How and Why to Improve Patient Flow and Chair Time
For most practices, a large component of success is achieved by continually implementing plans to improve business metrics. This is most effective when everyone in the practice understands how their role and the roles of other team members affect the business.
Communication among team members and between the team and patients is critical to success. Because patients generally place the highest value on the advice of their doctor, the entire team must work to make sure he or she has ample time to not only perform examinations, but also discuss products and services that will benefit the patient (and the practice).
Biggest gains are realized when the doctor is an active participant in whatever improvement plans are being implemented. The following strategies, when properly implemented, can allow ECPs to use their valuable time most effectively:
- The doctor should review the patient schedule before the day starts, anticipating any special circumstances and needs that certain patients may have. Sharing this information during the morning huddle with staff can help keep patient flow smooth throughout the day.
- Eliminate down time for the doctor between patients. Place a high priority on always having the next patient worked-up and waiting for the doctor. This means being flexible and having a “second gear” when needed (e.g. judiciously short-cutting some normal procedures during check-in and/or pre-test if a patient arrives late). The staff can catch up on these afterward, as necessary.
- Predilate patients (especially those with little to no accommodation) to eliminate the need for the doctor to see patients twice during the same visit.
- Use a scribe to enter EHR data.
Preserving a few doctor minutes here and there can translate into efficiencies that result in large increases in collections. Make sure your team is focused on supporting the doctors to allow them to perform at peak levels doing only those things that they are uniquely qualified to do.
Pro Tip: Write down each tiny task that needs to be done from the moment a patient walks in the door until the doctor has finished with that patient. Give serious thought to alternatives that are equally effective, but more efficient.