An Easy 5-Step Plan for Optimized Patient Flow

Happier doctors, patients, and staff? Increased income? Smoother workdays? It just might be possible with refined scheduling and better patient flow.

Use a measured, data-based approach based on the time the doctor needs to see his or her patients, recommends Derek Preece, a senior consultant with BSM Consulting. Then, accommodate that schedule with the right amount of techs, rooms, and support staff.

While it seems straightforward, many practices face significant roadblocks. To help, Preece shared this step-by-step plan with attendees at AAO2015. Start with the data you’ve gleaned from formally tracking the time each provider needs for each type of patient visit (you have done that, right?).

1. First, multiply each exam’s physician time by its percentage. Then, add the resulting figures to get a weighted average.

2. Next, figure the number of minutes per session. Sessions are the blocks of time designated for patient visits, and will vary according to your practice and doctors.

3. Then, divide the weighted average into the minutes per session to arrive at the number of exams per session.

4. Now, multiply the percentage of each exam type by the total number of exams per session. The result is the number of each exam type you can schedule per session. Divide this result by the number of hours in your session, rounding to whole numbers.

5. Adjust manually as needed. For example, perhaps use only 50 minutes per hour for actual patient visits, leaving time for paperwork, work-ins, or typical interruptions.

Tip: Remember that averages can contain significantly different data points. Calculate the standard deviation to further refine your schedule, because this value will take into account any variances. To consistently finish two-thirds of exams on time, schedule within one standard deviation. To finish almost all exams on time, schedule within two standard deviations. Of course, your choice depends on your tolerance for either waiting on patients, or having patients wait on you.

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