In healthcare, clinical efficiency is defined as how well resources are used to meet needs or demands. Needs and demands are twofold in a clinical setting. Patients have needs that should be met by the care provider and the provider has needs related to running a profitable business.
Clinical efficiency is no doubt important, no matter the size of the organization or the number of team members. If an operation is not as efficient as it should be, this can mean lost time and money for the practice and missed opportunities to serve as many patients as possible. Below is a look at how to increase clinical efficiency with a smaller staff in healthcare.
Tips for Improving Clinical Efficiency
1. Eliminate paperwork
When you’re working with a smaller staff, cutting paperwork is one of the simplest ways to boost practice efficiency. The more you eliminate the time normally spent on scanning paper documents, sending faxes, and filing paper documents, the more time is free to focus on more important tasks. For example, using smart devices to automatically capture blood pressure, weight, and temperature readings reduces how much time is spent on patient paperwork. Likewise, dictation software can be during visits to add details to electronic health records (EHRs).
2. Focus physician time on patient care
The goal in any clinical setting is to have the physicians dedicate as much time to patients as possible. Unfortunately, if there are few staff members, too many tasks can fall on the treating physicians, which detracts from time available to spend on patients. Do what you can to prevent this from occurring, whether that means adopting new technology or otherwise.
3. Master your EMR/EHR templates
Mastering your EMR/EHR templates can save a profound amount of time and boost clinical efficiency. These templates can offer shortcut options that can be especially valuable for standard procedural processes. For example, “dot phrases” allow providers to type a few short phrases or words during a patient interaction and those phrases convert to a full block of text automatically. Work with the technology provider, take advantage of included training, and make sure all staff members know how to get the most from the systems in use.
4. Be prudent when hiring
The pandemic spurred an uptick in turnover rates in the medical field. Turnover of healthcare workers went from 3.2 percent to 5.6 percent in a matter of months. While those numbers have started to stabilize, a high turnover rate can wreak havoc on practice efficiency. It always takes time for new hires to settle into their roles and receive adequate training. If that employee quits once they are trained, this has been a waste of valuable resources. Therefore, be especially prudent in hiring processes. Analyze recruitment methods, be critical with hiring goals, and bring in the help of a well-vetted staffing agency if needed.
5. Train team members to be gatekeepers
For physicians to dedicate time to patients, the outlying team needs to act as the gatekeepers to that physician. In other words, the physician should only be approached with tasks once the physician can act specifically for the patient. Non-emergency tasks within the clinic should be handled by the team as much as possible. All of this is made possible by having a well-trained, well-equipped team of professionals who understand the primary care provider’s attention must be reserved for patient interactions.
6. Use a good scheduling system
A good appointment scheduling system is vital to practice efficiency. The best EHRs have either built-in patient scheduling functions or streamline with other patient scheduling software. Make sure what your clinic is using is most effective for the purpose with little downtime, no issues with double-booking or downtime, and integrated functions to deter no-shows.
7. Maximize appointments and minimize downtime resulting from no-shows
Downtime, when you are not treating patients, is non-billable time. Therefore, all the money paid to the staff to fill this idle time is moot. The key to making sure as many minutes are profitable as possible is to maximize appointments and implement a strategy to handle no-shows. No-shows cost the healthcare industry as a whole $150 billion annually. Do what you can to deter no-show appointments, such as using automated systems like texts to send patient reminders and offering flexible scheduling.
8. Simplify patient check-in and check-out processes
Lengthy check-in and check-out processes are not efficient and can take up a lot of staff time. A recent article published by Physician’s Practice noted that upgrading front desk technology can make a major difference when trying to increase clinical efficiency. For example, replacing the manual check-in procedure with e-check-in options means patients simply check themselves in when they arrive for their appointments on their mobile devices.
9. Understand the experience from the patient’s perspective when designing clinical workflows
Consider bringing in “secret shopper” patients. These patients are generally people you hire to move through the appointment process and give feedback on things like wait time and efficiency of time spent with the physician. The insight you glean from these experiences can be invaluable and help you design a clinical workflow that is most efficient.
10. Use clinician-centered design with EHRs
The EHR used in a clinical setting should be clinician centered. The facesheet and dashboard should be set up in a way that caters to the clinician and the system should be optimized for efficiency. This is one reason why it is so important to find an EHR that is easy to tailor to the specific workflow of the practice. The more tailored the software, the less learning curve there will be and the less risk of wasted time while using the program.
11. Use the right technology partners
Modern medical practices rely heavily on technology for efficiency, which means you will consistently deal with different technology partners. Something as simple as having a good EHR technology provider truly influences operational efficiency. For example, if an EHR provider has no help desk available when you have problems, this impedes clinical workflow until you can talk to a technician for help.
12. Eliminate overtime
If you are consistently paying out overtime, this often indicates the staff-to-patient ratio is not where it should be. It may be time to consider hiring an additional staff member, which can be more economical than paying overtime on a regular basis.
13. Measure performance and identify pain points and opportunities
Never stop measuring how the clinic is performing to find those pain points that need to be addressed to keep clinical efficiency in check over the long term. Talk to practice managers and staff members and ask for feedback about where time and resources are wasted. Look at overall rates of no-shows, wait times, and downtimes, and decide how you can make things better.
Ready to Increase Clinical Efficiency? Key Takeaways to Remember
A lot of facets and moving parts affect overall efficiency in any clinical setting. From how much paperwork you do to which technology partners you work with; every decision makes a difference. Looking for an EHR partner that works hard to increase clinical efficiency for every client? PrognoCIS may be the change your practice needs. Be sure to request your demo to see how a tailored EHR can revolutionize the efficiency of your clinic.