You first need to determine an order of value for appointment types; for my office, we value return patient visits over new patient consultations, and we value new patient consultations over first adjustment visits. Why bring new people into your practice if you can’t see the patients you already have? If you find that you are struggling with return visit capacity (and don’t have an associate to take the overflow), my suggestion is to remove a single first adjustment visit per week and replace it with return patient visits.
A rule that works well for us is that a new patient needs to be able to consult with a doctor within a few days of the initial inquiry. If the wait for a new patient consultation reaches 5 days or more, we have a special outlet to accommodate this situation; each DC has a few hours in their schedule each week for extra administration time that can be repurposed for a new patient consultation if the need arises. This extra administration space is also used for the patients that need a first adjustment visit urgently because their problems are acute in nature (in our practice that is 1 of every 10 presenting patients).
After a new patient consultation, we differentiate those that need to be seen immediately from those that are chronic by employing a three point rating system:
- 0 = no urgency, a chronic situation that is managed. We schedule this person for the next first adjustment slot that works conveniently for them.