Even the best medical practices encounter “down” days. Fortunately, there many ways you can improve your care, as well as serve more patients in the long run.
Even the best medical practices encounter “down” days. On most days, many practices are constantly overbooked or understaffed (or both). Whether you run a small clinic or manage several, you’re no stranger to seeing full waiting rooms receiving an endless influx of patients, especially now in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It may have reached a point where it feels impossible for your physicians and support staff to meet the demand.
Surprisingly, staff numbers aren’t the primary culprit. It’s inefficient workflows, which cause unnecessary administrative burdens, that waste the time of patients and doctors. As a result, tasks fall behind their deadlines, staff performance suffers, and the quality of patient care drops.
You can improve your practice management service in numerous ways. The following strategies can help you minimize time-wasting tasks, improve operations, and ultimately give you more time to focus on your patients.
Identify the Bottlenecks
The first step to improvement is to hit the pause button and observe your practice’s daily operations. Is there a need for updated medical technology to minimize administrative tasks? Is the staff spending more time on outdated processes? What are the bottlenecks limiting patient flow?
Plot out your current process: start from where the patient schedules an appointment to where they pay or make insurance claims. Measure how much time is spent on each task. The average physician spends 18 minutes per consultation, so there is an opportunity to slow down.
Any inefficiency — whether it’s chasing down patient information, spending excessive time on paperwork, or following up on tasks — results in fewer patients accessing care.
If your physicians are doing administrative work, such as data collection or patient education, this is an unproductive use of their time. Make the most of their time by delegating such tasks to trained administrative staff and physician assistants. Apart from completing the task faster, this will leave physicians free to care for their patients.
Delegation, however, is different from dumping. When you dump the work, it means you’re asking an untrained individual to do the task. Delegating, on the other hand, involves picking the right person to do the job, ensuring the chosen person understands the task, and following up with feedback.
Each member of your team has their own strengths and weaknesses. Before you delegate a task, ask yourself and the practice managers:
- Which tasks can a certain individual carry out?
- When can the generic tasks be delegated?
Give More Ownership to Your Patients
Another way to improve your practice’s operations is to empower your patients to take more ownership of their health care needs. Reduce your team’s workload by removing tasks you can either give to the patient or automate.
Consider the following:
- Enable patients to book or schedule their appointments. Accenture reported 64 percent of patients will use self-scheduling systems in 2019. Self-scheduling offers a more personalized approach to appointment booking, as well as promotes digital comfort for patients. Since patients are knowledgeable in using apps and calendars, there isn’t a steep learning curve to worry about.
Acquire this capability by investing in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application equipped with automated calendar updates, self-scheduling, appointment calendars, and other features. These solutions remove the need to manually enter, track, and monitor low-value and time-consuming tasks, freeing up your office staff’s time greatly.
- Set up patient portals. Patient portals are web applications that enable patients to view their medical information. They can also use these portals to view their discharge summaries, track their recent doctor/clinic visits, and see their prescriptions. Most portals also allow patients to message their doctors, enabling both sides to communicate outside of consultations.
With patient portals, patients can also get up-to-speed on their health information before they see a physician. As a result, the doctor can spend more time on the purpose of the patient’s visit.
Provide Immediate Access to Information
Access to the right information trims minutes off consultations, which enables your practice to attend to more patients in a day. Thanks to cloud technology, it’s easier than ever for doctors and their support staff to access information in an instant and wherever they are. If your practice hasn’t shifted to cloud technology, it could be costing you resources and time.
Also, examine the way you exchange information within your clinic and with your patients and medical providers (e.g., radiology or pathology clinics, specialists, and private health insurers). Then identify exchanges that could be simplified by technology.
Cloud-based practice management solutions enable doctors to securely access test results, as well as share the results with patients online.
The Bottom Line
The strategies above offer opportunities to eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies. But, at times, you may find rigid systems and processes preventing you from enabling change. Consider switching management software. It may seem like a pricey investment, but you will be serving more patients, as well as offer better services, in the long run.