Free-up Appointment Slots

Steps to Transition Between Pre-scheduled and Same-day Appointments

Get the process started

  • Work with your project team to agree on a set date to stop pre-scheduling visits.
  • Have scheduling staff start offering same-day appointments to all patients who call to schedule a visit.
  • During the transition period, you will see same-day scheduled patients as well as patients who had already been pre-scheduled. It might take two to three months to work down your backlog.

Standardize appointments

Consider standardizing appointment lengths. Standard appointment lengths make scheduling simpler for staff and allows greater flexibility for patients, who can then pick any appointment slots.

Educate patients

  • Educate patients about your practice's new system. Let them know that they can call and make an appointment for the same day when they are ready to see the doctor. Most will probably welcome this change.
  • If a patient calls and is not ready to make an appointment for that same day, go ahead and pre-schedule the appointment. Telling patients to call back on the day they want an appointment will only increase your phone traffic. Instead, inform the patient about the practice's new system.

Prepare for capacity challenges

  • Open access won't work if the supply and demand of appointments are mismatched. Prepare by measuring demand, supply, panel size variation, and current delays before putting the system into practice.
  • Develop a contingency plan to address occasional mismatches, such as those caused by illness, vacations, or seasonal influences.

What you will need

  • A set date to stop pre-scheduling appointments
  • An agreement on defined appointment length/types
  • Staff cooperation to educate patients about new practice system
  • A contingency plan to deal with possible mismatches in demand and availability of appointments

Difficulty: Complex; requires multiple steps

Outcome: Open-access scheduling

Time to Complete: Two to three months