As office volume becomes ever more crucial to economic survival, you'll have to schedule patient visits as efficiently as possible. How can you reach the golden mean? Three pointers work particularly well in helping you manage your managed care minutes:
1. Schedule realistically. Flexibility is critical. No two doctors work alike. Within reason, each doctor works best when scheduled to fit his or her own practice style and preferences. Even in group practice, design each physician schedule to accommodate the individual's way of doing things. And even under managed care, doctors don't have to fit into boxes; no software template or appointment book should completely dictate a doctor's schedule.
2. Start on time and stay on time. Starting on time is a big issue and, yes, starting just 10 minutes late is a big deal: Once you get behind you never catch up. Patients are less tolerant of waiting today and think a long wait is a sign of disrespect. Consistently making patients wait longer than 20 minutes creates bad patient relations.
3. Leave open slots. Starting each day with all your appointment slots filled does not serve your practice as well as you might think. Plan for time in your schedule to work in patients on short notice. You need to leave room for new referrals and emerging problems, as well as true emergencies.