Poor patient flow creates bottlenecks that can significantly decrease the quality of care your practice delivers. An improved and streamlined patient flow results in positive health outcomes for your patients and ensures your services are delivered effectively and efficiently.
Nevertheless, a practice might not have the necessary resources to invest in proper patient flow management practices. In such a case, this article outlines some cost effective & workable tips to enhance patient flow to produce happy patients and maximize revenues.
1. Simplify accessibility
This might seem like an obvious one, but quick wins such as ensuring that patients can easily and efficiently access your practice is critical. Patient flow can suffer when parking, location, and accessibility become instruments of frustration. If parking spots are difficult to come by, patients may end up being late to their appointments. More so, if a patient ends up not showing up at all due to their frustration with parking or other accessibility issues, it ultimately affects the practice’s revenue.
Ensure that the signs in the office building, lobby, and parking lot are clear and easy to understand, so patients can find the right building, office, and floor. If you’re opening a new location, opt for an office with ample space to allow disabled, injured, and/or elderly patients to be dropped off at the entrance.
2. Integrate all departments
In general, a practice’s weakest link determines how strong it is. If one department isn’t functioning as it’s supposed to, the rest of the practice may be affected.
Depending on the size of your practice or hospital, bottlenecks can start in other departments and work their way down to you. All departments, from reception to billing to providers, should be aligned with similar goals. Every employee should be able to focus on offering the patient the best level of care, rather than having to fix operational bottlenecks.
3. Develop a culture of accountability
Each staff member should take responsibility when it comes to the facility’s performance (good and bad) while dedicating themselves to making a positive change. Practice leaders should communicate expectations/objectives and hold each staff member to a high standard. Aside from encouraging staff and providers to participate in the strategic process, leadership needs to be a part of the solution as well.
For instance, an advanced practice provider (APP) and a physician can come up with a program that allows the APP to take on as much responsibility as their license allows. This in turn might reduce some of the stress and workload from the physician and even contribute to a more collaborative and positive care environment.
4. Train staff on time management
From the receptionist to nurses to physicians, everyone at your practice needs to be trained when it comes to effective time management methods. In a medical practice, all staff members need to deal with administrative work and multiple patients, amidst various other tasks. Provide your staff with the tools they need to succeed in a tough, fast-paced environment.
5. Invest in mobile technology
Incorporate tablets into the patient care experience. Instead of having your patients fill out the paperwork at the reception desk upon arrival, give them a tablet to use for their check-in process. Most of the patient population will probably be more adept at using a tablet than using a pen and paper, but analogue methods should be kept as a back-up for those who are less comfortable with technology. Physicians and nurses can also be equipped with tablets for taking notes, reviewing medical histories, and other tasks.
6. Communicate with your patients
If patients are left alone in the waiting room for a prolonged period, they will become restless and frustrated. Update your receptionist when it comes to changes in your schedule so he or she can relay the information to patients. If your schedule becomes backed up early in that day, inform your afternoon patients by phone call or text that their appointment may be delayed. If a patient can leave for their appointment 15 minutes later if they've been informed of a delay, they will be much less likely to grow frustrated. This will also help with patient retention.
7. Identify and remove bottlenecks
Generally, medical supplies need to be accessible to doctors and other staff members. Consider the storage of supplies, how frequently they’re replenished, and their accessibility to staff members. You may choose to keep the supplies in a portable cart or storage area, and keep all exam rooms fully stocked periodically.
8. Look into different staffing models
Many factors, such as budget and the facility’s geographic location, can make it challenging to establish how best to staff your facility. Appealing to physicians seems to be a greater challenge when it comes to rural settings. Nevertheless, when advanced practice providers are experienced in performing most of the same methods as physicians, e.g., central lines and intubations, they may support physicians and ultimately help guarantee patients get timely care.
Similarly, the addition of medical scribes greatly enhances the amount of contact time that physicians get with their patients. Since less time is spent on administrative tasks and record-keeping, physicians may decrease wait times and prioritize patients, which ultimately drives both patient experience and efficiency scores.
9. Monitor constantly
According to the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, you’ll have to set up a steady tracking system to enhance patient flow. That means you should be monitoring and tracking everything, including tests conducted, stage of the patient flow process, physicians attended, treatments offered, and diagnostic grouping.
The process may get challenging, especially for patients who require many visits spanning over months or years. Most clinics have started implementing new technologies to record the whole journey from the admission point to the discharge point. If you have a ready record in place, it allows for effective scheduling where patients may finish their treatments without going into the waiting room.
10. Use data to predict patterns
You can plan even more efficiently by using data to predict patients arrival patterns. If you were to implement a CRM or a patient management platform, your solution could offer a variety of crucial data points to discern trends and patterns within your clinic.
For example, emergency departments tend to be the busiest on Mondays throughout the United States. This can be seen by retrieving the historical information available. Similarly, you can also analyze information and predict the possible busiest periods for your clinic. With these insights, you can plan staffing as well as other resources to handle the increased demand while avoiding increased waiting times.
As you can see, improving patient flow in your practice requires actionable steps and an accountability culture among your staff. Various medical technology methods may help your clinic optimize its patient flow and allow enhanced clinical outcomes.
Optimized patient flow ensures that a practice is able to operate at full capacity, physicians can devote more time to their patients, time-consuming tasks are brought to a minimum, and patients are left happy with the care that was provided.
With Tripment’s suite of features, you can do just that by managing your appointment bookings & engaging with your patients virtually rather than in-office with our telehealth functionality, all while being able to grow your practice by reaching new patients. Learn more and list your practice today!