Thursday, November 12, 2009

Open-access scheduling for flu season

With patients flooding your office with calls or appointments this flu season, you may be considering reworking your appointment scheduling.

“Practices must be ready to accommodate the influx of patients,” consultant Nick Fabrizio told me in a recent podcast on preparing for the H1N1 virus. Fabrizio suggested practices consider a modified open-access scheduling plan, where they set aside 10 percent or 20 percent of the appointments each day for same-day acute patients.
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Open-access scheduling can ease some of the pains of trying to squeeze acute patients in — on top of your normal daily load. But it takes planning, and HealthLeaders Media recently laid out six steps to open access scheduling that I thought would be helpful. Here are a few:

1. Do what is right for your practice. Keep a log of the kinds of calls and appointments being requested, so you can get an idea of how many you should set aside.
2. Be flexible, but resist the urge to fill those dedicated slots with appointments that aren’t same-day.
3. Monitor your success by checking in with staff and seeing if there are any patient complaints. Problems? Just adjust it.

You should also consider calculating your appointment schedule fill rate each month, aiming for an optimal percentage of 90 to 95. For more on open-access scheduling and more tips, check out the Physicians Practice story on the topic.

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