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Strategies to Maximize Patient Appointments: Page 3 of 4

Strategies to Maximize Patient Appointments: Page 3 of 4

While delegating patient education can save time, so can focusing on more efficiently educating patients. Wergin places patient educational materials in his exam room and organizes it by medical condition. When he needs it during patient visits, he can quickly access it, write the patient's name on it, and highlight key portions. "There are studies that show that if I just write your name on a handout and say, 'Now I want to point out the highlights on this,' and hand it to you, you're more apt to follow through on that," says Wergin.

Visual tools are another great way to educate patients more quickly and ensure that they retain more information, says Woodcock. For instance, show patients a quick video relating to their condition, or use medical apps to explain a particular problem. The drawMD apps, for instance, allow physicians to draw on their tablets to illustrate and explain different medical conditions. "A picture speaks a thousand words, so undoubtedly it's more efficient," says Woodcock.

Regardless of how efficiently you educate patients, however, you may still feel like you don’t have enough time to cover all that you would like. If that's the case, consider sending out a weekly or monthly newsletter to patients so that you can educate them when they are outside your exam room. Adams sends out an e-newsletter every Friday that includes health articles and health tips.

Keep conversations on track

Smart education tactics will help you maximize your time with patients, and they will reduce the number of questions your patients ask during (and after) appointments. But many patients will still bring up unexpected questions or concerns that don't necessarily relate to that day's visit. Knowing how to gracefully navigate these unexpected inquiries will help prevent them from taking up too much time. Here are some tips:

Set a clear agenda. At the beginning of each visit, ask patients to outline their primary reason for the visit, and ask if there is anything else that they would like to discuss, says Woodcock, adding that it's important not to ignore clear signs that something else is troubling the patient. "If the patient is holding a notebook that says hormone replacement therapy, don't ignore that," she says.

Smoothly transition. If patients do bring up other concerns (and they are non-urgent), politely push those issues to the back burner, says Woodcock. She recommends saying something like, "That is so important that I really want to have time talk about that. Let's go ahead and schedule another appointment so that we can address your concerns."

• Address it later. As more patients research their health issues on the Internet, more are toting online research with them to appointments. When this happens at Adams' practice, he asks patients to leave the research with him so that he can spend time looking it over later. Once he has reviewed the information, he messages his thoughts to patients through his patient portal.

Better engage

While Adams does not shy away from engaging with patients through his portal, many of you might cringe at the thought of adding more tasks to your day. Still, Adams says, it's worth it in the long run. "You have to work at it and get comfortable with it, but I think, if you take advantage of what's out there, then you can preserve those important visits," he says.

Medical Group Management Association consultant Cindy Dunn agrees, adding that using technology to interact with patients leads to better engaged patients, which in turn, leads to more streamlined patient visits.


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