Yes! With the right training, communication, and follow-through, there is absolutely no reason that patients cannot be moved to help make the schedule the best it can be. In fact, when done correctly, I actually encourage it. Before you start moving patients to maximize your schedule, there are a few things that you need to have in place. Make sure your team is well trained on these.
Follow Scheduling Policy – You want to make sure that your team is following scheduling policy to the letter from the start, so that the need to move patients in the future decreases. Your scheduler needs to be well trained to think about how the appointment will fit best into the day, where it makes the most sense, and if it will help hit production goals for the day. The key is to make sure that you have a detailed scheduling policy for your team to follow and then ensure that everyone is following it.
Know What to Say – When scheduling appointments with patients, you need to use the right verbal skills. It will be much easier to move patients later if you them at the time of scheduling whether it’s okay to call them if needed to possibly move this appointment. Don’t say to the patient, “We get a lot of last-minute cancellations, so will it be okay to call you to help fill an opening if one arises?” However, it is effective to say it like this: “As this appointment gets closer, if I see that it might work better for you and our schedule, we might possibly call you about whether this day or time is flexible. Would that be okay?”
Enter Notes in the System – It is also important to note whether they tell you any specifics, such as “Any time on Tuesdays is good for me because it’s my day off” or “Sure, you can call me as long as it is a 3 pm or later appointment.” That information needs to be documented so that you follow their requests when deciding if they are a patient that you can possibly ask to move. On the other hand, if a patient says, “No, this is the best day and time for me,” then you need to make note of that as well and avoid calling that patient about rescheduling.
Refer to the Patient’s Scheduling Notes – When it is time to call patients to ask them to move, make sure that you are reviewing the notes and then using that information with your phone call. When calling patients, avoid saying something like “We are calling because someone cancelled last-minute,” which gives them a negative perception. You just want to say you have an opening that you are trying to fill. Try to spin it into an even more positive comment, such as: “I know you prefer mornings, so I thought to offer this appointment to you.” This makes it seem to the patient that you are looking out for them and personally thinking of them, which has a positive customer service effect of seeming like your office is doing the patient a favor—rather than seeming like you are asking the patient to do your office a favor by moving their appointment.
Document Everything – This point is SUPER IMPORTANT! Make sure that the team member who calls patients about rescheduling is keeping detailed notes as to who called, when the call was made, what was offered, and how the message was left. Here’s an example of a good note: “Laura called at 10 am on Monday to offer Mrs. Smith the 10 am opening on Tuesday. I asked Mrs. Smith to call to confirm if she would want to move up, and I stated that if we did not hear back from her, we still look forward to seeing her at 2 pm on Tuesday as scheduled.” If your staff calls a patient about rescheduling but has to leave a message, make sure that the staff clearly explains what will happen if the patient doesn’t want this other appointment. Your message needs to say clearly that you are not moving their appointment without their return call or email. You are leaving them still scheduled at their original day and time and still expect to see them then if they don’t call your office back. By being clear in your message, you are can avoid the kind of chaos in the schedule that can happen if you confuse patients about what is happening when. Make sure patients can understand what new time slot you offering and that they should confirm whether they want the earlier appointment.
Don’t Move It More Than Once – Finally, only attempt to move the appointment once. Do not continually call patients in attempts to move them (unless there is some serious issue, like the office is closed). What’s more, do not move them more than one time if you can help it. Patients typically don’t mind having their appointment moved once if needed, but more than that is annoying, and it looks like your office is not in good control of the schedule. If someone moves their appointment to accommodate your office schedule, then make very clear notes that they did that for you. Make sure everyone knows not to call this patient again to ask them to move, and then when they do arrive for their appointment, make sure someone acknowledges them for moving with a “thank you.”
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