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TRENDING Story Today … “SPECIALDOCS: Why are some physicians chronically late for appointments?”

By Specialdocs Consultants, Inc.

Specialdocs provides expert advice, support, assistance, and legal counsel… all the essentials for a successful concierge medicine practice. Our comprehensive support services free you and your office staff from the intense time demands inherent in transitioning any busy medical practice. Concierge Medicine Practice Specialists 847.432.4502

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.

Source: © 2014 Specialdocs

2 replies »

  1. I totally disagree with the suggestions below. My doctor spends the time needed. True, appointments generally run 30 minutes or until our last question is answered. My doctor recently hired a new medical assistant and told her that her job was to keep him on time. I looked at him and told him that “I better not ever hear a knock at the door or your cell phone rings – indicating the appointment is over”.

    There have been many times his phone rings at the beginning or in the middle of my appointment. I do not care, as I understand he has other patients and we are all paying the price for his attention.

    The doctor needs to remind all his patients that there are times he will be running late due to his appointments with patients. Having the medical assistant knock on the door and then call is very rude to the paying patient.

    The 10 minute grace period between patients would be acceptable, but my appointments are usually the last and then once my appointment is over, we seem to just talk about everything else. I’m usually there for 1 ½ to 2 hours just because of our discussions after my appointment.

    Doctors just need to begin on time. Leave the house 15 minutes earlier than they normally do. Everytime I have a 9 am appointment, he usually doesn’t walk in until 9:20ish. The last time, I was his first appointment of the day at 11 and he walks in at 11:30. Then I felt rushed and I was doing him a favor. I originally had my physical scheduled at 3:30 that day, but I knew he was going someplace that night and told him that if he wants to change my time that is fine. He texted me that morning and asked if I could be there at 11. I was there at 10:45 for the 11 am appointment. I have no problem working around his schedule, but I do not like being rushed when a concierge practice offers unhurried appointments.

    So, by the medical assistant knocking at the door or calling his cell phone … the unhurried appointment just went out the window!

    If patients don’t like to wait, then they need to find another doctor.

  2. Good Morning

    I was thinking more about this last night.

    I still totally disagree with the suggestions below, but wanted to make another comment in regards for the medical assistant to enter the exam room towards the end of the appointment to take over and wrap up.

    That is the rudest thing for a concierge practice. The patients are there to see the doctors, not their so called medical assistants. I say so-called because I question their competency. At least I do for the doctor we go to. They are too young to have the responsibilities they are given. Mistake after mistake have been made. I have seen them ignore instructions from the doctor, even the written instructions only for the medical assistant to indicated “Oh, I didn’t see that”. Seriously? It’s write there on my chart to do something and she ignores it.

    Possibly for the typical physician offices, but not a concierge practice where we pay for their services. Actually, I think concierge physicians can do away with their assistants and take care of their own practice. More money in their pockets.

    From: Hays Theresa E
    Sent: Monday, November 10, 2014 8:41 AM
    To: ‘Concierge Medicine Today’
    Subject: RE: [New post] TRENDING Story Today … “SPECIALDOCS: Why are some physicians chronically late for appointments?”

    I totally disagree with the suggestions below. My doctor spends the time needed. True, appointments generally run 30 minutes or until our last question is answered. My doctor recently hired a new medical assistant and told her that her job was to keep him on time. I looked at him and told him that “I better not ever hear a knock at the door or your cell phone rings – indicating the appointment is over”.

    There have been many times his phone rings at the beginning or in the middle of my appointment. I do not care, as I understand he has other patients and we are all paying the price for his attention.

    The doctor needs to remind all his patients that there are times he will be running late due to his appointments with patients. Having the medical assistant knock on the door and then call is very rude to the paying patient.

    The 10 minute grace period between patients would be acceptable, but my appointments are usually the last and then once my appointment is over, we seem to just talk about everything else. I’m usually there for 1 ½ to 2 hours just because of our discussions after my appointment.

    Doctors just need to begin on time. Leave the house 15 minutes earlier than they normally do. Everytime I have a 9 am appointment, he usually doesn’t walk in until 9:20ish. The last time, I was his first appointment of the day at 11 and he walks in at 11:30. Then I felt rushed and I was doing him a favor. I originally had my physical scheduled at 3:30 that day, but I knew he was going someplace that night and told him that if he wants to change my time that is fine. He texted me that morning and asked if I could be there at 11. I was there at 10:45 for the 11 am appointment. I have no problem working around his schedule, but I do not like being rushed when a concierge practice offers unhurried appointments.

    So, by the medical assistant knocking at the door or calling his cell phone … the unhurried appointment just went out the window!

    If patients don’t like to wait, then they need to find another doctor.

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