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Open early to save money

Article-Open early to save money

Editor's Note:

Elizabeth W. Woodcock
This month, Cosmetic Surgery Times is happy to introduce a new monthly practice management feature, Business Consult, authored by Elizabeth W. Woodcock, M.B.A. F.A.C.M.P.E., C.P.C. Ms. Woodcock is a professional speaker, trainer and author specializing in medical practice management. She has focused on medical practice operations and revenue cycle management for 15 years. Combining innovation and analysis to teach practice operations, Ms. Woodcock has delivered presentations at regional and national conferences to more than 100,000 physicians and managers.

In addition to her popular weekly email newsletter, "Physicians Practice Pearls," she has authored several best-selling practice management manuals and textbooks and published dozens of articles in national healthcare management journals.

Ms. Woodcock is a fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives and a certified professional coder. In addition to a bachelor of arts degree from Duke University, she completed an M.B.A in healthcare management from The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. We welcome her expertise and hands-on practice and business tips to Cosmetic Surgery Times. She can be reached at
or (404) 373-6195.

Cosmetic surgery practices know that starting on time is critical to managing a high volume of patients, but many practices are discovering the rewards of opening earlier in the day. A 6:30 a.m. starting time may seem ridiculous at first glance, but it can bring many benefits to patients, staff and your bottom line.

Space needs Success is great but comes at a price. Many cosmetic surgeons find their offices are filled to capacity sooner than anticipated. When there's nowhere else to put new patients — or the associates to care for them — and moving or expanding seems too expensive, take steps to use your current space more efficiently.

I worked with a practice that was faced with financing a multimillion dollar move from space it had outgrown in a mere three years. Instead, the practice "created" more space in the same facility without spending any more money. How? It started opening at 6:45 a.m. with a dermatologist and physician assistant taking the early shift.

The practice added more than two hours of revenue-producing capacity – the equivalent of 28 percent more space – but didn't have to pay the landlord a dime extra. Because the early morning team took lunch at 11 a.m., the practice also gained additional capacity to handle patients during its traditional noon-to-1 p.m. lunch hour.

Following that initial experiment, the practice began staggering clinical teams' schedules: one team starting at 6:45 a.m., another at 8 a.m. and another at 9 a.m. The teams took staggered lunch hours – 11 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively – and the late team wrapped things up at 6 p.m. Soon, the practice was using its rented space 10 hours a day, instead of the seven hours typical of most dermatology and cosmetic surgery practices. Dividing practice costs across a 10-hour day, instead of a seven-hour day, caused the practice's overhead to fall significantly. As a benefit, staff issues such as, "Who answers the phones at lunch today?" became moot. I'm not suggesting that altering schedules is always the alternative to relocation or expansion, but it's worth considering.

Patient satisfaction Many patients welcome early morning hours, especially in urban markets where avoiding traffic is a major consideration. Working patients may prefer to get cosmetic services or office appointments handled before they report to work.

Yet, many cosmetic surgery practices in congested areas continue asking patients to battle rush-hour traffic for morning appointments that start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Staffing issues Staff often welcome earlier hours, and that's especially true in urban markets where the daily commute can eat up two or more hours a day. You may find many on your staff willing to shift their morning and evening commutes to, say, 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

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