In the 10 years our team has been helping medical practices communicate more effectively with their patients, we’ve come across a variety of patient appointment scheduling processes.
Some practices use a centralized scheduling process, in which all scheduling requests are handled by a single dedicated scheduler or a group of schedulers. Others choose to implement a decentralized scheduling structure, in which scheduling matters are managed by certain staff or team members who have exclusive domain knowledge regarding providers’ and/or other practice locations’ schedules that other staff or team members don’t. And many practices even employ a combination of the two scheduling processes.
With a decade of observation of various scheduling frameworks, we’ve had some time to identify the various pros and cons of each approach and the different ways these scheduling structures can serve a special and important role for a medical practice.
Consider the following top advantages and disadvantages of each scheduling process or structure and top tips for a more efficient schedule, regardless of which process your organization employs.
Many groups have a centralized scheduling structure in place to improve performance. But not all centralized scheduling setups look the same, as each practice is different, and, thus, has different scheduling needs.
We’ve seen some practices that have only a single dedicated person working phones to schedule, reschedule, field phones calls for medical staff, and we’ve seen others that have a call center manned by 60+ people.
Regardless of scheduling staff capacity, however, the chief benefits of centralized scheduling that we’ve observed include:
Though a centralized scheduling system certainly has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks, three top ones being:
While there’s been a trending move these past several years toward centralized patient scheduling, some practices have found it more advantageous to employ a decentralized scheduling process.
The most common type of organization we see employing a decentralized scheduling system is a multi-location practice whose providers don’t practice at every location, but instead focus their attention on a few, select locations.
The primary advantages of decentralized scheduling that we’ve observed include:
And of course, just as there are advantages to a decentralized scheduling structure, there are also disadvantages.
Some of the most prominent disadvantages we’ve seen include:
As you can see, both centralized and decentralized scheduling have their benefits and shortcomings. There is no one-size-fits-all scheduling structure—when choosing a scheduling process for your practice, there are many factors to consider.
Whether you employ a strictly centralized or decentralized scheduling process—or a combination of the two—here are six scheduling practices we recommend to yield a more streamlined and efficient scheduling process:
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