Optometric Management Tip # 227   -   Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Appointment Scheduling Strategies

Iím often asked about the appointment scheduling procedure I use in my practice. Not that my way is the only way or the right way, but it works well for me. Each of the doctors in my practice (usually three on any given day) sees about 25 patients per day and we generally run on time. There are many clever appointment templates in use today, but I just prefer to keep things simple. Here are my covenants for appointments.

Keeping it simple By randomly filling the schedule with various types of visits, we see a good mix of patients Ė some taking longer and some being quicker. Some visits produce high gross revenue, some are low or even no charge (like contact lens follow-ups that are prepaid). It all comes out in the wash. Since patients donít always show up exactly on time, I feel thereís no advantage in trying to perfectly control everything Ė doing so doesnít work any better anyway. We are efficient and flexible, and we can adjust our protocol if needed to handle unusual chance occurrences.

The advantage of this system is great ease of scheduling for front office staff. Itís simple and quick. Patients are easily accommodated for the appointment time of their choice. Caring about patientís wants and needs should never be underestimated.

Other thoughts Our doctors stay flexible by wearing a silent pager that lets him or her know when the next patient is ready and waiting in another exam room. We just do what we can to stay on time; that might mean doing tests in a different order or delegating a task and moving on. We also stay on time by leap-frogging patients out of order and seeing patients without a scribe, if necessary.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management