Because many of your practice expenses are fixed, seeing 1-2 additional patients each day can have a huge impact on the bottom line. A few open slots on the schedule or a couple of no-shows each day may make the difference between a good month and a bad one. Here are five ways to help keep your schedule full.
1. Use a recall system.
If you have an electronic medical record system, chances are that it has a built-in recall feature to follow up with patients who need, for example, quarterly or annual office visits. If you’ve not yet converted to an EMR, the old-fashioned but very effective postcard system works well.
2. Make appointment reminder calls.
It takes time to have a staff member call every patient on tomorrow’s schedule to remind them of their appointments, but if the effort results in 1-2 fewer no-shows, then it’s time well spent.
3. Keep a cancellation list.
Again, your EMR system may have a feature for tracking patients who want to be moved up in the appointment schedule or need to be “squeezed in,” but if not, a notebook with names and phone numbers at the front desk can be very effective. If a patient cancels on short notice or you hear, “Oh, I totally forgot, can I reschedule?” when you make appointment reminder phone calls, you’ll be able to quickly fill that gap in the schedule with someone from the cancellation list who will be grateful for your efficiency.
4. Stay on time.
People are busy. You’ve no doubt had the experience of having a patient leave the office without being seen simply because they’d been kept waiting too long. Perhaps they had to get to work or to another appointment, or maybe they were just mad enough to walk out the door. Keep your office running on time to make sure that every patient who comes into the office is seen by a provider before they leave.
5. Promote your practice.
You’ll be more likely to keep a full schedule if potential new patients know of your availability and understand the services you offer. If you don’t have a comprehensive practice marketing plan in place, make 2010 the year you write and implement one. Practice promotion does not have to be expensive. Watch for a future post on cost-effective marketing activities.