What happens in your private practice over Christmas?
Whilst it might seem that we are rushing into the festive season shamefully too early, now really is the time to plan a successful (and hopefully serene) end to your clinical year.
Don't leave it all to chance, and in particular, don't leave patients to their own devices.
If you know that you have appointments or follow up sessions that need to happen with your patients by the end of the year, now's the time to get them in the diary. Don’t wait for patients ‘to get around to’ booking themselves in.
Whilst it might seem rather paternal to take control, there's nothing more frustrating than having last-minute requests to get those sutures taken out, or someone desperately needing to see you tinker with their medication.
If you are planning any kind of procedure, it’s wise to pre-empt where there may be potential trouble ahead for ‘certain patients’. If, for instance, you suspect that patient ‘x’ might have a bumpy recovery post-foraminal root injection and is likely to need a ‘plan B’ before crimbo eve, when why not get them into clinic a little earlier than perhaps planned? If it’s possible, task it to your med sec to round up those ‘usual suspects’, so they are neatly tucked up in bed by mid-December.
Better still, if you have such a patient with you in clinic, why not (shock horror) actually physically set the date into your diary yourself? If… (Ahem), you’re not entirely familiar with how to do this using your tech, now is the perfect time to learn.
The next step is to decide NOW when your last day is going to be.
Many private hospitals and clinics will encourage you to sling your hook and disappear out from under their feet during the latter part of December, which will enable them to keep the staff demands low.
Rather than ‘seeing how it goes’, set a date NOW.
If you’re going away over Christmas or have to make a pilgrimage in a car with assorted relatives, take the pressure off by NOT trying to cram in one last half-day session on the day you will be traveling.
Give yourself an easier finish by shutting up shop a little bit earlier the day before, so you can clear up all those loose ends (and get your Santa freak on early). The alternative is a journey likely filled with dirty looks from your spouse, as you bitch about answering emails using the dicky Wi-Fi connection on that express train to the airport.
Make sure you’ve looked through of all those blood tests and MRI scan results, so there are no nasty surprises (other than the in-laws’ cooking).
Be savvy with your diary structure for the remainder of this year.
This year I'm making my last clinic day of the year a Wednesday. That means that I will not be seeing any new patients on the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of that week, and the next new patient appointment, will actually be on January 2nd, 2019.
I'm using said Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday specifically for follow up patients only, unless they are truly urgent patients.
xI hear you ask…
“So, what constitutes an urgent patient?”
In my book, it’s a patient with a likely stress fracture, someone who is in severe pain, or a patient with red flag symptoms. What does ‘urgent’ look like in your clinical world?
My secretary and I have previously hashed out between us, what constitutes urgent and what doesn’t. That way, she knows how to ‘govern’ the diary.
In addition, the rule is:
If a new patient must be seen, then the initial appointment has to be paired with a follow-up appointment, which is pre-set in the diary at the time that the initial appointment is made.
This can always be cancelled if I decide that they don't need a follow-up.
If an MRI scan is likely to be needed, then a scan slot is negotiated with the MRI department in advance of the follow-up.
Because my secretary and I are strict about the rules, the number of actual patients who are new patients is minimal. This makes the process manageable in the weeks leading up to the festive season, and it means that I don’t have to turn down patients who are in distress.
It's also a good idea to set expectations for your patients by adding a message to your email signature.
“This Christmas, Dr Cath is going to deepest, darkest Mongolia and she will only be responding to emails upon her return on January 2nd 2019. She encourages you to get some R & R too. If you have an emergency, please ring… etc.”
If you're a surgeon…
Resist the temptation to have your arm bent by a patient to squeeze in one last ‘choperation’ the day before you are due to travel.
There is nothing more tricky than trying to manage a patient at arm’s length, who’s GP declares they’ve gone off their legs and have a spiking temperature, just as you just touch down in Whistler. So pants.
If you feel like your Private Practice needs help figuring out what works best in terms of clinic structure, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your appointment schedule in your private practice, I am here to help you out…
Together we can grow your Private Practice.
email or call us 0207 993 6425