Patients commonly decry the long waiting times they face when visiting the doctor. And you can’t blame them for it—it’s not unheard of for patients to endure an hour long wait in the waiting room thumbing through old issues of Reader’s Digest. And heaven forbid they have a weeping child to keep quiet! Worse, even after an extended waiting time, due to high patient load per physician many patients have few precious minutes with their health care provider. Time which they often spend criticizing the inefficiency of the clinic.
So how can health care providers alleviate the issue of ever-growing wait times? The most effective way to reclaim wasted time is to streamline the patient check-in process. A smooth check-in and predictable patient flow, such as with the help of a patient check-in kiosk, will do wonders for the efficiency of your clinic. The essential features of a streamlined clinic include:
If you aren’t taking advantage of technology in your patient tracking procedures, you aren’t optimizing your clinic’s efficiency. Using electronic patient check-in can not only speed up the process, it can also eliminate troublesome inaccuracies. Electronic check-ins can even incorporate time-saving features such as insurance or identification card scanning. This information is then immediately available to the clinic staff without the mess of transferring information from a slew of complicated forms.
You can even take time-saving a step further by implementing a program called a unique real-time locating system (RTLS). These programs allow you to track patients and doctors in real-time. Unlike other patient tracking systems which use short range triangulation and detection, RTLS remains accurate over greater distances; it is not affected by room to room movement. Implementation of RTLS in your clinic can dramatically increase control of patient flow.
Lack of conformity in your clinic will waste valuable minutes. For instance, if each nurse performs a particular task, your clinic’s efficiency tanks; when handling patient data, the last thing you want is for assistants to be tripping over one another. This is especially true for clinics that tend to hire a lot of part-time or temporary workers. All procedures including patient check-in, referrals, appointments, prescriptions, and check-out should be standardized. You should also create uniform work spaces so that each staff member knows exactly where tools or forms are located.
In addition to RTLS systems, it can sometimes be advantageous to designate a staff member as the flow coordinator. This person leads the charge in ensuring that patient flow goes smoothly throughout the day without unexpected or unnecessary interruptions. A flow coordinator is invaluable for providing constant management of physician productivity. They can also oversee an electronic patient tracking board, which provide a high-level view of a department or floor in real-time, helping your doctors stay on top of patient status.
You can save time even before the patient walks through the door. If a patient arrives for their appointment a mere ten minutes late, it can throw off the whole clinic schedule and cause problematic delays. Appointment times should be made very clear to patients as well as the importance of honoring those times. To accomplish this, clerical staff can provide friendly appointment reminders to patients before their appointment to get a rough idea of what sort of services they may need. This will allow your clinic to better schedule an appropriate block of time for the patient’s care. They can also identify any special services that may be required, such as translation or unique exam room needs.
Since the face-to-face time between patients and physicians is often fleeing, it is essential that there are no interruptions during physician consultation. That means no incoming phone calls, staff questions, or other distractions.
It requires the concerted effort of an entire clinic staff to streamline patient flow, from patient check-in to check-out. If done correctly, you should be able to strike a balance between the productivity of your health care professionals and the delivery of excellent patient care. That will mean fewer complaints from patients and fewer headaches for you.