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    Manage time efficiently in your medical practice

    Thomas J. Ferkovic, RPh
    Q: How can we free up our practice physicians' time to efficiently and effectively maintain a steady patient volume and viable operations?

    A: As clichéd as it sounds, time really is money. Practices need to manage a steady volume of patients to maintain a viable business, which makes time your most precious asset, not to mention one of your biggest challenges. To manage physicians' time efficiently, consider implementing any or all of these suggestions into your workflow:

    • Book patient appointments 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the actual time you put on the providers' schedules. This pre-schedule time allows the patient to be registered and roomed with the nurse before the physician's start time, helping the physician stay on track throughout the day.
    • Know your cancellation rate. You can better predict openings in doctors' schedules by calculating the practice's average daily cancellation rate. By doing this, you'll have a better idea where you might be able to double-book and do wave scheduling to accommodate gaps in the schedule from cancellations, no-shows, and last-minute rescheduled appointments.
    • Learn the patterns of the providers and your practice. Do providers like to schedule heavily at the beginning of the day or prefer a consistent flow of patients? Ask what type of work schedule each provider prefers and then write staff procedures that accommodate those preferences.
    • Increase practice capacity at lower costs. What kind of patient visits take up the most time? Could a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant handle some of these appointments, freeing up physician time for more acute cases? Train your front-desk staff to ask patients for specific reasons that they are scheduling the appointment. Also, consider implementing a rule that patients should be treated only for the stated reason for the appointment and arrange for a subsequent appointment to deal with other issues.
    • Make the best use of your space. Expanding business hours, redesigning patient flow, and using empty office space for greater efficiency can help you get more from your facilities. Remember: Every hour a room isn't being used is lost revenue.

    Answers to readers' questions were provided by Thomas J. Ferkovic, RPh, MS, managing director, SS&G Healthcare Services LLC, Akron, Ohio. Send your practice management questions to

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