How to schedule more preferred patients

Uncategorized Jan 26, 2022

Problem: You're almost fully booked but are not growing at the rate you want to.

Apart from increasing prices (you can learn more about this favourite technique of ours in our chapter on pricing), here are 6 best practices we use to help clinics get more out of their "fully booked" capacity problems:

We are going to look into best practices on how clinics optimise:

  1. The number of appointments needed: how many times a patient visits the clinic to complete the treatment successfully with the best patient experience.
  2. Attendance ratios & timing: the number of patients who show up at what time for their scheduled treatment session.
  3. The duration of the appointment: the length of specific treatment sessions.
  4. The space available: the amount of treatment space available.
  5. The team available: the number of appropriate team members available.
  6. The type of appointment: which types of appointments have priority over others.

Download our scheduling summary here & let's look at each one more closely:

1. Optimise the number of appointments needed: 

Solution 1: Consider how to do as much treatment as possible in one single visit.

It's not always possible, but spend a little time to think about how you could possibly decrease the number of treatment sessions necessary by joining them up into one longer session, without degrading the patient experience/result.

Solution 2: research new technology and methods that allow you to skip or increase the speed of certain parts of the treatments you provide.

 

2. Optimise attendance ratios & timing:

Solution 1: purposely overbook your calendar

Once you know your "no-show" percentage from the scoreboard (patients who book vs. actually come) you can factor this in and "overbook" your calendar by that exact percentage on purpose. If a patient has to wait a little longer due to overbooking, use that time to provide an added service experience such as a pre-treatment consultation, aftercare, post-treatment reviews etc.

Solution 2: Have consultation sessions available EVERY day that you are open at the same set times (your high priority block that we cover later in this article).

Remember, our consultation sessions should meet the preferred times of the potential patient, not ours. So ensure that you have the highest level of consultations possibly available, even at those "unfriendly" times for your team and staff like weekends and evenings. Just by opening the availability of your consultation sessions and answering messages/calls can make you a market leader in your local area, as well as get more out of your existing marketing channels without investing more.

Solution 3: Use an automated booking calendar.

Look into "calendly" or "acuityscheduling" if you don't have one already set up with your existing patient planning calendar - these are great for scheduled discovery calls as well. The automated calendar allows the patient to immediately choose a time that's best for them and receive a calendar invite as well as automated notification messages before the appointment. Don't worry about them scheduling in the time when you're busy. You will set up the automated calendar to only allow them to book in the "high-priority" slot of your day - the time when you see new patients only.

Solution 4: Charge a "no show" fee.

Reduce cancellations. You know how the hotel charges you for the room even if you don't show up at the hotel unless you cancel in time? Do the same in the clinic. If they ask why, then say "we are very busy, and if you don't show up, we lose a spot that could have been given to someone else who needs it."

This is your safety net. It decreases "no-shows", adds extra revenue to the clinic, and ensures that you make the most out of your booked up days.

Solution 5: Fill the day first, not the week.

For example, offer patients treatment availability across 3 days a week to maximise the time in those days, instead of providing them with more days to choose from. (consultation sessions of course should be available at times more suitable to the patient - i.e. be available to do consultations any day/time of the week).

Solution 6: On the same note as solution 5, offer treatment times in reverse popularity first (for example booking treatment from the middle of the day outwards first vs. booking patients into the beginning or end of the day when there may be a delay)

This ensures that you keep the clinic patient flow as evenly spread as possible.  These little "best practices" are really effective - use them!

3. Optimise the duration of the appointment:

Remember time is a COST, both to you and the patient, not a benefit. If the team or patients can achieve more in less time, they are happier - so don't let your limited thinking slow down the growth of your medical practice.

Solution 1: Let other team members handle different stages of the appointment so that the team can move faster and rotate from patient to patient.

Solution 2: If you schedule in 1-hour blocks in your calendar, change that to 45minutes.

Instead of 3 sessions per morning or afternoon, you're doing 4 - all with no increase in wages but a 33% increase in capacity & revenue every week.

But what about that lost time? It doesn't matter. With that extra revenue from 45minute scheduling (33% more each week) you can now hire an extra person to speed things up and create a quicker, more streamlined patient experience - and thank us later for begging you to do this.

p.s. You'll also, as if by magic - cut out on those unnecessary long coffee / check social media toilet breaks that I've seen happen in so many clinics.

4. Optimise the space & equipment available: 

Equipment & space are often the hardest part of the capacity to influence as they usually involve added investment.

Solution 1: Convert any "office" or storage space to treatment space.

But where will we keep things / do admin activities? you say. I say anywhere but the clinic. You can have your storage areas in a nearby building and bring in supplies as you need them. You can do calls, follow-ups and accounting from any office space - it doesn't need to be in or even close to the clinic. I even know of clinics where all the administration work is done in another city, which was not even in the same country as the clinic itself.

Solution 2: Create or use a remote consultation / diagnostic centre.

Consultations & diagnostics can usually be done as well or even better in a nearby space that isn't in your clinic directly. In fact, I've seen very successful clinics that have less than 30m2 consultation centres rented in ultra-expensive city centre zones, with the actual treatments happening in the outskirts of the city once the patient is booked. Yes, they work. Do it.

Solution 3: Make use of virtual appointments & payments.

Many of the processes that used to take place in-clinic are increasingly being done online. If you do have a capacity problem, consider doing whatever you can to have online consultations - it might just be an added benefit to offer to your patients too.

Free up the front desk & your documentation time by having payments & documentation accessed by the patient on a digital device in the clinic or on their own device.

Solution 4: Consider "hiring" equipment or space from other clinics similar to yours as you expand

Solution 5: Buy more equipment than you need. 

What costs more long-term? lost treatment sessions due to shortages or an investment into extra equipment? Go figure. Make sure you always have enough and more. 

5. Optimise the team available: 

This 5th patient scheduling "best practice" is the one that I see to be the biggest struggle of clinics at full capacity. That's why we have a separate book on hiring, growing and managing clinic teams.

Solution 1: Schedule your calendar blocks by team member name instead of by patient name/surgery room.

For example, the doctor may be needed for just 15 minutes of the 30-minute appointment with the patient. Therefore you would schedule the doctor for 15 minutes in the calendar and the next slot for the doctor would be another 15 minutes in another surgery with a different patient. The same goes for your nurses and treatment/patient coordinators. Not everyone needs to be present usually to serve the individual patient, so arrange your calendar by their name instead of the patients.

Solution 2: Hire more support than you need.

You cannot pour into a full cup - either yours or someone elses. To allow anyone in your team to do more, you will have to decide what they WILL NOT do anymore. Increase the efficiency of all treatment sessions, by having extra hands available to do the task that is not in the core competence of the person doing it.

Solution 3: Delegate to Elevate

So many clinics struggle with medical and non-medical staff multitasking instead of focusing on the one thing that they are best at. Make sure everyone is working on their core competence 80% of the time.

6. Optimise the type of appointment: 

Solution 1: prioritise the days' appointments by that which brings in the most money, and is the most enjoyable for your team to do.

We suggest having 3 category blocks - high, medium and low priority prescheduled in the calendar so that those types of appointments are always scheduled in those blocks. If for whatever reason the block is not full - don't stress - just leave it open for development/training work. The important thing here is to always have available space every day for what matters most. By filling those high priority treatments first, you'll be able to grow your clinic revenue and brand faster.

Solution 2: Schedule blocks into your day for new patients only as the top priority.

Any new patient booked for a consultation or first-time treatment should be given an appointment immediately otherwise you risk losing some of your reputation as their 1st choice clinic, and they may even go elsewhere to a clinic that can offer them an appointment sooner. New patients are oxygen to your practice - without prioritising them, you will slowly die. These are the "high-priority" blocks we mentioned above.

Solution 3: increase the cost of appointments that you least prefer to do or the cost of appointments at times when you least prefer to do them (for example an extra charge on treatments in the evening/weekend). Get more from less.

Conclusion

Bingo. Yes, That's a lot of ideas. Take your pick of what you think could work for you and ignore the rest for now.

But don't just do nothing. Act. Implement. Above all, choose whether you want to continue the long-term struggle or endure the short term pain of little changes to your scheduling that have proven to bring clinics like your more revenue, doing more of the right types of treatment, less stress for everyone in the team and more time to focus on what matters. And then make that change.

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