March 20, 2014 – Prior to a practice transition, it is not unusual for the physicians we work with at Specialdocs to run behind schedule, anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. With typical appointments scheduled for 15 minutes in length, the hamster wheel medicine approach makes it almost impossible for physicians to stay on time while simultaneously attempting to address the needs of their patients.
In a concierge practice, routine appointments average 30 minutes in length, generally enabling physicians to comfortably address all of the patients’ presenting issues during that time frame. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Some personalized care physicians still struggle to stay on time….why?
Time management is a behavior pattern and if it does not come naturally, it becomes a learned skill set. Physicians who tend to chronically run late in their professional life often have this same pattern in their personal life. The question needs to be asked… does the physician see and acknowledge the value of being on time? If not, this pattern is hard to change. In our experience, patients will strongly indicate their dissatisfaction when wait time creeps up and their personalized care physician is continually late for a scheduled appointment. The physician may lose patients as on-time appointments are a hallmark of the concierge medicine model.
Here are a few simple time management strategies that have proven successful for our physician-clients:
- The medical assistant knocks on the door 10 minutes prior to the next appointment. This is a signal to begin wrapping up the visit. The MA follows that with a cell phone call five minutes prior to the appointment end.
- OR – Set your cell phone to vibrate and have the staff “call” you five (or 10) minutes prior to the end of the appointment. The medical assistant enters the exam room at the appointment “end” time to assist with any follow up items, such as “orders” for future appointments, tests, etc. as the appointment is concluding.
- OR – Build a 10-minute grace period into the schedule between appointments, allowing you to still be on time for the next appointment.
Of course, infrequently the unexpected will occur, and a concierge physician will run late. Patients understand the occasional service lapse and most are forgiving. When this becomes a pattern is when it is problematic.
The suggestions highlighted above are just a few examples of time management strategies. Our Specialdocs team is happy to offer additional suggestions to ensure your practice continues to be time efficient with optimum patient satisfaction.