Use analytics to unkink patient flow

Managing the patient-visit cycle gives practices the most potential for profitability and efficiency over any other initiative. In addition, smoother patient flow enhances care and improves safety, according to research from the Commonwealth Fund.

But to fix inefficiencies, institutions need to first analyze their staffing, availability and patterns, Anne-Marie Audet, vice president for the Delivery System Reform Program at the Commonwealth Fund, told Healthcare Finance News.

Here are two examples of how medical offices can use analytics to identify and correct bottlenecks:

  • Be strategic about visits you schedule in advance. Know your office's busiest days for call-in appointments and avoid pre-scheduling predictable care, such as routine follow-up visits, on those days, Owen Dahl of Houston-based Owen Dahl Consulting, told HFN. Similarly, if you have large numbers of patients with the same chronic condition, consider implementing shared medical appointments, he suggested.

  • A major and all-too-common symptom of poor patient flow--which also happens to rein as the leading cause of patient complaints--is long wait times in the office. When working with a practice experiencing this problem, consultant Frank Cohen observed patients repeatedly walking up to the front desk to ask for assistance in understanding the practice's paperwork, both for content and legibility, he told HFN. The solution was two-fold. First, the practice placed a basket of over-the-counter reading glasses at the front desk to help patients decipher fine print. It also reworded its financial policy to make the information less confusing. These two changes slashed each new patient's check-in time by a whopping seven minutes, Cohen said.

"In the end, improving patient flow in hospitals and other healthcare settings may mean doing more to accommodate patients' schedules (rather than physicians') and rethinking how and when to deliver care. In primary care, this is already happening with the growing number of retail clinics and those embedded in schools or other convenient locations," researchers at the Commonwealth Fund wrote. 

To learn more:
- read the post from HFN
- see the article from the Commonwealth Fund