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More on Medical Practice Patient Scheduling Issues

Join Our Mailing List 

And … Waiting Room Wait-Times

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

Dr. MarcinkoRecently, I read the following post on: 8 surprising thoughts about patient wait times.

And so, I decided to offer a follow-up commentary based on my experiences, and as outlined in our newest book: www.BusinessofMedicalPractice.com

Obviating the Problem

The point here is not to “react” but to avoid the dreaded “waiting time” problem in the first place.

Now, realize that most mature doctors follow a linear (series-singular) time allocation strategy for scheduling patients (i.e., every 15 or 20 minutes). This can create bottlenecks because of emergencies, late patients, traffic jams, absent office personal, paperwork delays, etc. Therefore, as suggested by colleague Neil Baum MD, one of these three newer scheduling approaches might prove more useful.

1. Customized Scheduling

The bottleneck problem may be reduced by trying to customize, estimate or project the time needed for the patient’s next office visit. For example: CPT #99211 (5 minutes), #99212 (10 minutes), #99213 (15 minutes), #99214 (25 minutes), or #99215 (40 minutes). Occasionally, extra time is need, and can be accommodated, if the allocated times are not too tightly scheduled.

2. Wave Scheduling

Some patient populations do not mind a brief 20-30 minute wait prior to seeing the doctor. Wave scheduling assumes that no patient will wait longer than this time period, and that for every three patients; two will be on time and one will be late. This model begins by scheduling the three patients on the hour; and works like this. The first patient is seen on schedule, while the second and third wait for a few minutes. The later two patients are booked at 20 minutes past the hour and one or both may wait a brief time. One patient is scheduled for 40 minutes past the hour. The doctor then has 20 minutes to finish with the last three patients and may then get back on schedule before the end of the hour.

3. Bundle Scheduling

Bundling involves scheduling like-patient activities in blocks of time to increase efficiency.

For example, schedule minor surgical checkups on Monday morning, immunizations on Tuesday afternoon, and routine physical examinations on Wednesday evening, or make Thursday kid’s day and Friday senior citizens day. Do not be too rigid, but by scheduling similar activities together, assembly-line efficiency is achieved without assembly line mentality, and allows you to develop the most economically profitable operational flow process possible for the office.

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4. Patient Self Scheduling (Internet Based Access Management)

The traditional linear patient scheduling system is slowly being abandoned by modern medical practitioners; an all venues (medical practices, clinics, hospitals and various other healthcare entireties). New software programs, and internet cloud applications, allow patients to schedule their own appointments over the internet. The software allows solo or individual group physicians with a practice to set their own parameters of time, availability and even insurance plans. Through a series of interrogatories, the program confirms each appointment. When the patient arrives, a software tracker communicates with office staff and follows the patients from check-in, to procedures, to checkout.

Assessment 

Today, many hospitals have even abandoned the check-in or admissions, department. It has been replaced by access management systems.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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4 Responses

  1. Patient No-Shows

    I have lowered my no-show rate significantly by having two time slots, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon, for urgencies and emergencies as I have noted that nearly every day I have one or two patients that must be seen ASAP. Rather than having them come in and try to squeeze them in between scheduled appointments, I can comfortably see them during these designated appointment times. As a result the last scheduled appointment in the morning and the last scheduled appointment in the afternoon are seen in a timely fashion.

    Also, my schedule has several time slots that are available for new patients. A new patient even with a chronic condition should have access to your practice within 2-4 days of their contact with your office. Making a new patient wait several weeks risks them calling another doctor for their care.

    Neil H. Baum MD

    Like

  2. 20 minutes is the magic number for patient wait times

    Physicians, beware: If you’re making patients wait more than 20 minutes to see you for an appointment, you could be risking losing those patients.

    http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/20-minutes-magic-number-patie

    Margerie

    Like

  3. Wait Times for Doc Appointments Increasing Nationwide

    Researchers surveyed 1,399 practices last year in cardiology, dermatology, OB/GYN, orthopedic surgery, and family practice in 15 major metropolitan areas. Average physician appointment wait times include 28 days to see a cardiologist in Denver, 49 days to see a dermatologist in Philadelphia, 35 days to see an obstetrician-gynecologist in Portland, 18 days to see an orthopedic surgeon in San Diego, and 26 days to see a family physician in New York City.

    Physician appointment wait times tracked in the survey varied from as little as one day to more than eight months, with an overall average in all metro areas and all specialties of about 19 days, the survey shows.

    “Finding a physician who can see you today, or three weeks from today, can be a challenge, even in urban areas where there is a high ratio of physicians per population,” Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search and consulting firm, said in a release. “The demand for doctors is simply outstripping the supply.”


    Source
    : Mark Crane, Medscape News [1/31/14]

    Like

  4. Average Wait Times by Major Specialties

    According to a study by Vitals, the following are the top specialists with the shortest average wait times:

    • Psychologist (11 minutes 33 seconds)
    • Dentist (13 minutes 31 seconds)
    • Radiation Oncology (13 minutes 55 seconds)
    • Osteopath (14 minutes 29 seconds)
    • Phlebologist (14 minutes 52 seconds)
    • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (14 minutes 55 seconds)
    • Plastic Surgeon (15 minutes 22 seconds)
    • Allergy & Immunology Specialist (15 minutes 54 seconds)
    • Radiologist (16 minutes 40 seconds)
    • Psychiatrist (16 minutes 43 seconds)

    Source: Vitals
    http://www.amazon.com/Business-Medical-Practice-Transformational-Doctors/dp/0826105750/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287563112&sr=1-9

    Like

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