Patient-Centric Processes Can Boost Productivity

April 8, 2015

Giving patients the courtesy and attention they deserve can significantly increase practice productivity, and make everyone happy.

A couple of weeks ago I had the best patient experience of my life, and I am still excited that someone got things so right. The best news for margin-squeezed medical providers is that only one of the things that pleased me added anything to costs, and several increased productivity and utilization.

The encounter was an MRI of my neck in an outpatient setting. Since I have claustrophobia, I was not looking forward to it, and went with drugs in hand.

Delight #1

There was a water cooler in the reception area. I suspect not a few people are like me and need to take a little something to tolerate tight confinement. Apparently someone noticed that there was no water fountain in the area, and solved the problem.

I'll grant you that it was a little out of place in a very sleek setting. But the convenience of being able to locate it by myself and being able to get water when I needed it was far more valuable to me than the aesthetic.

Delight #2

When the tech came to get me, he gestured that I was to walk in front of him and told me which door we would go through. It may seem silly, but I appreciated the certainty of knowing what he wanted me to do and at least the first landmark in our little journey.

As I opened the door, he directed me to the dressing room and gave instructions about what to take off, leave on, and put on, as well as exactly where to go when I was ready. Being blind as a bat, I especially appreciated the comment that I could leave my glasses on and there was a place to put them in the MRI room.

Delight #3

I cannot remember how many times the tech suggested I keep my eyes closed. It never sounded like an order or a warning, just good advice. Not seeing how confined I was made it much easier to tolerate the situation. Of course, I was also grateful to have the panic button placed in my hot little hand.

Delight #4

This one surprised me. The tech talked to me almost constantly while I was in the MRI. "This will take six minutes. You may want to swallow. Ready? We are about to start. Almost done." Normally this would have driven me crazy, but I really appreciated knowing what was going on and marking off each little milestone.

Not only were these patient-centric processes welcomed by me, the patient, but they also boosted the clinic's productivity.

1. The fact that I could locate the water cooler all by myself meant that the reception desk did not need to deal with me except for registration.

2. I was able to respond more quickly to the tech's request to walk back to the procedure area, and I walked more quickly as we went. No hesitation or looking over my shoulder.

3. We did not have to abort the procedure and start again, because I was calm enough to tolerate the situation. The drugs helped, but seeing a frame so close to my face would have not been tolerable. I know this because I did open my eyes just before they took it off.

4. Because I knew what was coming, I was able to be as still as was necessary, and none of the scans needed to be redone. Because I was told the scans could take as many as six minutes, I had an opportunity to ask what I should do about breathing. It sounds ridiculous, but without permission I would have tried very hard to hold my breath and ended up gasping.

5. As soon as I was out of the tube and the head stabilizer was off me, the tech shook my hand and introduced me to a medical assistant who was going to shepherd me out of the facility. She arrived with a glass of water and walked me back to the dressing room and then escorted me out of the facility.

I was well-cared for, and the tech probably had another patient changing in a dressing room while I was still putting myself back together. It maximized his productive time as well as the utilization of an expensive piece of machinery.

Giving patients an opportunity to self serve (water, restrooms, etc.), minimizing any uncertainty they may feel, and utilizing less-expensive staff for what is essentially babysitting can delight your patients and significantly increase productivity, and therefore, profits.