Scheduling appointments is among a medical office assistant’s most important responsibilities. When appointment scheduling goes wrong in a medical office, it can cause mishaps to occur, such as overbooked staff and long wait times. People tend to grow anxious when they are forced to wait longer than expected, especially in a medical office. That’s why it’s critical for medical office assistants to effectively manage the appointment schedule.
If you’re planning to pursue medical office assistant training, you’ll learn that maintaining a good system for scheduling appointments will make time management much easier, and directly contribute to both staff and patient satisfaction. Read on to learn four effective scheduling tips.
Every medical office has a ‘busy season,’ where scheduling is affected for a short period of time. For instance, if you find work in a clinic that provides free flu shots during part of the year, you can expect that time to be especially busy—and your appointment book to be completely full. Students who decide to work at a pediatric practice will also notice a wave of appointments just before the start of a new school year.
Noting when a medical office’s busy season is will help you to effectively manage the schedule book by prioritizing patients who need healthcare services most during those times.
One reason why most medical appointments don’t occur at the exact times that they are scheduled is because preparation time is rarely factored into the mix when those appointments are made.
Once you’ve completed your medical office assistant training and have landed a job, you’ll learn to consider the pre-visit work that patients need to do before seeing the doctor. For instance, patients are normally required to fill out several forms before their appointment, which indicate whether they are taking medication, what their symptoms are, and more. Additionally, patients are usually seen by a nurse before the doctor examines them. These are all small things that can add up, and without carefully considering them when booking appointments, a typical 9:00 AM appointment can actually start at 9:20.
Keeping pre-appointment preparation time in mind will help you to schedule appointments accordingly, leaving plenty of time for patients to fill out their paperwork, and see the doctor at their scheduled time.
A good medical office assistant program will teach you to expect the unexpected. Walk-ins and last minute appointments happen often in a medical office, which is why it’s important to keep a few appointments unscheduled. Patients will need to book last minute appointments if they fall ill, or for other unexpected reasons.
You can keep a couple of slots open on the regular schedule if you notice that your place of employment has a lot of walk-ins. It’s usually best to keep these slots open right before or after lunchtime, and towards the end of the day.
When medical offices are always fully booked, the schedule becomes very tight and inflexible. This can be off-putting to new or existing patients who require same-day medical attention.
In the medical world, strategic double-booking refers to scheduling a short appointment at the same time as longer appointments. A short doctor’s appointment usually consists of a prescription renewal or urgent visit. Patients who are new to the medical office, or who require chronic care, typically have longer visits. And by the time the doctor is done with the short visit, the second patient will be fully prepped and ready to be seen. Once you’re familiar with the medical office you’re working in, you can double-book short and long visits on days where the schedule is otherwise full.
Are you considering enrolling in a medical office assistant course?
Visit Canadian College for program information, or to speak with an advisor.