Open early to save money

July 1, 2005

Cosmetic surgery practices know that starting on time is critical to managing a high volume of patients, but many practices are discovering the rewards of opening earlier in the day. A 6:30 a.m. starting time may seem ridiculous at first glance, but it can bring many benefits to patients, staff and your bottom line.

Space needs Success is great but comes at a price. Many cosmetic surgeons find their offices are filled to capacity sooner than anticipated. When there's nowhere else to put new patients - or the associates to care for them - and moving or expanding seems too expensive, take steps to use your current space more efficiently.

Following that initial experiment, the practice began staggering clinical teams' schedules: one team starting at 6:45 a.m., another at 8 a.m. and another at 9 a.m. The teams took staggered lunch hours - 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m., respectively - and the late team wrapped things up at 6 p.m. Soon, the practice was using its rented space 10 hours a day, instead of the seven hours typical of most dermatology and cosmetic surgery practices. Dividing practice costs across a 10-hour day, instead of a seven-hour day, caused the practice's overhead to fall significantly. As a benefit, staff issues such as "Who answers the phones at lunch today?" became moot. I'm not suggesting that altering schedules is always the alternative to relocation or expansion, but it's worth considering.

Patient satisfaction Many patients welcome early morning hours, especially in urban markets where avoiding traffic is a major consideration. Working patients may prefer to get cosmetic services or office appointments handled before they report to work.

Yet, many cosmetic surgery practices in congested areas continue to ask patients to battle rush-hour traffic for morning appointments that start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Staffing issues Staff often welcome earlier hours, and that's especially true in urban markets where the daily commute can eat up two or more hours a day. You may find many on your staff willing to shift their morning and evening commutes to, say, 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

Although some staff may have less flexibility due to the day care or school schedules of younger children, most will be delighted to avoid heavy traffic hours and gain extra time for themselves - and, again, it won't cost you a penny extra.

Experiment first Evening hours can achieve many of the same goals as early morning hours, yet cosmetic surgery practices report more satisfaction with early morning appointment scheduling. Before you start booking 6:45 a.m. appointments, make sure that you or one of your associates is an early morning person. If the office opens early but the physician fails to show up on time, patients and staff will be frustrated and the benefits of reduced overhead will not be realized.