5 Important Scheduler Qualities to Improve ASC SchedulingAmbulatory surgery centers depend on their schedulers to perform several important functions. Paul Skowron, Senior Vice President, Operations of Regent Surgical Health, discusses the most important qualities in an ASC patient scheduler and how to optimize the position in the future.
1. Good communication skills. ASC schedulers constantly communicate with patients, physicians, and the physician office staff to coordinate cases. They are also communicating internally with materials managers, OR staff, and ASC leaders to ensure surgeons will have everything necessary for upcoming cases.
"This is truly a position where the person must be a mature communicator with a can-do attitude," says Mr. Skowron. "Internally, schedulers need to communicate with the clinical directors, anesthesiologists and surgical techs responsible for ensuring that preference cards are complete and all the supplies and instruments are available for the case to be scheduled."
The scheduler is also responsible for noticing scheduling and case volume trends and communicating them to ASC administrators.
"If there is a drop off in cases, the scheduler needs to call the surgeon's office to see whether the change is temporary or permanent," says Mr. Skowron. "The scheduler shouldn't just assume these trends are permanent; the surgeon might be on vacation. Once the scheduler knows the situation, it should be communicated to the administrator. It's a never-ending job, which is why the ASC needs someone that enjoys communication."
2. Flexibility and understanding of how the center works. The scheduler should understand how the operating rooms work — whether on block times or another system — and remain flexible after cases are scheduled.
"A seasoned scheduler needs to understand that block times are dynamic," says Mr. Skowron. "The schedulers should be revisiting the block times with every surgeon's office at least quarterly, and when a new surgeon is recruited, that surgeon's office should be told that block times aren't written in stone. When there is a change in volume or scheduling patterns, they need to know that block time will be released at least a week in advance."
If block times are released, schedulers should be aware of how to most efficiently schedule cases in the newly released block. For example, schedule all new cases for one specialty only, such as short pain injections before introducing a new type of specialty into the mix.
3. Positive and proactive attitude. Schedulers are on the front lines of communication with surgeons' offices, and their relationship with the physician office staff could have an impact on whether cases get scheduled at the ASC.
"Schedulers need to leave the ASC sometimes and build a rapport with the physician office schedulers," says Mr. Skowron. "The best schedulers are also really good sales people. It might take thinking outside the box to build this relationship, but it can produce results."
Schedulers should be comfortable visiting with the other office schedulers face-to-face in a professional as well as a casual environment. Mr. Skowron suggests arranging a luncheon between all physician office schedulers and your ASC's scheduler to further strengthen that rapport.
"One of our schedulers did a meet-and-greet with their physician schedulers at Applebee’s," says Mr. Skowron. "It was their most successful meet-and-greet ever."
4. Mature sense of responsibility. ASC owners trust schedulers with a vital part of their business. Schedulers should be trained to identify irregularities or unprofitable cases and notify administrative staff.
"Educate the schedulers as to what cases are unprofitable or which cases are marginal," says Mr. Skowron. "Some cases are profitable and some are money-losers, and the scheduler should identify those cases before placing them on the schedule. This position is really important and it doesn't require someone who is good at the computer, but rather someone who understands the high level of responsibility."
Schedulers should also be familiar with acceptable lead times for cases so they know how to schedule most efficiently. "A moderately complex orthopedics case shouldn't be scheduled two days in advance," says Mr. Skowron. "There are equipment and pre-op issues that need to be managed. However, pain management is typically the kind of case that can be scheduled within a short period of time — two to five days — in advance."
5. Compassion for patients. ASC schedulers should understand the difference between speaking with internal office staff, external office staff and patients. With patients, their tone should be more compassionate than with colleagues.
"The position requires someone who is mature enough to realize who they are speaking to because communication with the physician office is different from communication with a patient, who requires compassion," says Mr. Skowron. "Physician scheduling is a customer satisfaction issue in my mind."
More Articles on Surgery Centers:
7 Revenue Cycle Enhancements for ASCs
200 Orthopedic- & Spine-Driven ASCs to Know
5 Reasons to Conduct Regular ASC Valuations
© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2012. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.
To receive the latest ASC news and feature stories from Becker's ASC Review, sign-up for the free Becker's ASC Review E-weekly by clicking here.
- Senate Introduces Companion Medicare RAC Reform Bill
- Drs. Brian Cole, Anthony Romeo of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Among Top Orthopedic Surgeons Contributing to Orthopedic Literature
- Spinal Elements Upgrades to 40,000-Square-Foot Headquarters
- UnitedHealth, Aetna, Cigna to Sit Out of California's Health Insurance Exchange
- Rhode Island Nixes "Confidential" Prices Between Payors, Providers