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What is same-day scheduling?

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In an ideal world, patients schedule appointments ahead of time, all the time, so independent physicians know exactly how their day is going to proceed, every day. In reality, things happen. Patients cancel or don’t show up. Patients wake up feeling ill and need to be seen right away. The independent physician’s day may or may not go as planned. Blocking out available time for same-day scheduling can help the practice manage the unexpected, to some extent.

When an independent practice allots certain times throughout the day for same-day scheduling, it helps both the patient and the practice. Patients know they can call if they wake up feeling ill, for example, and schedule an appointment to see their provider that same day instead of having to wait until an appointment is available.

There is a fine balance, however, between leaving open slots for those same-day appointments and scheduling efficiently. Patients do not appreciate long wait times, either in the office on the day of the visit or when scheduling the appointment itself. Leaving a slot or two open in the schedule to accommodate those patients who need an appointment on the same day may actually help the flow of already booked appointments.

The independent practice can also fill no-show appointments with same-day appointments. No-shows are expensive for a provider, costing group practices more than $100 billion each year. No-show rates for primary care can be as high as 18%, particularly if the practice sees patients with chronic conditions or with Medicaid insurance. Allowing patients to schedule same-day appointments can help fill those openings and help the practice recoup some of its lost revenue.

A same-day appointment can also provide the patient with more consistent care at a lower cost. Those patients who are not able to schedule an appointment for an illness or injury on the same day that they feel the need to see their independent physician may resort to visiting an emergency room, urgent care, or walk-in clinic. Enabling those patients who need more immediate care to schedule same-day appointments benefits both patient and independent physician in these cases.