6 Essential Tips to Keep Your Pediatric Practice on Schedule

Operating a pediatric practice that runs on time is essential not just to your practice families, it’s important to your staff as well. For parents, it’s frustrating to have to wait extended periods of time to be seen, especially if they are sitting in a waiting room with a sick child. With many parents taking time off from work to bring their child in for an appointment, running 15, 20, or even 60 minutes behind schedule can cause a major inconvenience.

Running behind can also disrupt your employees’ work days, forcing them to adjust and then re-adjust their expectations for time that may have been set aside for paperwork, follow-ups, and other self-driven tasks. Over an extended period of time, it can lead to a loss of morale and employee burnout

Adjusting how time is managed within your practice is not easy. It takes a significant cultural shift to foster an environment where tasks and appointments run on time.

So, how can you create a culture within your practice where time is respected? Here are six tips for fostering an environment where everyone runs on time.

Have an Honest Baseline

It’s essential that you are honest and realistic with yourself. Start by measuring your baseline. Look through your data, appointment by appointment. Perhaps you’ve been scheduling all ADHD rechecks as 20-minute visits, but you occasionally notice patients who need adjustment to their medications. This means encounters often take longer than planned.

Ask yourself, “How long is the average ADHD recheck really taking? How long is my usual well visit? When kids come in with ear infections, how long does their appointment take?”

If standard appointments are running longer than intended, figure out what you can do to keep them closer to their scheduled length. Use the information you find to determine whether your times are inaccurate and unrealistic then make adjustments to your schedule.

After you establish a more accurate baseline, re-measure it on a regular basis.

Leave Wiggle Room in Your Schedule

If you schedule 60 minutes for everything, you leave yourself no wiggle room. And who lives in a world with no wiggle room? Instead, implement a new approach: the 50-minute hour.

When you build in that 10-minute cushion every hour, you have the flexibility to spend more time with a teenager who brings up a mental health concern or a toddler who missed some routine vaccines over the last year.

If you don’t use that time with patients, you can always conduct diagnostic test reviews, return a phone call, or reply to portal messages. Or even take a short break yourself! 

Putting these breaks in your schedule is important because nobody’s day runs perfectly, and kids are unpredictable!

Make Basic Information Available Online

Sometimes, walking patients through the basics of a new medical diagnosis or explaining the results of a test is necessary and takes up extra time during a visit. Many patients ask these questions because they don’t know where to go to find accurate resources on topics relevant to their child’s health.

One solution that can help save time is creating informational resources available 24/7 to patients and their families. By publishing blog posts on relevant pediatric topics, hosting Facebook Live events, or providing handouts with the answers to common questions, you may be able to cut down on the number and length of appointments your patients require.  

Also consider adding a patient education library to your website. Many families can self-serve and find answers quickly and easily, reducing the call volume and follow-up needed for routine questions.

Expect Everyone to be Respectful

Running on time shows respect for everyone. Providers and all team members deserve to be respected, and so do patients and their families.

Traditionally, patients have felt waiting to see a physician is just “something that comes with the territory”. However, that approach is not compassionate towards parents who are often juggling multiple children, drop-offs, work, and other life challenges.

Operating on schedule matters during telehealth visits, too. Just because families are at home doesn’t mean they have an abundance of free time. Many parents are scheduling appointments between work commitments or may have limited devices and internet access. Everybody is doing more with less now.

If you can create a culture where you run on time, it’s valuable in many ways. An efficient practice can simultaneously accomplish high-quality patient care and off-the-charts patient satisfaction scores (no pun intended!). When that happens, positive reviews will follow, and everybody will want to be a patient at your practice.

Listen and Collaborate

Some of the added benefits of running on time are that patients receive more focused care and team morale is higher. You are less frazzled and distracted, and you don’t have to start every encounter by saying, “I apologize for running behind.”

The best way to make sure your practice stays on schedule is by getting buy-ins from everyone on your team. Have a meeting about being on time and give everyone a voice. Encourage people to share their experiences about what it’s like to schedule an appointment with your practice, how long it takes to do a patient intake, and what has to happen to administer a vaccine. Then listen. When someone says, “I want to be on time, but I can’t. Here’s my barrier. Can we come up with a mutually acceptable solution?” problem solve as a team.

Instead of chastising employees who are trying their best, collaborate to keep patients and families at the center of your collective work.

Commit to the Process

Having procedures in place to hold teams accountable is essential, but you have to stick to your policies. There’s no reason to have policies if you don’t follow the rules. And you have to apply them across the board.

Creating this culture is not something you’re not going to accomplish in 30 days. It’s a continual process. You will pivot, re-plan, and shift. You’ll have to continually work and commit to making changes as your practice grows.

Think of it as a “value improvement”. This is valuing people — your team members, patients, and families. Commit to respecting them and running on time as a value improvement process for your practice.

EHRs are the key to streamlining operations, identifying efficiencies, and freeing up valuable staff time. OPs EHR and Revenue Cycle Management solutions offer features designed to help keep your practice’s financial and clinical operations running smoothly, so you can focus on what you do best – taking care of your patients. To learn how Office Practicum can help your pediatric practice operate at its best, contact us today.

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