Top 5 Scheduling Tips
for a Busy Optometry Practice

Gina Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO

Complete Eye Care of Medina, Crystal, MN

In practices today, efficiencies must constantly be analyzed for greatest profitability. One of the biggest inefficiencies is the come-and-go of patients. Schedule them too closely and you run the risk of a poor patient experience. Schedule them too far apart and you run the risk of huge gaps and lag time, decreasing staff production per hour. And what about no-shows?

Following are the top five scheduling best practices that work well in my busy optometry practice.

1. Pre-appoint your patients. I’m always surprised at how many offices I know that don’t do this. The reasoning usually falls along the line of, “My patients don’t want that,” or, “I tried it and my patients didn’t like it or I ended up with a lot of no-shows.” To those, I like to explain that first, it’s all in what your patients are used to. I started pre-appointing from day one, and if a patient gets missed on accident, they are upset the next year when it takes time to fit them into the schedule because they didn’t have the usual “reserved” spot. Additionally, once you do pre-appoint, you have to be diligent about confirming those appointments to reduce no-shows the next year. This leads to my next tip:

2. Utilize a scheduling management software/app/technology. Our world is right at our fingertips, and that includes calendars and constant updates. When you utilize a system that allows your patients to be emailed or texted regarding their appointments, everyone wins. The patient can confirm the appointment, get reminders and be assured of their scheduled time, all without interrupting you or your staff. Your office can easily see that the patient is receiving the messages and customize the timing of reminders, without staff needing to call, send postcards, etc. There are several companies who provide this service, most of which sync nicely with the many EMR’s out there.

3. Have a schedule template, and stick to it. If you don’t already have a template for how many comprehensive exams versus short appointments versus consults you see per day, I highly recommend creating one. If staff is willy-nilly filling appointments as your schedule allows, you could be creating bottle-necks and very busy or very slow times for staff and optical. A template allows you to schedule staff accordingly and ensure the doctor, whose time is the most valuable and costly if wasted, is smoothly transitioning from patient to patient.

4. Review patient records the day before. Preparation by all staff can elevate a patient experience. If you are well-versed in what a patient’s main concerns are when coming in for their exam, including what types of diagnostic testing may be needed, or that they prefer to look at frames before their appointment rather than after, patients appreciate the attention to detail. I make notes about each patient in the schedule so staff can prepare for what that patient may need. This not only creates an efficient schedule, it often produces higher per-patient revenue.

5. Periodically survey your patients. It’s not enough to have scheduling best practices in place; they have to work for your office and most importantly, your patients. Perhaps your recent reminder system has too many reminders and is annoying to the majority of your patients. Or, your new template doesn’t allow the last patient of the day to have adequate time in the optical at the end of the appointment. How will you know these things unless you are asking your patients? Survey them, sample a cross-section, make it easy for them to respond. Let this guide you in your practice.

I truly believe that schedule management is the most valuable aspect of our office systems that we can manage, as it literally affects every other touch-point we have with our patients. Constant attention to it is vital for a healthy, productive practice.

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