When the doctor is on vacation: best practices for handling appointments

When the doctor is on vacation: best practices for handling appointments

As the balmy days of summer draw closer, happy thoughts of vacation are on everyone’s mind. Even the most dedicated doctor needs time off now and then, so there’s no reason to delay a break. But how do you keep things running smoothly in your absence? We’ve put together some appointment-setting tips and tricks to help your office administrator and covering staff ensure continuity of care for patients until you get back.

Notify your patients ahead of time.

It’s worth taking the time to let your patients know that you plan to be away. Send out a brief letter detailing the dates of your leave, introducing your replacement, and offering emergency contact information where appropriate. This courtesy is greatly appreciated by patients, avoids unpleasant surprises, and eases the way for your staff in your absence. It can also help patients plan their visits, in case they feel strongly about seeing you and not a covering physician. In response, you may see an uptick in demand in the weeks before your vacation, so plan accordingly.

Have your systems in place before you leave.

Look over your appointment and booking systems well in advance. Is your patient database up to date? Will it flag patients who are due for a visit? Keep in mind that you may wish to arrange certain types of visits, such as medication reviews or consultations with complicated or difficult patients, for before or after your vacation. Routine checkups and urgent care can easily be carried out by your cover. Make sure that you have an adequate supply of reminder cards and appointment cards in stock, and instruct your staff to send out recall notifications as usual to keep the flow of patients moving through the practice even when you’re not around. This will avoid a backlog of appointments waiting for you when you get home. With a little bit of planning and attention to communication, you can leave your practice in capable hands and head off on vacation with a clear mind. It’s important to take the chance to recharge your batteries, take a break from the hectic world of the practice, and prevent burnout, so that you can return to your patients refreshed and ready to offer them world-class care.