How convenient is it for a patient to call your office and schedule a comprehensive eye exam or a contact lens evaluation? How long do they have to wait for an appointment?
While starting a practice in Pennsylvania, I worked part-time in an ophthalmology practice, a large private healthcare institution and an optometry school clinic to supplement my income. After almost 24 months of part-time work, my private practice grew to require my presence full time. Scheduling patients is always an issue, and getting it right is critical for success. The MD practice I worked with was always booked at least four weeks in advance for routine care. Some practices promoted being booked up months in advance for routine care as a sign of how great the doctors must be. From the patient’s perspective, it’s inconvenient. By design, my practice was never booked more than one to two weeks in advance. The goal I set for my staff was to fully book the next day. If there was a cancellation, they were to contact a patient scheduled the next week and see if they would prefer to come in sooner. If you fill each day’s appointments, it really doesn’t matter how far in advance your appointment schedule is booked. Longer is not necessarily better.
If patients can’t get through the appointment process for routine care efficiently and conveniently, they will find an alternative way to obtain a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses. Remote refraction may or may not be accurate today””but it will get better (though it will never be a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam that may diagnose ocular or systemic disease). Perhaps it’s time to take a critical look at your patient scheduling to see if you can make it more efficient. It may feel good to tell a colleague your office is booked up a month in advance. But the long-term path to success may be the ability to deliver high-quality eyecare in a convenient manner for your patients. It will certainly decrease the chance of them seeking an alternative.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor