How to Improve Patient Flow at Your Practice
Having a packed schedule of upcoming appointments with patients can be a great feeling, but it can be overwhelming as well. When you have an influx of patients at one time, it can be a lot for you and your staff to handle. That’s why improving patient flow at your practice is so important.
Many healthcare practices are seeing a large number of booked appointments now because practices were closed for months due to COVID-19. But now that many businesses have begun reopening, people have the opportunity to seek medical help from professionals that they may have been lacking for some time now.
If you are one of those practices that are preparing yourselves for what’s to come, we can help make each day successful and run as smoothly as possible. Some days are more difficult than others and for times like those, we have the tips you’ll need to get through every appointment.
What is Patient Flow?
Before we begin to tackle tips on HOW to be as efficient as possible, you must know WHAT patient flow is exactly. It is the movement of your patients through a healthcare facility.
Patient flow is essential to proper patient management and can be the determining factor for someone to return to your practice or not. Improving the experiences that your patients have when they come in for a visit can generate more revenue for the practice and increase follow-up appointments.
Now that you know what patient flow is, let’s jump into our tips for helping to improve it.
1. Establish Your Practice’s Goals
What are your biggest obstacles at your practice currently? Keeping track of upcoming appointments? Mapping the workflow in your office? Individual tasks for your staff? Whatever the problem may be, this is the time to address these obstacles and correct them.
These challenges may be affecting your patient care and that’s what you do not want to occur. With everything running as quickly and efficiently as possible, you as a healthcare professional can focus your time and energy on your patients.
Make a list of your established goals and create a culture of accountability among everyone in your office. Discuss them with your team members so you can get to the root of the problem and determine the best way to handle these hiccups. Problem-solving is critical to the success of your practice, so participation from your entire team is necessary.
2. Prioritizing Time Management
One of the most important skills for you to have as a healthcare professional is time management. Starting an appointment on time, getting through it, and preparing for the next one is a goal that should be worked on every day. Appointments can run long, there may be no-shows, or occasionally a patient shows up late.
One way to improve your time management is to track each and every appointment. Tracking your patient flow every day is extremely useful in pinpointing how much time is traditionally spent on each type of patient.
Is someone a new patient and requires time to find the location of your practice, fill out paperwork, and provide their insurance information? Or maybe a patient is receiving a consultation, a test, or getting a procedure done and will need more time than a patient returning for a routine check-up.
Follow-up appointments may require a little less time because you and the patient have already become acquainted and they aren’t receiving any type of treatment from you.
Once you track these appointments and average how much time is spent with new patients, follow-ups, late shows, and no-shows, you can schedule accordingly and reduce time wasted. This is also useful in avoiding cancellations because no-shows are costly.
* Bonus Tip: Takes notes while you are with the patient to avoid having to do it at a later time. Note-taking during the appointment will lead to a good summary of the visit and will reduce the time dedicated to this outside of the visit.
3. Patient Communication
Establishing a solid line of communication with your patients is also integral in running a successful practice. Updating online listings with any changes to your business hours, location, the name of your practice, phone number, website, and email makes it easy for your patients to get a hold of you for any reason.
A good way to avoid these types of problems is to email or call your patients a day or two beforehand to remind them of their upcoming appointment. This will reduce last-minute cancellations that could be filled with time spent with another patient.
Patient communication on your end is also important. If you or one of the doctors at your practice is not coming in for the day or something else occurs that may change the flow of appointments for the day, your patients should be notified before they show up to your office.
Read More: When to Email Your Patients and Why
4. Front Desk Traffic
Your waiting room can quickly become a sea of patients if you don’t monitor the time and who is showing up when. To prevent your receptionist from being backed up with checking in patients, answering phones, handing out paperwork and other tasks, delegating the work can create a more efficient workplace.
Consider having another employee handle phone calls, emails, keeping health and personnel records, and managing other things around the office. This way, your receptionist can focus on handling patients when they arrive, giving out paperwork, and scheduling follow-up appointments.
Patients can be given the attention they need from the receptionist the second they arrive and be prepared for their appointment.
5. Scheduling Based on Patient Urgency
Some patients may require a routine check-up while others are in need of urgent care and you must prioritize based on those needs.
For instance, let’s say you are a veterinarian and there are clients who want to schedule a wellness check for their pets, but another client needs an appointment for their dog who has recently been having shortness of breath. The client whose pet is in need of more urgent care should be scheduled first and the other clients may need to wait a day or two for their wellness check.
Urgent patients may also take more time, so it’s important to set your following appointments at a time that you’re sure you can make.
Due to the global pandemic we are currently facing, you should do your best to prevent a jam-packed office at any time of the day. The sooner you and your staff organize a better office flow that minimizes time spent on miscellaneous tasks, the more time you can focus on patient care. Every healthcare practice has the ability to improve patient flow, efficiency around the office, allocating tasks, and scheduling complications. Shifting your focus to the challenges that need to be addressed within your staff and your office can make things run all the more smoothly.
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