Winning More Patients: It’s Time To Be On-Time

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

doctor holding up a clockEditor’s Note: In this guest post, Neil H. Baum, MD, presents doctor-to-doctor ideas founded in his 30-plus years of real-world experience as a practicing urologist in New Orleans.

Want more patients? How about more patients without a big-budget investment? Can you attract more patients who won’t stress your staff? Want more patients who you can see in the allotted time of your clinic?

You can do this easily by merely making a commitment to being an on-time physician. This blog will provide you with practical suggestions to make you an on-time doctor that will help generate more patients for your successful practice.

Perhaps the most common complaint that patients have is the wait to obtain an appointment (access). And once they have the appointment, they complain of the inordinately long wait to see the doctor.

It's time to be on-time...

We are soon going to be judged and even compensated by patient satisfaction. Hospitals and payers are going to survey our patients. Physician compensation will be adjusted by the satisfaction patients have when they interact with our practices.

Can you imagine the response of a patient who had to wait:

  • six weeks to obtain an appointment,
  • an hour in the reception area just to see the PA or medical assistant,
  • another hour to see the doctor who spends less than five minutes with the patient,
  • two more weeks to obtain lab work and an imaging study,
  • another two weeks to review the results with the patient, and, finally
  • several more weeks to obtain insurance authorization for medication, or for a medically necessary procedure?

I can assure you that the patient satisfaction scores will plummet and so will your compensation.

A doctor can develop an on-time philosophy by making a commitment to arrive at the office 15-20 minutes before seeing patients at 9 AM. This is not the time to check the emails or look at the stock market. This is the time to have a brief meeting with the staff. Ensure that all the reports are in the EMR, that patients with special needs are taken care of, and any urgent or emergency calls are made before seeing patients.

The staff knows that the doctor is on time and will be putting patients in the room before 9 AM so that the doctor and patients begin the day on time.

Next, I suggest that every practice reserve a 15-20-minute open slot every morning and every afternoon. These are for any urgencies, emergencies or even new patients that must be seen on the same day. This slot cannot be given to any other patient but is held in reserve for those last minute situations that are common in most practices.

Create "sacred time"...

I have used this policy of creating “sacred time” for many years and there is seldom a day that goes by that the two slots aren’t filled. But the best impact is that patients with appointments at designated times are not delayed because someone has been told, “Just come on in and we will work you into the schedule.”

In the next article, I will cover how to manage the chronically late patient. Until then, make every effort to be on time. You can build a reputation for being an on-time doctor and patients will select your practice because you have respected their time and have demonstrated that their time is just as valuable as yours.

Bottom Line: There is very little that any physician can do to change healthcare policy or can do to remove and replace the Affordable Care Act. But each of us can gain better control of our time and make every effort to be an on-time physician. We are running out of excuses.


Dr. Baum is a practicing physician in New Orleans and the author of The Complete Business Guide to a Successful Medical Practice (Springer, 2015). Neil Baum, MD, is a regular contributor to the Healthcare Success Marketing Library.

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