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Managing the Physician's Front Office

A patient's first impression of his or her physician can be made within the first few minutes of entering the medical office.

The appearance of the office and how it functions are direct reflections of the physician and his or her practice.

A patient's first impression of his or her physician can be made within the first few minutes of entering the medical office.

A wide disparity exists in the comfort level of different physicians' offices, caused, in great part, by what we refer to as the "front office operations."

To put it another way, how is your patient treated, other than medically, when he or she visits your office or clinic?

What is a reasonable period of time to keep a patient waiting?

For example a physician who is always running 1-2 hours late.

If the patient arrives for a 5:00 appointment, he might not be taken until 6:30.

No one would tolerate such a delay with a restaurant reservation or when bringing a car in for service.

Why do some physicians believe that this is not a problem?

Why do some offices run continuously late, whereas others are able to run on time?

There is rarely a good excuse for keeping patients waiting an inordinate amount of time.

The following are some suggestions for keeping on schedule.

A routine exam for one patient should be roughly the same amount of time as for the next patient, taking into consideration the occasional emergency and that some patients ask more questions than others.

Give different appointment times to each patient and schedule them in sequence.

Consider the following:

- Everyone in the medical office (physicians, nurses, and office staff) should be aware of the clock.

- Offices should follow their appointment books.

If a 5:30 appointment shows up a half hour early, and before the 5:15 appointment, then the 5:15 appointment should not be bumped in favor of the early arrival.

The whole purpose of an appointment calendar is the orderly flow of patients.

- Don't cluster appointments.

Don't tell 5 patients to come at 5:00 and then take them in order of arrival.

Give different appointment times to each patient and schedule them in sequence.

- Let patients know that you expect them to be on time for their appointments.

This can be done in a friendly, but firm manner.

If a 5:00 appointment comes in at 5:30, the receptionist should say pleasantly, "Mr. Smith, we were expecting you at 5:00."

Patients will get the message.

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