The topic of scheduling popped up on the internet recently and it was obvious that there is a huge difference of opinion on the Ideal Schedule. I recall many times at the end of another busy work day and, even though I came into the office early and left late, I felt overwhelmed but didn’t feel like I had accomplished anything. Of course, the answer to the Ideal Schedule varies greatly by the type of work setting. An audiologist in an ENT setting is going to have a very different schedule than someone in a private practice and in some settings the professional doesn’t have the ability to control their own schedule.
As a business owner, my approach to scheduling is about productivity and profitability without compromising the quality of patient care. So, we schedule 75 min for new patients that are over the age of 60 so we can interview, evaluate, council and if necessary, demonstrate the benefits of better hearing. Hearing aid fittings are 30 minute orientations with an assistant followed by 30 minutes with a professional. Our rechecks are typically thirty minutes scheduled with a professional but hearing aid cleanings, warranty checks, hearing aid orientations and all hearing aid repairs are handled by our audiology assistants. More than half of state licensure laws allow for the use of assistants. You can find the details state by state at https://www.asha.org/advocacy/state/. This is the best resource I have found on audiology assistants. If you are an audiologist and your state doesn’t allow the use of an assistant, consider hiring a hearing instrument specialist to handle some of the appointments that involve hearing aids. It’s a great partnership. Patients in my practice that have purchased hearing aids are scheduled every 6 months for a 15 min cleaning and those visits are also handled by assistants. The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) hosted focus groups of patients a few years ago and those patients indicated that they preferred having regularly scheduled visits with their hearing professionals as they wanted to protect their investments but they didn’t want to be scheduled any more often than necessary. This is the reason that my practice schedules patients that wear hearing aids every six months.
The bottom line on scheduling is really about the owner’s preference for how often they want to see patients. If you want to achieve work-life balance you need to determine what is important and focus on that. If you are a one person office then obviously it will be necessary to find the time to complete the many tasks involved in running a business as well as the time to see patients. It’s a balancing act and not one that’s always clear cut or easy.
One thing is certain, you have to make enough money to keep your doors open which should be the guiding principle behind your scheduling philosophy. While we all would like to have the Ideal Schedule, sometimes productivity and profitability win out. Effective scheduling is important and if you haven’t put any thought into it, perhaps it’s time to sit down and determine how to balance your desires with the reality of having to make a profit.