Physicians usually prefer to set-up their scheduling templates in ways that help manage patient flow and their own workload. Allscripts PM Software is readily customizable to accommodate such preferences – for example, by defining what time-slots are available for certain appointment types or by restricting the number of new patients or physicals in a day. The first step in optimizing schedules is always to clarify the physicians’ productivity expectations, goals and rationale. The next step is to consider how best to structure the schedule to maximize utilization while facilitating patient access – especially urgent appointments for primary care and new patients for specialists.
To design the optimal schedule, it is helpful to have an understanding of demand vs. capacity, as well as utilization trends. Given the unpredictable nature of health care, 90% is a reasonable target for most physicians and 85% for mid-level providers, based on our empirical experience working with clients. It is better to adopt an “open access” approach – allowing patients to book any appointment type at any time. Otherwise, physicians risk having more unused slots and managers waste more time micro-managing schedules, especially when there are cancellations on short-notice.
Large medical groups face an extra challenge: how to strike a balance between enabling flexibility for physicians while maintaining an overall system that is efficient, error-proof, and manageable for the lead administrator and central IT support staff. In our consulting view, Allscripts PM has the functionality to work well – as long as the administrator plans the scheduling set-up process properly, following clear organizational standards to simplify and streamline options. This management discipline is crucial if there is a centralized scheduling staff. And if the system is not designed right at the start, it’s twice as hard to redesign later!