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Fam Pract Manag. 1998;5(1):72

If you want to make your practice better for your patients, start by scrutinizing your scheduling practices. Patients want to know that you value their time as much as your own. Be realistic when scheduling the day's appointments. Make allowances for unexpected phone calls, consultations, etc. When you are running late, keep patients informed. Consider using one or more of the following strategies:

  • If patients cannot be taken into an exam room within minutes of their scheduled appointment, have the receptionist tell them when they arrive and give them an anticipated time. If you're running a half-hour late, they might be able to use the time to run another errand, or they might need to make arrangements at work or home. The receptionist should offer the use of a telephone in such instances. Remember that an explanation before a delay carries much more weight than an apology after the fact.

  • If there is a serious delay, the receptionist should call to warn the patient before he or she leaves home. You should have work and home numbers on file for such instances. Routine matters might be rescheduled, and patients who are not feeling well can stay at home a little longer, rather than waiting uncomfortably in your office.

  • If your practice has a significant number of walk-ins, consider investing in beepers. If the wait is likely to be lengthy, offer patients the use of a beeper so they can attend to other matters and return upon being paged.

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Copyright © 1998 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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