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A debated topic, the decision of whether or not to leave a medical office open during lunch is an important one. The challenge, however, is meeting the needs of both patients and staff. There must be a balance when it comes to both patient and employee satisfaction and choosing to close over lunch or not may impact more than you might think.

There are pros and cons to both sides when it comes to staying open during lunch. Employees work very hard and need time to unwind. A lunch hour provides this. It also provides staff with time to build relationships with one another without worry about patients needing to be seen or calls answered. Conversely, many prospective patients are only able to call a doctor’s office during their lunch hour. If you close during this time, you risk losing new patients to a competitor that remains open. This can mean a loss of thousands of dollars for the practice each day and a negative impact on your medical marketing strategy.

Having worked for over a decade inside medical facilities that stayed open during lunch, but did not see patients, we found a way to make this work. We achieved this by way of staggered lunches. Employees would take their breaks in groups so there were always staff members available for patient calls and walk-ins.

Patients understand and respect that employees need breaks. They simply want to have their questions answered or appointments scheduled when they have the time or ability to call. By meeting this need, you are providing a higher level of service to your patients that will be appreciated. The key though is to balance the higher level of service provided to patients with a higher level of care provided to employees. Employees should feel that their needs are being met as well.

If there is concern about how staff will handle the decision, include them in the conversation. Have a meeting and ask your staff for their thoughts on the topic. Their input may provide an optimal solution that benefits both patients and employees, which is always the best scenario.