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How to optimize your physician assistant schedule in your practice

Posted on 12/11/2019 by Elizabeth in category: scheduling software articles

There's a wide range of healthcare professionals besides physicians and nurses. For example, a physician assistant usually has more time than a physician who's rushed to provide patient care, but, they also have different emergency medicine scheduling needs. This is why it's so important to optimize your physician assistant schedule.

Types of Physician Scheduling

There are a few types of shift scheduling philosophies, including:

Traditional: Sometimes referred to as "cramming" or "standardized," with this method, you separate the PA's schedule into consistent blocks. For instance, you make an appointment four times an hour with each last 15 minutes.

Steady Stream: This scheduling method is sometimes referred to as "wave." It has several different approaches. Typically, you schedule a number of patients (maybe six) at the top of the hour.

Modified Wave: Similar to the steady stream method, you schedule patients throughout the hour or at the top of the hour, but you leave the last 15 minutes open for dealing with any issues that occurred or to finish up with patients.

The type of scheduling approach you take will typically depend on what type of healthcare practice you're operating and your own personal preferences. For instance, not every patient will require 45 minutes for their first visit. Some doctors, however, prefer to spend more than 15 minutes with their patients.

Optimizing your Shift Scheduling

Here are some ways you can optimize your physician assistant schedule:

1. Determine the Length of Patient Visits

Because a new PA visit often takes longer than a routine visit, you may only schedule one day each week for seeing patients only and then schedule them in 30 or 45-minute blocks.

2. Delegate a Wide Scope of Tasks

After you provide your PAs with training, you could gradually delegate the following administrative tasks to them:

- Manage incoming messages with the doctors during short intervals between visits
- Manage incoming radiology and lab results
- Look up refill requests — provide dates of last visit, last labs and next visits to help with decision making
- Track labs for cancellations and no-shows
- Coordinate with care managers and arrange urgent appointments
- Inform patients of the results of their labs and next steps as the doctor directs
- Identify opportunities to add visits on tomorrow's schedule and let schedulers know
- Identify pre-op clearance appointments while collecting all data needed
- Identify hospital and ED discharges, contact patients and offer them doctor-directed follow-ups

3. Schedule More Regular, Shorter Hours

It can be difficult for your PAs to juggle their personal life with the demands of being a PA. They frequently spend time analyzing and tracking the revenue and expenditure of the practice once patients leave and after hours, they're required to be on call.

4. Break Periods and Lunches

Some PAs want breaks and a lunch period regularly scheduled while others simply eat when they have a free spot open up.

5. Use Scheduling Software

You can use physician assistant schedule software to keep the schedule organized. Some types of software will even allow patients to schedule their own appointments online. Along with this, scheduling software can automate scheduling tasks like requested time off, shift swaps, shift add-ons and more. Schedules are accessible online remotely and your PAs have access to their schedules and updates in real-time 24/7. 

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