Becoming an All-Star CA through Effective Scheduling and Rescheduling
“Do you want to schedule?”
Seems like a harmless question, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, this simple question can be detrimental to your practice volume and flow, and actually affect patient outcomes.
The front desk needs to be well-versed in scripting to schedule patients in every stage of care, and proactively guide the patient through the scheduling of his/her treatment plan. Each practice should have a scheduling guideline for each doctor and provider, and the staff must be trained to adhere to these guidelines. Proper, proactive scripting guides and leads the patient to also adhere to these guidelines. You want to give the patient options while still keeping them scheduled in the timeframe and window that is efficient for the office and effective for their care.
For instance, in scheduling a corrective care treatment plan patient, the front desk would say: “The doctor has prescribed a 3-day-a-week treatment plan for you. Which 3 days work best for you? Do you prefer morning or afternoon?”
Once the patient has answered with their preferred days and time, the front desk will find a time in the schedule that fits the patient’s choice and let them know that they will reserve this for the duration of their treatment plan.
The script for a treatment plan patient is separate and different than the script used for maintenance patients. However, all patients should have a future appointment. Treatment plan patients should always be scheduled a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks in advance, preferably for the duration of their treatment plan. Maintenance patients should be scheduled for 3 to 12 months out.
Properly prescheduled appointments provide a convenient time and routine for the patient, thus increasing retention and volume, while improving patient outcomes and the efficiency and flow of the office. The true key to this success is that all staff, including doctors and administrative staff, are speaking the same language and educating the patient on the value and benefit of their scheduled care.
Rescheduling – The Recall System
What do you do when a patient misses an appointment? Do you simply continue on with your day and hope the patient will call to reschedule when they have time? Or, do you have a system in place to reach out to and reschedule that patient? Implementing a recall program gives you this system and opportunity. It helps to prevent patients from falling out of care.
Having a steady flow of new patients is always a goal for a practice, however, patient retention is the key to positive patient outcome and practice success. The reasons your patients may miss or cancel an appointment are as varied as your patients are. Whether the patient is going on vacation, busy with work, or just plain forgot about their appointment, it is up to the savvy front desk to help patients reschedule these appointments and keep on their prescribed treatment plans. My program for proper patient rescheduling is called the process of Recall. Recall will result in a healthy and satisfied patient and is a key factor in increased retention, which results in higher volume and greater revenue.
Recall is part of patient check-in, and it begins 15 minutes after a patient misses an appointment. Through a series of scripted telephone calls, a doctor call, and a letter, you attempt to contact the patient to reschedule the missed appointment. These communications are documented on a shared log so that everyone in the office is on the same page.
The number one goal of Recall is to reschedule the patient for the missed appointment within the same week. If this is not a possibility, though, Recall allows for the confirmation of future appointments. If the patient is going out of town, or busy with work, etc., Recall provides a follow up communication to bring the patient back in to reassess and continue treatment, helping both practice and patient.