Is Running Behind Schedule Part of Your Routine?
By David Doolittle


How often does this happen? Your practice falls behind schedule because of a minor crisis or an appointment that runs long.

So often that it’s become common, right?

Falling behind is often unavoidable, but you can take steps to reduce how often it happens. 

“In my experience, offices that regularly run behind schedule are simply overlooking a few key workflow issues,” says Yvonne Mounkhoune, an expert for the Texas Medical Association’s Practice Consulting service. “These issues are generally related to process and are fairly easy to fix.”

After years of evaluating practices in action, Ms. Mounkhoune knows how common workflow hiccups can be. 

Check out these real-life examples of ways to identify bottlenecks, reduce staff stress, and improve productivity in your practice. 


PROBLEM: Staff are growing weary, and some are talking about working elsewhere. The reason? Their practice schedules patients from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm with no time off for lunch. Instead, staff are forced to eat between patient responsibilities or try to cover for one another. Consequently, they often receive less than 15 minutes of time off each day. 

SOLUTION: Adjust your daily schedule to include an hour (or even a half hour) with no patient appointments. With lunch breaks built into your routine, use this time to conduct a monthly or quarterly catered staff meeting. This eliminates the need to come in early or stay late for meetings and gives everyone some time off each day.


PROBLEM: New patients are taking too long to complete their intake forms, throwing the schedule way behind. Patients are instructed to come in 15 minutes early to fill out the paperwork, but they often show up at the appointment time, causing the schedule to lag by 15 to 30 minutes. 

SOLUTION: Make new patient paperwork available on your website, or email intake forms to patients when they first contact the practice for an appointment. Consider requiring that patients submit the forms prior to scheduling the appointment. This reduces check-in times and enables patients to be seen sooner. 


PROBLEM: A patient calls in with acute symptoms, like fever or inflammation, and is unable to receive a same-day appointment. This causes the patient to seek care elsewhere — such as an urgent care clinic, an emergency department, or a competing practice.

SOLUTION: Keep a few 15-minute slots dedicated to same-day appointments in your schedule. Patients can be seen for the acute complaint, and only that. Then, remind the patient to schedule a follow-up appointment if he or she has more chronic issues or wellness concerns to discuss. 

If you’re looking for more ways to improve the business side of your practice, TMA’s Practice Consulting team is here to help. Our consultants can perform a variety of services to meet your unique needs. Whether you are a solo practitioner in a rural area or a member of a 50-physician group, our staff can show you how to improve your practice. More information can be found on the TMA website.

This story has been updated.

Last Updated On

May 30, 2018

Originally Published On

May 08, 2018

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