• Prioritize Patient Wait Lists for Your Practice Reopening

    Whether you are anticipating or actively implementing your reopening, prioritization of non-urgent appointments and surgeries should be at the top of your checklist. Decisions to reopen more normal ophthalmic practice will be based on local and state governments and public health authorities. Getting a jump start on managing schedules by identifying challenges and determining solutions will ensure a smoother reopening transition.  

    Anticipate restrictions:  
    When officials announce the approval to resume non-urgent appointments and procedures, the plan will likely have restrictions. These may include: 

    • Limitations on schedule capacity to maximize social distancing. 
    • Considerations for high-risk groups and assessment of risk vs. benefit.
    • Additional testing or screening for surgical patients.

    These restrictions will directly impact either the number of patients per day or the surgery block schedule. To effectively schedule your patients and maximize clinic and surgery time, facilitate these steps: 

    1. Create a wait list report of pending appointments and surgeries; include, if possible, patient name, diagnosis, age and risk factors. Develop priority scheduling guidelines for non-urgent appointments. 
    2. Have surgeons evaluate surgery lists and assign scheduling priorities (e.g. low, medium, high).  

    Identify challenges and solutions:
    There will be scheduling challenges that present during reopening. Here are few considerations: 

    • The demand for scheduling the backlog of non-urgent appointments may be more than what your current schedules can accommodate. Reductions in patient load, due to social distancing requirements, will impact this situation as well:  
      • Consider extended hours and weekend schedules.
      • Redesign schedule templates for improved efficiency.
      • Schedule high-risk patients during the first hours of clinic.
      • Request additional OR block time to accommodate elective surgery demand.
    • Patients may decline rescheduling due to fear or health concerns:
      • Provide practice safety guideline to reassure patients. 
      • Confirm with the patient when it would be appropriate to follow-up for rescheduling. 
      • Have a priority list available to continue to fill the schedules.
    • The need for pre-operative assessment or screening prior to office visit could impact schedules: 
      • Consider telemedicine options for virtual check-in phone calls or pre-operative examination, as appropriate.
    • Reopening guidelines may require COVID-19 testing prior to scheduling surgery. This could impact your scheduling timeline: 
      • If testing is required, schedule surgery based on the timing to receive results in order to avoid last-minute rescheduling.  
      • Communicate this protocol to patients during initial scheduling call. 
    • Cancellations may increase due to testing and/or patient illness or exposure: 
      • Be ready to fill all open schedule times immediately from priority wait list.
      • Notify all patients that you will contact them for an earlier appointment time, if available.