This article was originally published on Review of Optometric Business and reprinted with permission. By TSO Board Member Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, and Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD
Many schedule changes in practices have occurred due to the need to accommodate new safety protocols. Here’s a way to make sure your patient care schedule is always full.
Most practices have adjusted their patient schedules at least a couple of times since reopening after the pandemic forced closure.
The first adjustment occurred on initial reopening. The patient schedule was severely reduced (i.e.: fewer patients per unit of time when compared to pre-pandemic schedules) to make sure the office environment was safe for everyone – patients, staff and doctors. Then, as familiarity with the new safety procedures settled in, the patient schedule was adjusted again to see more patients per unit of time while still maintaining the same safe environment for everyone.
With more patient slots open in the schedule, there is a need to fill those slots. One way to do this is to create a staff contest. Every staff member can participate in this contest. Here’s how the contest works. Any time any staff member fills an empty exam slot, they send the staff member in charge of the contest an e-mail identifying the time slot filled (doctor, location and time/date), and the staff member is entered into a raffle for a prize such as a paid half-day off. The more slots each staff member fills, the more chances that staff member has to win.
It’s too easy to get caught in the day-to-day workings of a job in the practice – any job, even the job of doctor – and lose sight of the overall goals of the practice. We often need to refocus everyone on why we are here doing the work we do. This contest focuses all staff on making sure the schedule is filled. It creates an energy around filling the schedule. It creates the perfect environment to reteach staff that we are here to help people, and when the schedule is open, we are not helping people.
Of course, there are many details that need to be clarified to make this work the way it is intended. Some of these details would be:
- How long to run the contest? Should it be weekly or monthly?
- Should it reset automatically or is it a one-and-done?
- Should the contest be run on “made appointments” or “kept appointments”?
- Does the staff member get to choose the half-day off or does the office manager assign the day and time?
- How does the patient’s third-party coverage fit into the contest?
Each of these details can be worked out based on what is best for the practice and the desired end goal of the program.
The bottom line is, you are creating a program which addresses a need.