Medical practices are constantly understaffed and overbooked. Whether you run your own clinic or manage several, you know first hand what it’s like to see waiting rooms filled with an endless influx of patients―and how it may feel impossible for your physicians and support staff to cope with the demand.
Yet you might be surprised to learn that staff numbers aren’t the issue—it’s inefficient workflows that are wasting time and causing unnecessary administrative burdens. As a result, staff performance suffers, tasks fail to be completed in a timely manner and worst of all, time spent with patients and the quality of care drops.
Fortunately, there are a few very simple strategies to make your practice more efficient. Here are four effective strategies on minimising time-wasting tasks, improving medical practice efficiency, and ultimately granting more time to focus on the people who matter most―your patients.
Identify the bottlenecks
Knowing how to run an efficient medical office starts with hitting the pause button and monitoring every aspect of your clinic’s day-to-day operations.
Are staff spending too much time on outdated processes when better options are available? Can you identify any bottlenecks that are limiting patient flow? Is there technology that can help things run smoother and minimise administrative tasks?
Map out every step taken, from when a patient makes an appointment until they make an insurance claim so you can pinpoint where these bottlenecks occur.
Look at each task and measure how much time is spent on it. The average physician spends around 15 minutes per consultation, so there’s little opportunity to slow down. Any inefficiency that exists–whether it’s spending too much time on paperwork, chasing down patient information or setting follow-up tasks–costs the business money and results in fewer patients accessing the care they need.
Time to delegate
After isolating the bottlenecks in your practice’s workflows, it’s time to drill down on individual tasks carried out by support staff and specialists. Try asking yourself and the practice managers:
- Which tasks can only be carried out by certain individuals?
- When can the other, more generic tasks be delegated?
Each member of the clinical team has their own strengths and weaknesses, so while it makes no sense for a specialist to spend hours typing up notes or mailing out letters, it’s equally nonsensical for a member of the reception team to spend their time researching medications or diving into medical journals in search of the latest drug interactions.
Studies have found that US doctors spend up to two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. Imagine how much more time could be spent with patients if even part of this time was delegated?
Rapid access to information
Do your specialists have the information at hand before a consultation begins?
Access to the right information can trim minutes off consultations, and help your clinic see more patients in the day. Cloud technology has made it easier and more secure than ever for physicians and support staff to access information in an instant—right from their mobile device. If you practice hasn’t made the shift to the cloud, it could be costing you time and resources.
Examine the way in which information is not only exchanged within your clinic but with patients and other medical providers (such as specialists, pathology or radiology clinics, Medicare, and private health insurers). Then highlight exchanges that could be simplified–even automated–and facilitated by tech.
The easier it is for medical care providers and patients to access information, the more effectively they can plan schedules for the day and use consultation time productively (which means less time spent in the waiting room).
For instance, a cloud-based practice management solution allows physicians to securely access test results with a simple click, and even share those results with patients from the same screen. At the end of the day, the sooner information is received and shared, the sooner a patient can be diagnosed and treated.
Manage patient flow with smarter appointment scheduling
It’s not all about getting patients out the door as quickly as possible. High-quality care is about delivering the best service to your patients within the limited window of time allocated.
You can achieve this by paying careful attention to the types of patients who come into your clinic, and analysing the time that’s required to address their concerns. For example, you can reasonably predict that older patients, who are more likely to suffer confounding factors and have a longer history of medical notes than younger adults, may require extra time for a consultation. By tracking the data of different patient demographics, practices can better cater to the needs of their patients.
Clinics should allocate a suitable amount of time for new patients to fill out paperwork. This might mean setting an earlier time for them to come in or, even better, having them complete an online form prior to their appointment. Automate this process if possible, so that everything’s ready for the consultation the moment a patient arrives at the practice.
Even with pre-planning, there will be times when patients no-show. By introducing an online booking tool or patient portal where patients can view, share and even change their appointment from their desktop or mobile device, you can reduce no-shows—all while helping them feel a little more empowered and in control of their healthcare.
Make payments easy
Lastly, make sure you’ve examined every step of the billing process, right down to the patient’s final payment or reimbursement. Automated payments will speed up the billing process, especially in comparison to the card machines and outdated billing software that have traditionally hampered medical practice efficiency.
You can now integrate patient fees with government concessions and Medicare bulk billing. This not only means faster claiming and reimbursements for patients, but also a much lower risk of human error.
Over to you
The above strategies offer a chance to eliminate inefficiencies, but at times you may find rigid processes and systems preventing you from enabling change.
If tech is holding you back from getting efficiencies in place, it’s worth considering a switch in practice management software. After all, your systems should be easing the workload of your staff, not doubling it. When you eliminate inefficiencies in your practice, you'll find that overall financial performance will improve.
To discover more ways of improving your financial performance, you can download our free guide below.
Clinic to Cloud does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for independent professional advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. See the Clinic to Cloud Disclaimer for further information.