Different types of staff drive patient throughput. Although it’s a good idea to slightly overstaff MAs in the exam area, staffing levels in other areas, such as check-in and checkout, should match the volume of patients coming into and leaving the office.
Explore this issue:October 2011
Tweak Patient Flow
Bottlenecks in staffing, technology and layout can also be addressed with improved communications among patients, staff and physicians. If you arrange the front desk so that reception staff can alert MAs when patients arrive, the MAs can move up an early arrival when a scheduled patient is late, Woodcock said.
Simple, efficient check-in tools such as touch screen systems can also speed patient throughput. Dr. Benninger’s practice is also piloting electronic tablets that patients can use in the waiting room to record their medical histories, which can then be inserted automatically into their medical records.
Well-functioning practices should also give patients a short survey when they arrive at the check-in desk and ask them to record their arrival time, the time they’re called back to the exam room and the time they see their physician, Woodcock suggested. “Many patients feel empowered when they help the practice to improve,” she said.
In any event, don’t wait for patient complaints to address operational shortcomings. Patient “murmurs” at the checkout desk are an obvious sign that action is needed, according to Woodcock. “If you wait to see an issue arise on a formal patient satisfaction survey, you’ve missed the boat,” she said. ENT Today