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How to Stay on Schedule with NP Consultations

A question that I frequently get from doctors is the appropriate length of time that the doctor should be in the room for an initial, new-patient consultation. From observing numerous client recordings, for a garden-variety case my answer is ten to twelve minutes. (This, of course, does not apply to more complex cases).

I can also say from personal observation that the doctors I work with fall into one of two distinct camps: they either stay within this time allotment consistently, or they exceed it consistently.

This post pulls from my work with doctors in this area to identify two common and correctable problems that, if addressed, will help to get you in and out faster without compromising the quality of the time that you spend with your visitors:

  • Stop “Winging It”.  A lack of organization to the meeting is often evident in these extended-time meetings; the lack of structure invites the visitor to take control, and when this happens, it can be very difficult to exit from the consultation. The best way to avoid this situation is for the doctor to use a clear, explicit agenda for the meeting (“here is what I am going to do”) and to then follow this outline when conducting the consultation. I provide guidance and scripting for doing this properly in my Doctor Coaching Program.
  • Know When to Delegate. In my experience, the most consistent problem with getting out in a timely manner seems to occur at the end of these meetings, when the doctor concludes with “do you have any questions?” and the visitor has lots of them – usually on topics such as what foods to avoid during treatment and how to brush properly. 

If you want to have better time management in these situations, you need to learn how to politely defer these questions, on the spot,  to the resident expert on these topics – your TC – and therefore keep the questions that you handle limited to your proposed treatment plan. This is not hard to do once you learn how to do it properly, and it can save you a lot of time in your meetings without disrupting the quality or flow of the consultation.

In closing, I would also like to remind you that deferring questions to your TC is more than just a time-saver; it also prevents you from ‘stepping on toes’, so to speak, in terms of intruding into their established job responsibilities. A well-trained TC is every bit as much the expert in their duties as you are in yours. Handing the reins of the meeting over to them when appropriate shows the visitor, as well as your employee, that you recognize their value to the practice and to the patient’s needs.

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