Physician Practices: Giving Your Physicians Enough Time

I have been in healthcare almost twenty years and we still struggle to give physicians enough time and it is because we are unable to think outside the box.  When I go to the hair salon, I don’t wait more than 5 minutes past my appointment time as a standard.  They recognize that I am paying for their time and my time matters.  However, the difference is that they give themselves enough time for the person in front of them.  Here are some tips for accomplishing this:

  1. Some patients just take longer – Use your fancy EMR and put scheduling notes on the patient – this may be a patient flag. Then make sure your physician uses time based E/M billing to get paid for that longer appointment.  Or make sure they are adding billable events like preventive counseling codes to the visit.
  2. Salons bring in a stylist in training to help their busy stylist – in that case the low-level stylist gets things ready like mixing color, washing hair, etc….  Technology is really helping us to have this same opportunity there are med students who provide scribing via the web for physicians directly into your EMR to reduce the time providers are spending documenting.  We also have the ability to hire a mid-level that is willing to take care of the other things like med refills and patient phone calls to allow the provider to just see the patients in front of them.
  3. Have different schedules, some physicians are just more chatty than others and instead of beating them up – give them more time, and make sure they are billing appropriately. You don’t want a doctor billing a level 1 that spent an hour with the patient.
  4. As you are building this schedule, think through your visits and eliminating some demand. For example, maybe some visits (like UTI and Strep) – could be nurse visits.  The practice still gets some revenue, but it frees up capacity for your providers to have longer appointments.  Web Visits are another great option for things that don’t require you actually putting your hands on the patient.  It allows you to have a shorter visit that you can fit in between a longer visit.
  5. Don’t forget to set expectations with patients, for example that your provider only has time to discuss these 3 things today but we will get you scheduled to discuss the other 5 things next week.
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