3 ways to improve patient scheduling

Waiting room
Want better patient scheduling? Imagine a bathtub.

Appointment access at your physician practice is like a bathtub, says one doctor. How so? Think of the water filling the bathtub as appointment demand and water draining from the tub as appointment supply. The idea is to keep the tub as dry as possible.

In other words, it's possible to have excellent patient access and continuity of care, Sam Weir, M.D., executive medical director of UNC Health Care's patient access and service integration department, writes in a blog post on Physicians Practice.

Understanding demand and deploying supply to meet demand that governs access and delay for patients is a fundamental principle, he says, one that has worked at his teaching practice at the University of North Carolina, where about 60 part-time primary care physicians in the UNC Family Medicine Center do the work equivalent of 10 full-time doctors in a community practice.

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First, manage internal return appointment demand. When doctors can do so without sacrificing quality of care, they should lengthen intervals between return visits. 

Second, make the most of each visit. “Plan ahead and aim to do all the work needed at today's visit to help the patient stay out of the office as long as possible,” Weir says.

Third, adopt strategies to reduce no-show rates, including recycling slots from canceled appointments.