Start on time: Take control of your day from the beginning

February 1, 2008

From a financial perspective, your time should be spend in billable activities.

Key Points

At many dermatology practices, staff resort to the tactic of adding, "but come in 15 minutes early to fill out your paperwork." Unfortunately, that approach doesn't work with every patient.

Time - your greatest asset

From a financial perspective, in other words, your time should be spent in billable activities.

It is common to see dermatologists start each day running at least 15, if not 30, minutes behind. Afternoons can pose the same pitfalls as mornings. Your dermatology practice, like many, may unlatch the front door right after the lunch hour ends at 1 p.m. and try to process patients in time for 1 p.m. appointments.

Indeed, you may be wasting a full hour each day, related solely to starting clinics. Where did that time go? Chances are, it is sitting right in front of you!

Getting back that hour may not always translate into another full hour's worth of patient visits, but your time is a precious asset to try to recover, all the same.

Reclaiming lost time

Consider how much time you and your staff spend managing patients' frustrations over delays. Apologizing to patients takes time. Besides, being routinely late does nothing to engender patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Sure, our patients have learned to expect delays at their physician's offices, but why not try a few simple steps to exceed their low expectations? Running on time will do more than just make patients happy, it might just prevent them from going to another dermatologist where they can get in without waiting half the day.

So, how do you reclaim the 30 to 60 minutes that you always seem to be missing each day? First, decide who the schedule is for.

This sounds strange, but the appointment times you give out are really times that patients are due at the front desk, not in the exam room with you.

If the transaction time at the front desk were mere seconds, this wouldn't pose a problem. However, it takes significantly longer these days to process a patient through the front office, as we strive to ensure billing information is complete and accurate.

I don't recommend skipping this step or taking shortcuts. Rather, take the transaction time your staff needs into account when scheduling appointments.