By Stericycle Staff | Sep. 21, 2016

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In many non-emergent healthcare practices, the most important daily report is the appointment schedule. In any facility where patients call in to schedule an appointment, the entire practice revolves around those appointments. An appointment schedule means physicians know when they need to come in, front desk staff knows when to expect heavy traffic, and patients know what time to arrive at the office.

Since this schedule is the basis for which each day is planned, you would assume that all schedules are kept up to date and followed, right? Wrong! Many practices have what we call “swiss cheese schedules” – unreliable schedules where there are holes throughout the day: patients don’t show up, appointments that are double booked, or unconfirmed patients.

What are the 5 biggest pitfalls of an unreliable appointment schedule?

  1. Appointment wait times vary
    Since there is little consistency with appointment confirmations or patient no-shows, the average amount of time the patient spends in the waiting room could vary drastically. When a patient is a repeat patient (as we often hope they are), they expect consistent wait times within your office.
  2. Inconsistent implementation of scheduling policies
    In order to fill the “Swiss cheese” holes, offices and schedulers often turn to double booking appointments, rather than the standard practice of booking one appointment per slot. When this happens, the patient who calls to make an appointment doesn’t know whether to expect availability next week or next month.
  3. Misuse of staff resources
    When staff is spending all of their time maintaining the schedule, they don’t have time to manage the patients coming in and out of the door. If the physician or specialist is in the office and a patient no-shows, the physician or specialist could have spent that time seeing another patient.
  4. Decrease in patient satisfaction
    Unpredictable wait times, fluctuating time to make an appointment, and little staff interaction all lead to a decrease in patient satisfaction. The first goal of most offices is to delight and please their patients, and without consistency in appointments, this is next to impossible.
  5. Loss of revenue
    When your practice has an unreliable schedule, it means you have an unreliable no-show rate and thus an unreliable staffing model. When there isn’t a consistent no-show rate, there isn’t a consistent way to backfill them or a consistent way to ensure you have the proper amount of staff in the office. These lead to a loss of revenue through staff and patient dollars

PatientPrompt has solved the problem of an unreliable schedule in the past (twice!), and we’re ready to do it again.

Stericycle Staff

Author: Stericycle Staff

Stericycle has been delivering communication services to North American companies for over 25 years. Since 2011, we’ve been blogging about how to deliver best-in-class communications to patients and consumers – providing practical advice and current best practices for both healthcare and commercial organizations. We hope you enjoy and keep reading!
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