4 Tips for Increasing Orthopedic Practice Profits Through SchedulingWritten by Laura Miller | January 21, 2011
Having an efficient scheduler can improve productivity and patient satisfaction at orthopedic and spine practices and surgery centers. Here are four tips about efficiency in scheduling.
1. Make scheduling with practice seamless. Work closely with surgeons, paying special attention to their weekly schedules, to maximize efficiencies and the bottom line. This requires convincing surgeons and their practice staff to embrace the ASC's vertical scheduling and schedule compression model. "It takes a great deal of time and energy invested up front to understand each surgeon's individual needs and the give-and-take dialog to reach compromise," Susan Kizirian, MBA, BSN, RN, chief operating office of ASCOA says. "But once this is achieved, it is a win-win for the surgeon and the ASC." Creating a productive schedule that takes into account both the needs of both surgeons and the ASC is like putting together "a multi-layered puzzle," she says. It involves dealing with moving targets and implementing continuous improvement.
2. Coordinate confirmations with scheduling systems. When a patient does listen to the appointment reminder and confirms the appointment, the practice should be able to immediately populate their schedule with that appointment confirmation. Physicians and practice employees should use a method that can immediately post results to their calendar and identify the gaps in the appointment schedule and fill them quickly. "When an appointment is set out, Patient Prompt populates the scheduling system in real time," says Claude Waknine, director of business development at Patient Prompt. "The technology connects with the existing scheduling system automatically."
3. Compress the schedule by closing down for a day. According to Jeff Leland, CEO of Blue Chip Surgical Center Partners, an ASC with holes in its schedule is wasting a great deal of money on staff and other operational expenses. One solution is to "compress" the schedule by closing down operations for a day. Luke Lambert, CEO of ASCOA, says surgical schedule compression is the most important step a center can take to save money. "Whether you do 15 cases a day or 40 cases a day at the center, by and large it's going to cost you the same amount to staff the center," he said. "So obviously if you can have a higher throughput, in the tough reimbursement environment we're in, having a lot of cases going through your day is really essential be profitable."
Sandy Berreth says ASC administrators should be clear with staff during hiring that no cases means no work. It makes more sense to keep your ASC open three days a week and fill those days with cases than to staff your ASC every day and pay people to stand around, she says.
4. Offer block scheduling. Julie Martin, assistant vice president for surgical services for all three HealthOne campuses, says ASCs should work to offer block scheduling so physicians can stack their cases in a more efficient manner. This is directly tied to labor costs and is one the most predictable cost indicators.
"When a new surgeon comes on, they request block time. If it's available, we allow him to have that time, and he has it going forward," Ms. Martin says. "For example, by doing block scheduling, a physician's office can know that every Monday, they have block time at a certain time at one of our surgery centers. Physicians know then that we don't put anybody else on those block times." Ms. Martin adds that physicians are cognizant of the expectation they utilize a majority of their assigned block time, which is at approximately 75 percent.
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