Don’t invite disaster into your physician scheduling plan

Implementing open-access scheduling without careful planning invites disaster. Once you determine how much to open the schedule, develop a new set of written procedures and protocols for handling appointment requests. You probably already have guidelines based on your specialty and individual practice patterns for evaluating urgent-care requests. Review and adjust them to the new plan if necessary.

Figure out how you want to work the new plan into your style. You can still use your old scheduling structure (e.g., block, individual, wave, etc.), and you may be able to maintain the same office hours. But if you’re serious about meeting your customers’ demands, be open to further change.

In a general staff meeting, make sure everyone understands how the new plan is supposed to work. Pay particular attention to your policies regarding exceptions for when it’s acceptable to fill a “protected” same-day slot early and how to handle occasional gaps in the schedule caused by low volume, last-minute cancellations, and no-shows.

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