Medical clinics can be chaotic. Between nervous patients and inevitable disputes over topics as trivial as $10 copays, running a medical clinic smoothly can be quite a challenge. Rest assured, it need not to be. Here are a few hot tips to keep efficiency a priority in your practice…saving you time…and time is money.
1. Track Patient Flow
How many patients entered your doors yesterday? Of those, how many had add-on appointments? Were there any call-outs or no-shows? Before deciding how to improve patient flow, know your appointment count indicators.
Start today…track patient dynamics for the rest of your clinic. Do it again tomorrow. Build the habit Determine the average wait time for patients, from the time of check in to the time they’re seen by a care provider. Your practice management (PM) system probably has this functionality built in…are you using it? You’re paying for it so you might as well right?
Spend an hour or two tracking the average patient’s journey: which parts function well, and which parts are slow. You’ve likely already invested in a software that can enhance your tracking efforts. If you’re not templating and segmenting your clinic…you need to. You are running two practices in one – aesthetic/reconstructive. You have different patients with different needs and you’re kidding yourself if you think getting everyone in on whim is a service push that will service you productively in the long run. Working patients into a workflow that serves THEIR needs is what they need…not the next available appointment, which frankly makes it look like you’re just not that busy. Perception is reality here.
2. Provide Access to Self-Scheduling Online
As a medical practice, it is important to stay at the lead of the innovation curve. Implementing technology that improves the patient experience and reduces inefficiencies in scheduling increases patient trust.
A study by Accenture projects that as of 2019, more than 64% of clinics and healthcare industry practices will offer online appointment booking options. Providing patients with control of their own wellness management improves in-office interactions with your patients. Offering online scheduling options is a key way to earn trust.
Additionally, allowing patients to set their own appointments online frees up phone lines and reduces front desk staff interruptions. Take an hour today to research self-scheduling platforms.
Now before you start worrying about allowing patients to trash your workflow by booking wherever they want…make it an inquiry tool. The tech leveraged functionality provides a beneficial perception. You then can push the actual scheduling as you see fit internally with a callback. Service > function.
3. Increase Patient Engagement To Reduce No Shows
Cancelled appointments and no shows create inefficiencies within your practice’s workflow and impact patient outcomes. These lost appointments often result in lengthy wait times and increased healthcare costs. This is also a key indicator for your lead generation and sales functions as well as a potential insight to return on investment for your online marketing collateral tools. Pay attention otherwise you’re just paying dollars without much sense.
Prevent no shows by communicating with patients about appointments. Confirm your patient’s phone number, update their address, and get their email address. Encourage your patients to opt into receiving appointment reminders by text message. You do know there are automated services that do this for you right? Your PM system probably has a built in functionality or a preferred vender…
While evidence demonstrates that reminders are effective for reducing cancelled or missed appointments, research shows that “Reminder plus” interventions (SMS notifications and mail notifications) have an increased occurrence of effectiveness.
Engage with the patient and encourage them to arrive on time for their appointment. The most effective communication involves connecting with the patient across multiple platforms (mail, email, text, etc.) The combined reminders perform more effectively than leaving a voicemail message and hoping for the best.
Another study reveals similar evidence, indicating that a simple reminder 24 hours prior to the time for the appointment in conjunction with a letter may be more effective than making a telephone call alone.
During a rare moment of office down time today, design a template for your letters and texts to patients with pending appointments. Then, reach out and give them a quick reminder call with details about their appointment, check-in procedures, what time to arrive, and what to bring with them.
4. Reduce Waiting Times by Improving Staff Morale
Going to see the doctor can be stressful for any patient. Between pressing medical issues and anxiety about procedures, patients become hesitant or difficult, which slows the clinic’s patient flow. The clinic must work to recoup the losses created by the disgruntled patients.
Some practices resort to overbooking patients to recover these losses, which create longer wait times and more disgruntled patients. Disgruntled patients talk, and will tell their loved ones about the unpleasant experience, further contributing to decreasing revenue for a practice.
Both dermatology and plastic surgery struggle with unreasonable wait times. How can clinics solve this pervasive problem?
Focus on your own team. Improving team culture does not only boost staff morale, it also reduces patient wait times.
It is no secret that medical staff are overworked, and some feel underpaid and under-appreciated. This underlying resentment results in fatigue, which creates a lag in care. When nurses are exhausted and trying to treat too many patients at one time, wait times suffer.
“When staff have the buy-in from their employer, they are encouraged and empowered to perform at their best. They trust the employer to make sure the tools are in place they need to do their work effectively, efficiently and compassionately. In turn, this results in the practice running more effectively and efficiently,” Katherine Kerr, a healthcare delivery science expert at a leading healthcare network in Virginia, concurs.
How can a practice boost team morale? Bring in backup, even if only temporarily to get through a busy period. Though it may cost more up front, the investment in the wellbeing of your team shows you as a business care about its staff.
Facilitate open communication. Employees need to feel like someone is listening. When staff complain, instead of just hearing what they say, actively engage in dialogue and identify solutions that work for both the staff and the practice. Institute an open door policy and send daily status emails to the office staff to create a culture of communication within the clinic.
Elizabeth, a nurse practitioner with nearly twenty years’ experience, says that, “focusing on the satisfaction of providing staff directly impacts patient perceptions and consequently, patient satisfaction.”
“What is truly impactful to the patient experience is the team. My nurse and I had the most wonderful bond: (we were) in sync and anticipated each other so we both had more time and thought directed towards face time with the patient.”
Need assistance with managing your clinic? Not sure where to begin, or how to start implementing these steps? The Auctus Group offers management and billing solutions for dermatology and plastic surgery practices.