Optimizing patient flow is an ongoing challenge for all medical practices. Here are two tricks of the trade you can implement immediately to save time and frustration for physicians, staff and patients.
Create a visual representation of waste. Efficiency-boosting systems, such as Lean and Six Sigma, recommend that organizations create a document known as a value-stream map to illustrate where personnel are wasting time and energy. Although the value-stream map is a valuable tool, there are simpler ways to gather some of the same information.
For example, try tying a string around the finger of a nurse and have her take all of the steps that she ordinarily would when taking care of a patient, Debra Wiggs, Vice President of Physician's Services at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho, recommended in an article in Renal & Urology News. Most of the time, the result will resemble a big spider web, she said, making it clear where you could make tweaks to reduce unnecessary steps.
Optimize your team huddle. Many medical groups conduct team huddles, but most don't get the full benefit out of the exercise, said Dike Drummond, a family practice doctor and and healthcare career strategy coach, in a recent video for The Happy MD. Most of the time, physicians and staff use these brief hallway meetings to troubleshoot the practice's daily schedule and address any vacancies. But even with just three minutes, twice a day, Drummond said there's no reason to stop there.
To make everyone's day happier and more productive, use this opportunity to ask your team members how they are doing. You might then learn about anybody that is dealing with sick parents or facing other personal struggles.
"It sends a powerful message to the team that you care," he said.
Next, use this time to thank team members for anything special they've done in the past 24 hours that has helped you, he suggested.
Finally, the physician should remind employees to speak up if they see others doing any tasks that they shouldn't, and make suggestions for how they can help share the load.
"I've never met a doctor whose office staff didn't want to help them more," Drummond said. "I've also never met a doctor who wasn't doing things they shouldn't be doing."