Harnessing the Power of Block Scheduling
Is Your Patient Mix Off Balance? Get It Back on Sure Footing in No Time!
Does it feel like all you do is fittings and paperwork? Do you wonder why some weeks there are no hearing aid evaluations on the schedule? If your team is always scrambling to fit in priority activities, revenue-generating appointments, or — let’s face it — lunch, the solution could be as simple as a block schedule.
What Is Block Scheduling?
With this type of schedule, each day is divided up into blocks, with each block reserved for a specific type of activity. With your practice’s goals as a compass, you organize the blocks to prioritize revenue-generating activities and other practice priorities.
For example, if your provider has three 90-minute periods in their weekly schedule blocked out for hearing aid evaluations (HAEs), their schedule won’t get bogged down in free clean and checks, follow-ups, and fittings.
What Are the Benefits of Block Scheduling?
It’s all too easy to fill up your schedule reactively: Calls come in, and you try to fill your open slots as quickly as possible. With blocks, you fill up your schedule intentionally, with the goal being practice-wide efficiency.
Furthermore, with blocks, there’s no need to switch from one type of task to another in short order. You can maintain focus through an hour of fittings, rather than lose focus through a 30-minute fitting, then 30 minutes of outbound calling, then another 30-minute fitting.
Here are just some of the benefits of block schedules:
- Improved practice organization and patient flow
- Increased revenue through prioritizing revenue-generating activities (for example, private pay vs. third-party payer)
- Team-wide accountability to practice priorities
- Ability to proactively identify and correct gaps in scheduling
- Blocks tailored to your unique situation (for example, scheduling outbound-call blocks for the part of the day that is usually the most quiet)
What Are the Challenges of Block Scheduling?
Put simply, it’s highly adaptable. How is that a problem? It might take time to find the best mix for your specific practice goals and processes. If it’s not working, move the blocks around. Try new things. It just needs fine-tuning.
The most common challenge is feeling like the schedule is too rigid. Suppose a block starts at 9:00 a.m., but a new patient wants to schedule a 9:15 a.m. HAE. Do you tell the patient they can’t be scheduled in that block? No. Here’s the change in perspective — you shift the HAE block 15 minutes. After it gets shifted, you can decide how to handle the block after it: Do you shift that block 15 minutes as well, shorten that block by 15 minutes, or move that block elsewhere? There should be flexibility in the schedule — the key is that the HAE shouldn’t get scheduled over or ignored entirely.
How Do I Set Up a Block Schedule?
The key to a block schedule is determining how many hearing aid evaluations you need to meet your monthly revenue goal. Everything else falls into place according to practice priorities.
How Many HAEs Do I Need?
Suppose your monthly revenue goal is $62,500 and your budgeted average selling price (ASP) is $2,650. The number of hearing aids needed each month to meet that goal is $62,500/$2,650 = 24 hearing aids sold (after rounding)
Your provider, however, has a conversion rate of 1.4, so you divide the number of hearing aids needed by 1.4 to determine the number of HAEs needed each month: 24/1.4 = 17 HAEs each month (after rounding)
The block schedule requires that we know the HAEs we need each week, so: 17/4 = 5 HAEs each week (after rounding)
You would need to include five 90-minute HAE blocks each week to meet your revenue goals.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Based on your knowledge of your practice, you’ll assign these HAE blocks to maximize efficiency. Do your patients tend to prefer follow-ups and fittings on Monday? Dedicate the day to those types of appointments, and spread the five HAEs among Tuesday through Friday.
It’s also good practice to block out the same number of fitting and follow-up appointments as you have HAE appointments. Your HAE patients from this week may not need those blocks, but the HAE patients from last week might.
My HAEs Are Scheduled — Now What?
Everything else should be plugged in based on your practice’s priorities. Do you believe strongly in physician-referral marketing? Go for it! Focusing on outbound calling lately? Make it happen! This is where you can truly be intentional about putting your time where your needs are. Below is an example of what a practice —our made-up team at ABC Audiology — might do with a block schedule.
A Block Schedule in Action
Kelly Hansen, Au.D., from Trinity Hearing & Balance in New Port Richey, Florida, found block scheduling to be tremendously helpful. Let’s look at her success story.
Challenges they faced prior to block scheduling
According to Dr. Hansen, “Prior to block scheduling, my schedule would be so full of dizzy patients that there wasn’t any room to see hearing aid opportunities.” She felt like the dizziness patients were taking over the practice!
Implementation of Block Scheduling
Audigy’s Jody Tompkins, an operations manager, worked with Dr. Hansen to determine the right number of hearing aid and dizziness appointments she’d need to hit her budget targets. “Audigy and Jody have a magical formula they use to determine this!” says Dr. Hansen. “They offered suggestions and listened to my needs regarding the different appointments we would need to block.” Audigy set it up in the practice’s OMS, and they’ve used it faithfully (and successfully) since then.
Everyone in the Trinity Hearing & Balance community has seen the benefits of block scheduling.
The staff. Her team was not open to the idea initially, but now they’re on board. She enters the block schedule into the OMS every six months, and according to Dr. Hansen, “it has been so successful that when the six months are getting close to being up and the block schedule isn’t re-inputted, employees are asking to put it back in.” Both of her audiologists enjoy the good mix of HAEs and balance patients. In her words, “no one is stuck seeing dizzy patients all day.”
The patients. Now all her patients are successfully getting scheduled. Before, when balance patients called first, they got the earliest available spot, leaving no room for HAE patients. But with block scheduling, HAE patients can rest assured there are built-in spots just for their needs.
Dr. Hansen. Dr. Hansen is, of course, thrilled. “We now have a great mix of vestibular patients and hearing aid patients,” she says. In fact, revenue has increased because they can schedule more HAEs. Plus, they’ve become nimble about navigating the schedule. “If a block is not filled, we don’t just stick a dizzy patient in it — we look for ways to put an opportunity in it.”
Want to learn more about block scheduling? Our operations managers can leverage your team’s strengths to maximize your practice’s efficiency — reach out to Audigy to learn more today!