Optometric Management Tip # 314   -   Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Start Your Work Day Right

Have you ever thought about the opening routine in your office? How people start their work day can have a huge effect on how the rest of the day goes. If you begin late, you often run late all day. If you start off grouchy, it can be hard to shake. I like to be prepared in advance for patients as much as possible because it increases office efficiency and I also prefer to keep our administrative processes as invisible as possible. Here are some ideas to improve the beginning of your day.

Employee work schedule

I think it's smart to schedule one or more employees to begin work one half hour before the office actually opens. If the first patient is scheduled at 9:00 AM, I would have at least one assistant arrive at the office at 8:30 AM; more early employees may be needed for larger offices. I like the office and staff to be ready and waiting when the first patient walks in. If employees are scheduled to start at the same time as the first patient appointment, then patients will often find the office door locked. That is an unpleasant scenario, with the patient often walking back to his car to watch for some sign of life. It is not uncommon for some patients to arrive quite early for appointments, and I'd like them to feel welcome.

I find that staff members appreciate having time to: We use a white marker board to inform everyone of employee call-offs, vacations and any other news of the day. This calm beginning even seems to get employees in a better mood for the first patient. The early opening duty could be rotated among all staff for fairness, or their may be certain staff who want the extra hours and don't mind the early arrival.

Prepare files

This is one more advantage for electronic medical records, but even with those systems in place, there may be some tasks that can be prepared in advance. I like staff members to pull paper charts and prepare office forms the day before the appointment. There may be a lull in the afternoon when this can be accomplished. Charts can be prepared in advance; names and dates written (or entered electronically), proper insurance worksheets, history questionnaires, handouts, disclaimers, signature forms, retinal photo forms, the proper exam form depending on the type of visit, superbill, spectacle order sheet and any other form can be clipped to the file. Of course, insurance benefits should have been verified and the next day's patients are all called to confirm.

I also like the staff to print the next day's patient appointment schedule in advance and copies can be taped in various places in the office where needed. Seeing the list of appointments helps staff members and doctors see what types of patients are coming next and stay on time. Technicians can initial the sheet next to patients' names when they did the pretesting. Doctors may choose to leap frog a quick patient when they see a slow one is running behind. The office manager can coordinate lunch breaks based on the progress of patients. Everyone can see if someone has called in and is coming late or cancelled. A printed schedule at the front desk makes it easy to check people in as they arrive.

A quick office meeting every morning

I have a standing meeting at 8:45 AM every day with my office manager and any other doctor who is working that day. We have a designated place to meet and everyone just shows up. The manager brings a notebook and any other materials she needs to discuss, such as employee issues, problem patients, insurance claim problems, a special patient coming in today or any other practice need. I also save up any non-urgent matter that I need to discuss. The meeting never runs more than 15 minutes and may only be a few minutes long, but it's an efficient way to cover the pressing needs of the day.

Have a nice day.

Best wishes for continued success,

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