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How do you cope with rescheduling people when your boss decides to change something on short notice?

  • I have to deal with this a LOT. I work for a doctor. His schedule changes month to month and sometimes the day before or the day of (depending on the demands he has at the hospital). I try to be as accomadating as possible to the people i have to reschedule, but most of the time i just get cursed over the phone or hung up on. I have talked to my boss and he knows how difficult it is, but most of the time the changes can't be helped. So to most of our patients i'm just the ditz that can't get the schedule straight. does this happen to anyone else (not necessarily in the medical field) and do you take it personally when people get verbally aggressive about it?
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by babs on 24th February 2008
  • Wow, I'm having a hard time coming up with the type of Dr where the patients don't understand that these things can happen. How rude!

    I think it would help if you re-frame this situation from inconvenient schedule changes to a matter of office policy. It is your office policy that the Dr's hospital responsibilities must take precedence over scheduled appointments. Maybe it could also be your policy that people who must be rescheduled are the first to be called when there is a patient cancellation or some other free time in his schedule. Or perhaps you set aside the choicest or least likely to be canceled times for rescheduled appointments. Maybe it could also be office policy that patients who are excessively rude to you will be dropped. Ok, that's probably wishful thinking.

    Whatever you can work out, state it as a policy and then include it with the new patient paperwork. New patients should also be told this when they schedule their first appointment. You could also create a mailing from the Dr to current patients that states that he's aware there's been complaints about short-notice cancellations, that it is the nature of the practice, and this is your policy. Perhaps even ask for feedback. There's two things this letter accomplishes: first it states the policy. And second, it subtly lets people know your boss is aware you've been treated rudely. That alone should stop some of it.

    Also, be sure to use words that take the focus off you. "The Dr has been called to the hospital and we'll need to reschedule your appointment. Our policy is ... I see he has an opening on..." This isn't an unusual thing, it is part of the practice and you need to be very matter of fact about it.

    This just reminded me of something: I've had to schedule some appointments with specialists lately on referral from my Dr. So I get a call from the specialist's office with the date and time of my appointment. And it's phrased such that, without saying it outright, I'm given the message that I'd better just take what they give me. They don't say "I'm calling to schedule" they say "Your appointment is scheduled for." It's subtle but it sets the tone for the conversation.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Jenns on 25th February 2008
  • Wow, Jenns. I have nothing to add to that. What excellent suggestions. I just want to repeat that it's terrible you have to deal with such rudeness. I think most people do understand that doctors' schedules often have to change suddenly. The only thing that I, as a patient, ask is that the staff apologize for the inconvenience and do so in a convincing way.

    When it comes to people being rude to you, you will just have to tough it out. They are not changing and it will probably be just something you have to deal with from time to time. Try not to let it get to you!
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 25th February 2008
  • I don't have to deal with this on the giving-bad-news end much, but as a receiver of these sorts of cancellations, I know it doesn't make me too happy. I try not to be rude, but when I have to revise my whole schedule, I get a little peeved. I never harass the scheduler, but I am certainly not overly gracious. As a juggler of a career and two kids, rescheduling appointments is frustrating. I feel bad for the person who has to call the patients. I know it's not your fault. But, I think people are just tired of POOR CUSTOMER SERVICE from their physicians.

    Doctors want 24 hour notice of cancellation, or they can and will bill us, as their office signage indicates. Yet patients are supposed to be forgiving because the very important doctor cancels on them at the last minute.

    When I think of other appointments with financial planners, accountants, interior decorators, lawyers, etc., no one treats you as poorly as a doctor's office does. I know my accountant never has an emergency appendectomy to perform, but I also know that if he had fallen behind his schedule (perhaps a couple clients with problems bigger than 30 minutes allotted), he would apologize profusely and his secretary would tell me when he's going to be available. A doctor's office frequently has a receptionist who won't tell you when you will be able to go back, and you're supposed to understand that being behind schedule is normal.

    Doctors' schedules are busy, but so are the patients'. I have to allow 2 hours for a 15 minute doctor visit. I believe there are solutions that doctors could implement to reduce patient wait time. Problem is, there's no incentive for doctors to do this. They could book less patients. I'm sure someone could develop automated software to allow patients to check a live appointment schedule to see if they can put off leaving for their appt for an hour. But, doctors have no incentive to do this. They make the same money and more if they overbook. They don't have to provide good customer service. Your insurance company tells you what doctors you CAN see, and the next guy is probably just as bad. . .

    Here's one example of what I've seen. I was at a therapy appt for my son, and there was a woman waiting for an appt with her doctor. The doctor was on a conference call and her appt was a 30 minutes late. He did do something unusual and personally came to the lobby to apologize for the wait and tell her it was going to be a while longer. Still, a conference call took precedence over a patient? Sounds like a real "emergency." I don't know what it was about of course, but I also have important meetings and conference calls at my job. If I kept an engineering client waiting for 30 minutes in the lobby, 1.) my boss would chew my ass, and 2.) the client would likely find another engineer.

    Sorry for my unscientifically verified rant. I know there are some really fab doctors and staff out there, but my personal experience is that no matter how great the doctor is in that 15 minutes of office care, the rest of the experience is pretty lousy.

    I think better interaction with patients for you starts with doctors in general giving a little more respect to patients time and schedule first.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by on 25th February 2008
  • Alison I totally understand where you are coming from and i sympathize with your plight. I work for a cardiologist and most of the time when he reschedules or cancels the day of the appointment, he's usually opening someone's arteries that have just had a near-death experience. Whenever I have to call these people I apologize at LEAST 3 or 4 times. In our office we tell our patients to arrive 15minutes before the actual appointment. This gives us a little wiggle room if someone shows up late. OH! that's another thing.....You mentioned earlier that you expect the doctor to be running late...most of the time we are running late because the patient scheduled before you (or 2-3 patients before you) came waltzing in the office 20min late for a 15min appt and it has just snowballed since then.

    A lawyer or an engineer does not have someone's life in the palm of his hand at any given time. If a patient comes in for a regular check up and ends up having to be admitted to the hospital, yes-that's gonna put us a little behind. And my patients for the rest of the day are quick to let me know that we're running behind. I understand patients have lives too and it's just as hard to reschedule that life, but think about it, would you rather have your doctor at the hospital with you during your time of genuine need....or would you like to see the on-call doc because your doctor who knows you best is still seeing his check-ups?

    We do put our patient's needs first.....the patient's in the most need of the doctor's care. The office I work for is unlike any office I've ever been to (employee or patient). Each doctor has one nurse that does absolutely EVERYTHING!!. That means we schedule the patients, we do referrals, EKG's, labs, paperwork,....everything that any other office has 3-4 people doing. We know our patients best. That way if one of them calls and says they're having problems (and we know that's it's really unusual for this person to complain) we can get that patient evaluated. If that means making someone else wait a few extra minutes, or possibly rescheduling someone that's doing great, then so-be-it.

    It's not that docotr's are arrogant (well there are some out there) it's just that they're spread too thin. There's not enough of them to meet the demand. Untill there is, I'll keep being proffessional and overwhelmingly apologetic.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by babs on 25th February 2008
  • I completely understand that things happen and that is great. I am a sensible person. However, there was one occasion where I was called at work to come into one of my prenatal checkups 2 hours early. I obviously had to check with my manager to get an okay. They okayed it so I went on my way. I did not mind going in early because I would be able to get home early. I got there on time. I had to wait 1 1/2 hours in the waiting room. I was 6 months pregnant with a bladder infection. Of course I am very upset by the time they call me into the office. I had to wait an additional 45 minutes before I was seen. The doctor only saw me for 5 minutes. I was so angry. I know things happen and come up beyond anyone's control. However, if I am called to come in early than I expect to be seen early. Hopefully, you do not treat your patients like that.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Annabelle on 4th March 2008
  • No I don't treat my patients like that. Very rarely do my patients have to wait more than twenty minutes in our waiting room. But even though I bend over backwards getting them free samples and spending endless amounts of time on the phone with their pharmacies and insurance companies, they still are very quick to let me know when I am running behind. Not many people realize that people who work in the medical field have more anxiety problems and stress related illnesses than most other fields. I am pretty sure that I do not want to do this for the rest of my life. That is why there is such a shortage of health proffessionals----because it sucks being on the receiving of hell!!
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by babs on 7th March 2008
  • Hi, I came across this post because I am in dire need and hope someone can offer some suggestions. I have worked for the same dental office for 16 years. My mother also works there (for 24 years) Here is my issue: My boss is a very friendly guy, all of our patients adore him because he really takes the time to chat and explain everything he is doing which eases patient anxiety. However, lately we have been running 30-60 min behind schedule. I am having to call patients asking them to come later so they don't have to wait in waiting room, I'm having to apologize for his tardiness, people are getting made, rescheduling. Naturally, they have things to do!. And naturally "it's all my fault" because I do the scheduling. I have learned over the years to add 10-30 minutes to any appointment he tells me a patient needs. Because I have to make up for his talking time! This is creating not only patients to be frustrated but all of his staff are going crazy! We run a small office with 2 oporatories (sp?), one for him, one for hygienist. We have always prided ourselves on never making patients wait more than 10 minutes. But for some reason over the last few years, and mostly last few months things have gotten worse. My mother and I have a pretty open relationship with him and it's almost like we're married to the guy. I've known him since I was 7, her since she was in her 20's... So we can usually talk to him about most stuff. But this, we just don't know what to do. We don't know how to approach the situation, we don't know what to say. He will sit in a chair in his oporatory and talk to the patient about everything and anything (half the time not even dentistry) before he even picks up a drill. It's incredibly frustrating he has NO concept of time! We are at the point of wanting to look for other employment it's gotten so bad. I'm reaching out to anyone here. I apologize for the long explanation but I needed to truly explain how big of a problem this is. We would be able to see twice the patients and make twice the production if he would just shut his mouth and work.
    Flag as inappropriate Posted by ADH on 24th April 2013

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