Monday, March 14, 2016

Pay Attention to Patient Flow in Your Medical Practice

Avoid Patient Bottlenecks
Avoid Patient Bottlenecks in the
Medical Practice
“In an ideal world,” says practice management expert Judy Capko, “the patient-flow process should be predictable.” But that will never happen until the physicians and managers step back and honestly analyze problems that interfere— and come up with workable solutions. Taking the time to look closely at patient flow will pay off for the practice via more predictable days, managers and physicians who have a better handle on the day, and patients who are pleased with the care and service they get from the practice.

But to address the impediments that sabotage your patient flow, you must first identify the bottlenecks caused by human, technical, and design flaws existing in your practice.

Typical bottlenecks include:
  • Multiple appointments occupying a single provider time slot (double- and triple-booking);
  • Patient no-shows and late arrivals;
  • Providers arriving late;
  • Providers taking an inordinate amount of time with patients;
  • Emergencies and urgent walk-ins;
  • Duplicated processes (such as registration/check-in procedures);
  • Efficient and consistent internal systems and processes ignored (or not implemented in the first place);
  • Lost or incomplete paperwork or electronic documentation; and
  • Confusing, inefficient office layout.
Often, physicians and managers feel helpless because they’ve bought in to the idea that improved patient flow can’t be accomplished without a very expensive construction or remodeling project. But there are dozens of ways to improve efficiency without spending a lot of money. It takes some creative—even “out-of-the-box”—thinking, but sometimes simple solutions have a big impact. For example, if patient-prep is taking a long time because nursing assistants are waiting in line at the “vitals” station, buy more equipment and take the pressure off.

In the end, recognize that the “ideal” visit keeps patients moving through the system, but does not leave them feeling so rushed as not to have time to ask questions and understand instructions. It will require education and staff buy-in to change your culture to seek efficiency in all processes.

If you enjoy reading the blog entries in "Solving Problems in the Medical Practice" you may want to check out all the great products at Greenbranch Publishing.