Ah, summer. Longer days, warmer weather, kids out of school, vacations and-for medical practices-schedules that can turn chaotic if steps are not taken in advance to keep things running smoothly. Ensure that your office schedule stays on track this summer using the following steps.
- Determine when providers will be away. Knowing when each provider in your office plans to take their summer holiday or attend a continuing education course may help in terms of scheduling staff vacation time. While it’s not recommended to require that staff take their own vacation time when providers are away, if that can be worked out it makes sense to do so. With doctors out of the office patient volume will naturally be lower, so it’s a good time to reduce back office employees’ hours as well. If vacation weeks can’t be made to coincide, have special projects lined up for staff to work on while the office in quiet.
- Coordinate staff requests for time off. Hopefully by now, you already know when everyone plans to be off for a few days, a week, or longer this summer. If so, great. If not, bring a calendar to your next staff meeting and map out who wants to be away when so that you’re not left short-staffed at any point. Some practices award vacation time according to tenure, while others just “work it out.” Whenever possible, try to take into account the needs of employees who want to be off to attend date-specific events such as weddings or family reunions.
- Decide if you need temporary help. If one of your providers is planning an extended vacation (say, four to six weeks), determine whether that doctor’s patients can be cared for by other partners in the group or if you need to bring in a locum tenens to cover. If you’re in a one-provider practice, locum tenens may be the only option for coverage if the doctor is away for several weeks or longer. Likewise, if a staff member has accumulated a few weeks of vacation time and plans to use it all at once, decide if it makes sense to hire someone from a temporary agency to pick up the slack.
- Keep in mind that patients will be vacationing, too. This can mean an increase in no-shows, particularly if you book appointments for routine care three, six or twelve months out. During the summer months, be especially diligent about making appointment reminder calls to patients, perhaps going so far as requesting that they return the call to confirm appointments. When you get a call back from someone saying, “Oh, I completely forgot … we’re at Disneyworld this week,” you can quickly fill the schedule with someone on your waiting list or keep that slot open for a patient who needs to be seen on short notice.