounding out my six-part series on Customer Service from the H.E.A.R.T. is “timeliness.” As you can imagine, I am going to harp on the importance of being on time.

Being on time isn’t just important. More specifically, it is key to running and maintaining a thriving medical practice. Timeliness ties together all of our aspects of providing great customer service for patients.

When thinking about your schedule, do you routinely run behind? Are you five to 20 or more minutes late? Would you tolerate it if your receptionist showed up that late every day?

If you are routinely late, then it is time to make some changes to your schedule. Part of what I do is help offices increase their revenue, so I intimately understand the need to see as many patients as possible in a day.

Start at the ends of your schedule and see how those can best be rearranged to better allow for your clinic to be on time.  It is one thing to run over a bit with a patient, but quite another if your first patient is scheduled for 8 a.m. every day and you show up at 8:15-8:30 a.m. every day. Same goes for the time around lunch breaks: Don’t schedule your first patient back at 1 p.m. if you will not be in the clinic until 1:30 because you went to make rounds or went to the gym at lunch. 

Try starting your patients at your normal arrival time, even if it means shifting the entire clinic hours.  Personally I subscribe to the theory that if you are not 15 minutes early, you are late. Ideally you would be ready for patients 15 minutes prior to the first appointment time, can you imagine if you saw your patient earlier than their scheduled time (especially if they are used to waiting)? It is a quick way for your customer service to sky rocket. And do you know what happy patients do? They tell their friends, family, and coworkers about the superior service at Dr. OnTime’s office.

Once you rearrange the ends of your schedule and get settled into your new timely starts to your mornings and afternoons, you may still notice that you run a little behind during the day. The best way to time appointments is to call a patient back to their exam room at their appointment time, then work through your normal office flow, never leaving the patient without explanation for more than five or so minutes. Now if you are keeping a slim staff this may mean that the office manager might have to help with patient flow, but trust me - it is doable.

Every office, every person is going to have the occasion they are late and running behind. It is important to be truthful with patients about why you are late, how long they are going to have to wait, and to give options. Try to make tardiness the exception to the rule because:

  • When you are on time, you are demonstrating hospitality to your patients.
  • When you are on time, you are demonstrating enthusiasm for being there.
  • When you are on time, you are physically demonstrating a decent attitude.
  • When you are on time, you are showing respect for your patients, staff, and even your family.
  • When you are not on time, you can help ease the situation by being truthful about why you are behind.