At AAGA, the physician-owners chose to build a self-contained patient registration room, separate from the greeting area at the front desk. After patients have registered, they are moved to a second waiting room, big enough to accommodate family members or escorts for patients undergoing an outpatient surgical procedure.
Not only does that facilitate patient flow, but Bosma says it gives patients more privacy and a sense that they are being moved through the practice in a timely manner. Patients sitting in a crowded waiting room often wonder how long they will wait to be seen. Bosma says patients "are not sure how many doctors are there. Are you one of 100 waiting for the same person? Or are there 10 doctors seeing all these patients?"
Another boon to patient flow is providing a fixed computer in each exam room, so that the medical assistant (MA) can chart patient vitals and reconcile med lists directly in the EHR prior to the physician's arrival. Puffer says the MA can return to the exam room after the patient has seen the physician to schedule follow-up appointments or even diagnostic testing — eliminating the need to return to the front desk for check out.
"That's the advantage of having a computer system [in the exam room], it provides you access to the information no matter where you are … So now you can have a private experience," he says.
It's important for practices to decide on the types of technology they want to include in their new/redesigned practice. It is always better to know what your design needs will be upfront, rather than having to go back and retrofit your space because of a last-minute technology change or addition. Depending on the size of your budget, you may or may not be working with an IT consultant, but it is always a good idea to speak to a tech expert before starting construction, says Puffer.
While the IT person is going to give the physician the "tools of technology," Puffer says, "I will physically give him the space to utilize the technology. We'll sit down and do the dynamics of 'How do you want to work? Are you going to shift with your right hand or left hand?'"
Aside from the benefits of EHR, new technology can facilitate patient comfort, satisfaction, and expedite patient registration and insurance verification, to name just a few benefits. It is also a patient pleaser: for example, in-office Wi-Fi, made available to patients with a guest login, allows them to use personal mobile devices like smartphones and tablets while waiting for the physician.