Visual Practice HOW TO
...Using Appointment Templates
What are Schedule Templates?
Scheduling Templates allow you to pre-allocate appointment space for specific patient appointment tasks or procedures. In the most simple terms a template appointment is an appointment with a procedure associated with it, but with no patient booked for that appointment.
There are two practical benefits to using scheduling templates. The first is to make schedules searchable for open space for specific types of appointments. The second is to control the number and type of appointments being booked, so that you are not under or overbooking your physician.
There are some assumptions about scheduling templates before you embark on creating them. The first assumption is that the physician has a structured and predictable schedule. Some physicians have no pattern to the appointments they book to the point where using a scheduling template based system is impractical or inapplicable. Scheduling templates presumes a certain amount of predictability and repeatability in the way a physician schedules his patients. If your physician has no predictability or repeatability in his or her schedule, scheduling templates is not for you.
Before you can enter anything into Visual Practice to begin templating you need to know some things first. You need to know what kinds of appointments the physician books and their duration. The second thing you need to know is what times of the day the physician wishes to see patients for those kinds of appointments. Often times its not enough to just ask the physician him or herself about her schedule - many times they are blissfully unaware of any pattern to their scheduling and it will be up to you to tease it out.
In the example I am going to use, this physician will perform 4 kinds of standard appointments:
Notice that these types of appointments, which from now on I will refer to as procedures, are not directly mapped to OHIP billing. They don't need to be. If anything, these appointments are more representative of the amount of time it takes to perform each appointment.
Looking at the physician's past pattern, I notice he likes to do Physicals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in the morning, no more than 3 per day. I also notice that he likes to do Complaints in the morning, no more than 3 per day. He then leaves some free space throughout the morning morning for walk-ins or emergency vists. Continuing my analysis I also see he likes to do Follow Ups and consultations in the afternoon, and no more than 3 of each of these as well. I notice he likes to alternate between Follow Ups and Consultations.
Having analyzed the problem I will now create the solution in Visual Practice.
Procedures are nothing more than color coded designations for appointment types. You first have to build your list of procedures. To do this go to the Forms button, select Lists... and then select Procedures as shown below:
Use the new button to create a new procedure and enter the Procedure name as shown below:
You can select a procedure color. The procedure color will color the template window and then later a complete appointment left side panel for easy at-a-glance identification of an appointment type. Press Save to complete the process.
Repeat this process until all your procedures are entered, as shown below (use the Search button on the toolbar to look up a procedure).
Now that you've made the procedures, lets go make some Templates!
Templates are nothing more than scheduled collections of procedures. To create templates, simply go to Forms, Lists... and then select Templates, as shown below:
Once the Template dialog is on the screen, press New to create a new Template. Give it a short but meaningful name, and chose the appropriate time interval that meshes evenly with the time interval the provider(s) are using. Then you can insert the procedures at the appropriate times and for the appropriate length of time as shown below:
Create a visit reason - most often this is overwritten with patient specific information about the appointment, but put the most common default value you would type here. Next, go to the procedure tab and select a procedure using the drop down list.
Once you've created all you scheduled templates times, press Save to save the entire template. Don't get confused with this dialog, there are two levels of Save, saving a scheduled procedure and then saving the entire template. You only need to save the entire template once you've inserted all the procedures at the times you want.
In the example a single template has been made just for physicals since it is applied only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I will make a separate template for the other appointments that occur daily.
Templates can be applied to your appointment schedule for an individual day, or, for an entire date span for one or more providers for one or more templates.
To apply a single template to a single day, within the scheduler, press the View button and select Apply Template...
Once you've selected apply template, press the magnifying glass lookup button and you will be presented with a list of templates to choose from:
Select the template you wish to apply, and press the Apply button. In this example, we'll select the "Physical Days" template. The result is shown below:
Applying Templates on Wide Scale
Once you have your templates and scheduling finely tuned, you'll want to apply templates for months at a time against multiple providers at the same time. By using the "Apply Weekly Template..." option, you can do just this.
You can move providers from the 'Available Providers" box to the "Selected Providers" to apply the selection to one or more providers. Secondly, you can specify a date range using "Date From" and "Date To". Thirdly, you can move templates from the "Available Templates" box to the "Selected Templates" box and apply one or more templates for each day of the week. Once you are satisfied, press the "Apply Template" button, and watch the fun begin.
Its REALLY important you get your criteria correct - there is no undo function for this process.
Once the process has applied the templates, a quick week-at-a-glance mode can show you how much work this saves you:
Searching Templated Time
The biggest benefit of using Schedule Templates is the end result when searching for an appointment time for a patient.
By pressing the Search button off the toolbar and clicking on the "Pre-Booking" view option, I can select a procedure from the "Procedure" drop down and press search and get a complete listing of all available appointments for that type of appointment. The dialog is designed to show the results the way one would describe those available times to a patient while on the phone. You can then double-click on the selected time and book it for the patient. This converts the scheduled template into a booked patient appointment and that template slot will no longer be available for booking under a search.