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Understanding the Art of Scheduling Patients


If you aren't giving your front-office staff kudos on a daily basis, you need to look closer at how they schedule your patients.

If you're lucky, your front office/scheduler has an invisible gift.  Call it a "Super Power" if you'd like.  I've always called it, "The Art of Scheduling."  

They use this gift to insure a smooth flowing schedule, understand customer service, and how to tie it all up in a big bow.  Some possess this gift and really understand this, and it shows in the awesome customer service that they provide to your patients.

A few areas to watch:

• When a patient comes in and is not feeling particularly well, they listen to the patient and convey it to the healthcare staff.  When the staff member comes to the front to bring the patient back, they say, "I understand you are not feeling well today." That statement has just solidified the patient's decision to come and see you for their healthcare needs. It told them that the front office listened, conveyed, and the next staff member followed up, all within a span of minutes.  

 • The patient is not just a name on the schedule, they are a person who is coming in because they are not well, need a test, or have a healthcare concern, and is most likely in some type of pain. Pain changes people's attitudes and behaviors, so getting to know the patient on a more personal level really puts them at ease and shows we care.  Using their first name, asking about their kids or grandkids, and a simple, "How is your day going?" allows the patient to relax and prepare themselves for their appointment. This also speeds the healing process, and that's what you're there for, after all.

• When you learn more about the patients, you're better able to place them on the schedule with more compatible patients.  Some patients take more time, some have multiple issues, and some can be difficult.  By understanding the patient's healthcare needs and schedule of availability, you're better able to get them in the perfect spot on the healthcare staff's schedule. This keeps the schedule flowing nicely throughout the day. This really helps the back office staff and physician stay on point throughout the day. This makes a win-win-win-win for everyone!

• Keeping an eye on the patient waiting area. Some patients slip in, unnoticed, or forget to sign in. They could be sitting out there for an hour before someone notices them. So counting and keeping an eye on that lobby area are key for a higher level of customer service.  I went to an appointment and waited an hour and a half because the front-office person became distracted and didn't get my chart to the nurse who took me into the back.  I asked multiple times what the wait was and finally asked to use the bathroom, went back and found the nurse who put me in a room immediately. 

The "Art of Scheduling" can get complex, and it's not as simple as just squeezing someone in between two other patients.  A lot of thought and intuition go into making sure the day goes smoothly.  These are the staff members who understand your culture and integrating rules, policies, and intuition into their daily job.

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