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    How to master office efficiency, flow

    Clear mission, vision are foundation of a strongly run practice

    One of my employees recently visited another physician office as a patient and remarked “Oh, Dr. Palm, their office was nothing like ours. I realize how lucky our patients are.” She recounted her experience including an extended wait in the reception area, her lack of pre-visit counseling, a mountain of paperwork, and the brusque and cursory manner of the office staff.

    Overall, not an ideal office visit — but unfortunately, it is probably considered by most patients as the average, and mildly frustrating, visit to a doctor’s office.

    My employee’s experience highlights many of the salient areas relating to office inefficiency that deeply affect the overall patient experience. A well-run office with highly efficient operating systems nurtures a pleasant work culture for staff, the physician(s) and patients. A poorly run office leads to increasing stress levels, loss of income and unhappy patients.

    Clear mission and vision

    So where does office efficiency start? According to Linda Lewis, Allergan senior practice consultant, a clear mission and vision for the practice is the foundation of a strongly run practice.

    “Setting clear employee expectations and protocols are ultimately important to consistent patient flow and practice efficiency,” she says.

    Staff training is arguably the most important factor in maximizing patient flow. This begins with pre-visit interactions such as initial phone and email touch points. Having the front reception staff determine the precise reason for his/her visit, counseling on expectations and preparation for procedures, and stressing completion of pre-visit paperwork all ensure a patient visit goes smoothly and keeps clinic running on time.

    Michelle Hoover, Galderma key account manager, stresses the importance that all staff receive full training on electronic health record (EHR) systems to avoid inaccurate data entry that in turn leads to delays in patient processing. Online registration forms can pre-populate portions of the patient history, making the most of an EHR system. Electronic welcome packets, instruction sheets and even videos can provide appropriate practice information and counseling for patients prior to them stepping past the office threshold.

    Next: Maximize use of medical assistants


    Melanie D. Palm, M.D., M.B.A.
    Melanie D. Palm, M.D., is director of Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach, Calif. Visit her at http://www.artofskinmd.com


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