People in waiting room with long patient wait times

The Science of Reducing Patient Wait Times

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement argues that the continuous problem of having long waiting periods at a medical practice comes down to a general distaste for the laws of economics in the world of medicine. Out of necessity, medical professionals privilege patients with urgent conditions. No one is arguing that this practice isn’t a required part of practicing good medicine. However, this practice exists to the exclusion of all others, allowing the flow of work to be disrupted and causing delays. How can you go about reducing patient wait times?

The IHI suggests that implementing other practices in addition to frontloading severe cases would help in managing the overall workflow. These practices all come down to understanding the balance of supply and demand. By understanding that there is no way to control external flow (i.e. how many patients fall ill or become injured on a daily basis), we can begin to re-focus on internal flow.

Managing Supply and Demand

One of the best ways to manage internal flow at the start of a new practice is to religiously record all incoming and outgoing patient times. Charting this information will provide you with the necessary data after just a few short weeks. This will help you to plan future staffing schedules. If you notice demand is particularly high during certain hours or days of the week, make sure you have extra staff on hand to keep up with reducing patient wait times.

In addition, do what you can to control internal flow. Only schedule office visits for time periods where demand is generally lower. This will help to prevent regularly scheduled office visits from resulting in long wait times due to a large number of walk-ins/emergency cases, keeping both your scheduled patients and unscheduled patients happier.

Streamlining Administrative Processes

Although taking supply and demand into account is key to reducing patient wait times, there are a lot of other ways you can streamline the process, including:

  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Online check-in
  • Patient data collection
  • Secure messaging to confirm appointments

If your practice successfully implements these tools, then your administrative staff will see a sizeable decrease in the volume of work expected of them in relation to patient flow. You could divide administrative duties based on direct and indirect patient customer service. However, if you effectively promote your online services on your website and in your practice, it will most likely be unnecessary.

Identifying Additional Delays

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests doing what they call a “waste walk.” Essentially, the staff is asked to do a mock run-through of the patient experience to identify steps or points of waste that can be altered to allow the system to run more smoothly. For example, you may find that the 30-second walk to the very back of your practice to get initial measurements is actually creating a painful increase in your wait times throughout the day.

From these practices, it is clear that the organization of the practice is a major factor and definitely something you should discuss when looking at medical and dental office space with Boulevard Medical Properties. Consider how your equipment will fit into the office and how it will manipulate patient flow prior to deciding on a space.

Maintaining Results

Although you may do a “waste walk” and rigorously document supply and demand in the early days of your practice, remember that a medical office is an ever-changing entity. The needs of your patients and the required steps in their care will continue to evolve as medicine adapts to new problems and new research.

To continue adapting to your patients’ needs, you will need to continually collect data on the daily supply and demand of your practice, as it will surely change with time, requiring alterations to staffing and scheduling. In addition, if anything ever changes in your practice, either personnel or equipment, perform another “waste walk” to audit the process once again.

For more on reducing patient wait times and finding the right medical office lease for your needs, visit Boulevard Medical Properties today.

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