Best practices for surgical scheduling

Learn the best practices for surgical scheduling. These guidelines are created based on my experience of managing a high volume of surgeries. Our outsourced surgical scheduling team follows the same steps.


Following is based on my experience of managing a high volume of surgeries.

  1. Use surgery scheduling checklists – a surgery scheduling software works best. Try to eliminate spreadsheets or paper based scheduling.
  2. A large part of the surgical scheduling process can be automated using software. Automate surgery scheduling as much as possible and reduce paper forms wherever possible.
  3. Handle medication reconciliation with utmost care – this would also take care of patient allergies. This would help you organize and optimize your surgery block times.
  4. Collaborate between various teams – Surgical scheduling success depends on collaboration between the patient, the schedulers of the surgery center, your facility, the primary care office, the specialist office, the imaging center, the laboratory facility, the transportation vendor etc.
  5. Communicate proactively with stakeholders – Keep the appropriate surgical care team in the loop at all times. Do not cause alert fatigue by communicating information to team members that do not need to participate in a particular step of the surgical scheduling process. A surgery scheduling software with web, email, SMS, phone, fax communications helps you with that.
  6. Use surgery scheduling templates (order sets) as much as possible. This reduces errors and omissions in the preoperative process. 
  7. Eliminate paper based surgeon preference cards. Use a surgery scheduling software to manage your surgeons’ preference cards in real time. 
  8. Patient experience and engagement are key to reducing surgical no-shows, cancellations and delays. Keep the patient in the loop at all times (communicate with them regularly), remind patients about their referral / tests / clearance / surgery related appointments diligently. This kind of personalized patient experience is quite easy to do with surgical scheduling software.
  9. Ensure financial guarantees are completed well before the surgery data. If the patient is paying, have them put the deposit down. This is a great way to reduce chances of the patient being a no-show. Some surgical software allow you to accept payments via credit cards or ACH. Utilize those.
  10. Automate prior authorizations wherever possible. Some insurance carriers have web based prior authorization portals. Even if they do not, automating personalized faxes and electronic faxing is very easy to do. Use a surgical software that allows you to do this.
  11. Keep all appointments under your control. Missing appointments is where surgical scheduling delays occur. Triage with the patient and the referred facility to get appointments. These can include laboratories, imaging centers, primary/specialty care clinics, transportation vendors etc. I recommend that you use a surgery scheduling software that allows you to make phone calls, send faxes right from the software itself. 
  12. Both you and the patient have a lot of tasks to complete before the surgery due dates. It’s easy for both of you to let things fall through the cracks. Automated reminders for tasks due help you stay on top of the scheduling process. Use a surgical scheduling software system to help you achieve this seamlessly.
  13. Keep the postoperative surgical workflow as a part of your surgical scheduling. Your billers cannot bill for services rendered nor can they maximize surgical services billing unless the post op note is received, surgery global period is handled for each surgery. Use software that helps you, the surgeon and the billers/coders achieve this seamlessly.
  14. Centralize surgical cases and associated appointments, communications, tasks, steps, forms, records all in one place. This is where the patient care continuum breaks down and surgical delays occur.
  15. Follow up on no-shows and cancellations diligently, while keeping patient safety and patient experience as top priorities. Use a surgical scheduling system to do this automatically for you.

AORN also has some guidelines published here.