The New Patient Phenomenon

Scheduling the New Patient
When scheduling a new patient, it is very important that you are conscientious to do the following three things in order to insure the new patient will not have to wait and that their first visit will be a successful one.
1. Select an appropriate time, allowing the doctor enough time to consult with, examine and X-ray the new patient.
2. Make sure the appointment time you communicate to the new patient is fifteen minutes earlier than the time actually scheduled in your appointment book.
3. Make sure you have properly recorded the new patient appointment in the book.

Allow Enough Time for the Doctor
Iorder to provide the doctor with adequate time to see a new patient, typically you will need to block out forty-five minutes to an hour.  However, this may vary depending on the individual doctor and whether or not your clinic has an examination doctor or a certified X-ray technician on staff.
The best way to insure that you have forty-five minutes to one-hour blocks of time available to see potential new patients is to “cluster book.”  The cluster booking technique is briefly described below for the purpose of understanding how to schedule a new patient.

Cluster Booking
Cluster booking is the primary method of patient control and provides increased efficiency in time management. It allows the doctor to keep his mind in a treatment, examination, or paperwork mode for a segment of time. It is extremely exhausting, both mentally and physically, for the doctor to do paperwork, treat a patient, examine a patient, sit down, treat a patient, etc. 
The cluster booking technique involves establishing four treatment modes, or clusters, per day in which you schedule patients for adjustments and therapy.  Each treatment mode has a start time, from which you begin scheduling patients continuously towards the next cluster,  lunch or closing time.  There are two morning clusters and two afternoon clusters.
By scheduling treatment in clusters, there will naturally be holes or blocks of time between the treatment modes.  These holes are used to schedule new patients and other special services, such as re-exams, report of findings, etc.  This way the doctor is able to devote the necessary time to the new patient, without making other patients wait.
Note:  If the patient is acute and needs emergency relief, work them into your schedule, even if you do not have enough time available for a new patient.  You can do a brief examination and give the patient relief care, scheduling the complete chiropractic, orthopedic, and neurological exam for the following day.  Remember, new patients are the lifeblood of your practice; you must be available when they need you.

The Appointment Time Communicated to the Patient Should Be 15 Minutes Earlier than the Actual Appointment Time
By having the patient come fifteen minutes early, you allow time for them to fill out the necessary paperwork, without throwing the doctor off schedule.  If the new patient arrives at the actual scheduled time, the doctor has to wait while the patient fills out the necessary forms and, consequently, is fifteen minutes behind schedule when other patients begin to arrive.

Make Sure You Properly Record Appointment in the Book
When scheduling a new patient appointment in your book, make sure you write NP in the services column to the left of their name.  (Personally, I like to color code my appointment book).  You must also be conscientious to write their phone number under their name so that you can call to remind them of their appointment, or call them to reschedule if they miss the appointment
Be sure to block out the necessary time below their name, so someone else cannot be scheduled in that time and cut the new patient appointment time in half.
Finally, make sure that you highlight the new patient appointment in yellow, so that it stands out in your appointment book.  This will help you to remember to do the necessary preparation prior to the new patient appointment.

New Patient Flow
Now that the patient has scheduled his first appointment, proper procedures must be followed.  There are three important procedures that must be performed in order to deliver the best quality care to each patient.  These procedures are comprised of three steps.

  1. Consultation and preliminary examination;
  2. Orthopedic, neurological, chiropractic and physical examinations, and X-rays, if indicated;
  3. Report-of-Findings and treatment.

The consultation and preliminary examination are used to determine if a new patient is a chiropractic candidate.  The complete orthopedic, neurological, chiropractic and physical examinations are administered to provide the doctor with the necessary findings for diagnosis, prognosis and a recommended plan of treatment.  X-rays usually play an important role in the diagnosis of spinal problems, and are generally necessary to rule out conditions that would require the patient to be referred to another specialist.  However, some new patients may be transferring care from another physician who might be able to provide you with recent X-rays.  Finally, the Report-of-Findings allows the doctor to explain the documented findings and treatment plan to the new patient.
Once again, these procedures can be performed over one or two visits, depending upon individual circumstances; however, all three steps must be covered thoroughly.  It is also to be noted, a patient may require emergency (relief) care on the first visit.  In the new world of compliance, we must document what we do.  It begins with the first visit of any new patient. TAC

Dr. Eric Kaplan is the CEO of MBA, Inc., one of the nation’s largest multi-specialty consulting companies.  Dr. Kaplan ran and operated five  of his own clinics, seeing over 1000 patient visits per week.  He is the best-selling author of Dr. Kaplan’s Lifestyles of the Fit and Famous, endorsed by Donald Trump, Norman Vincent Peale and Mark Victor Hansen.  He was a recent commencement speaker at New York Chiropractic College and regularly speaks throughout the country.  For more information about Dr. Kaplan or MBA, call 561-626-3004.

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