Patient flow is critical to a healthcare organizations success, if not utilized properly many patients will be late or not show up at all. This would cause loss of revenue for the organization therefore appropriate steps should be taken in order to ensure a smooth flow.

Improving Efficiency

When practices manage to reduce wait times, provide clear directions, and make sure the patient transitions comfortably, patients leave feeling respected and cared for, resulting in an increase in practice revenue. Medical Economics recently created a list of five guidelines for ensuring the efficient movement of patients:

  1. Clearly define patient destinations: Lobby, parking lot, and check-in/out signs can make a huge difference. Adequate signage can eliminate stress and hassle for patients, making the process run more efficiently.
  2. Avoid bottlenecks: While changes in architecture can solve this problem, making minor alterations to scheduling can be a much simpler solution. Knowing the provider ’s capacities and scheduling accordingly can prevent the bottlenecks that come with overscheduling and keep patients from growing frustrated as they wait. Practices should know how many exam rooms a provider can typically handle at the same time and plan accordingly. Using extra rooms allocated among several practitioners can enable a patient to see a doctor on schedule, when another patient may otherwise cause a delay.
  3. Plan for logical traffic patterns: Providers should plan to move patients through a visit without crossing paths or retracing steps. Some practices now use “just in time” patient service in which they have no waiting areas. Patients move directly from their check-in to the exam room while doctors enter the room from a separate entrance. Another option is creating separate check-in and check-out areas. Waiting for patients to check in can be frustrating for those waiting to check out at the same location. Separating the two can make the wait shorter for everyone.
  4. Consider internal traffic flow: Other options to consider include providing stations where doctors can write notes after a patient visit and adjusting the movement of medical supplies to improve traffic flow. While some practices prefer central storage for medical supplies, others use several stocked rooms or carts that move between exam rooms. Pods and reserved or rotating exam rooms are also worth considering. Exam rooms of various sizes can be developed to fit into the facility and accommodate growth. Because this may sometimes create a back-up, other practices prefer pods. Each practitioner has several assigned exam rooms close together. Some practitioners personalize their pods with colors or patterns to help direct patients to their destinations. Other practices prefer to line up exam rooms along a corridor and providers will use whichever exam room is available.
  5. Parking is part of patient flow: While it often goes unnoticed, parking can radically affect both patient satisfaction and revenue. Patients who cannot find parking spaces may be late to their appointment or give up altogether, disrupting patient flow. Another parking issue that practices face is providing an appropriate drop-off area. Providing a space where a family member can drop off an elderly or injured patient will both enhance patient flow and improve the overall experience for the patient.

By adhering to these guidelines, practices can improve their efficiency, increase revenue, and provide their patients with the best experience possible.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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