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Patient Flow, Stop the Bottleneck

Patient Flow, Stop the Bottleneck

Most medical practices experience some type of patient bottleneck — whether it be inbound phone calls or cramped exam rooms. And most would welcome a way to conquer them, especially since they compromise workflow and time management. The good news is, no matter what the cause of a typical bottleneck, there is a solution lying somewhere in your midst.

Here are a few of the most typical causes of bottlenecks and their solutions (some more relevant in a small practice, and others more likely to be seen in larger practices.)

1. Inbound phones at check-in

When inbound calls are answered at the check-in station it kills production and makes it impossible to provide a positive patient-centered experience. If the receptionist is on the phone when a patient arrives she must either ignore the patient and continue the call, or interrupt the call and do the right thing: greet and meet the arriving patient's needs. This can be done with ease if the phones are removed from check-in. The front-line receptionist's primary focus should be greeting and processing patients arriving for appointments.

2. Lack of preparation

Being organized and preparing for the inevitable can help avoid any number of problems. Pull your team together and huddle to discuss what could have gone better today and look at the upcoming schedule of patients for tomorrow. Be sure all chart notes, lab results, diagnostic testing, and other reports are up to date in each patient's record. Also, have your staff make sure each patient is doctor-ready when the physician enters the exam room — leaving the exam room to obtain missing information or waiting for a patient to disrobe will only create a logjam, forcing patients who are checked-in to wait overlong to be roomed.

3. Poor scheduling

If you're scheduling patients who are being seen for a variety of simple and complex health issues, giving each of them a 15-minute time slot, you have a problem. It's a silent bottleneck, one many providers may not realize exists. That's right, just because everyone has been checked in and roomed doesn't mean you don't have a clinical bottleneck. Think about this: If you have patients in four exam rooms only one is with the doctor, the other three are waiting and waiting and waiting. Each one will end up waiting at least 45 minutes, as they wait for the three patients before them to be seen — and so it goes all day long.

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