Overbooking and Double Booking: What's Acceptable?

posted by Kathy Everitt on Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Overbooking and double booking patients

A patient from an extended care facility was dropped off at her specialist’s office for a 10:00 appointment, being left on a gurney in the waiting room with other patients. At 10:45, a nurse who happened to pass the waiting area noticed the patient and asked the front desk staff what was going on. 

The nurse was advised that the patient, although having a scheduled appointment, had been doubled booked. Thus, she was still waiting to be seen by her primary provider. 

The nurse who discovered the patient was not happy with this situation and made arrangements for the patient to be seen immediately. The patient was then escorted to an exam room, made comfortable and apologized to for the extended wait.

Not only could this situation have been humiliating for the patient, but it also could have put them at risk had their condition been critical. Additionally, depending on the reason for the visit, extended wait times could put other patients at risk by exposing them to the patient’s illness.

With such an emphasis on patient safety and satisfaction you might wonder how this situation could happen. The answer may lie in understanding overbooking and double booking.

Overbooking vs Double Booking

While many staff members believe overbooking and double booking can lessen the impact of no-shows, there is a difference between these methods. 

Overbooking does not mean double booking. Overbooking can be shortening the time between visits or adding more visits during particular times of the day.

On the other hand, double booking is giving two patients the same time slot for an appointment. Double booking can be used effectively in certain circumstances such as when a patient calls with an acute illness or injury, or when one patient can be scheduled around another patient who is undergoing a procedure. However, this should not be a usual occurrence.

Rather than overbooking or double booking, a better way to handle this situation is to evaluate the trend of your no-shows. What are the excuses you are hearing? When are no-shows most likely to occur? What are the demographics of patients who are typical no-shows? Do they use public transportation or are they reliant on family members? 

Once you are armed with this information, you can strategize how to effectively reduce no-show cancellations and lessen the need for overbooking or double booking.

A Patient Focused Organization

Another consideration that overbooking and double booking scenarios can bring to light is the culture of your practice. Spending some time determining whether or not your practice is patient-focused could provide valuable insights for many areas of your practice – including overbooking and double booking. 

Blog Author

Kathy Everitt

Senior Risk Management Consultant

Kathy brings with her more than 30 years of professional liabil...

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