As primary care providers, pediatricians and pediatric specialists, routinely deal with fixed insurance payments that do not allow them to routinely pass on increased costs to payers. Perception of patient flow through the practice provides the base to adapt and manage patient visits to the advantage of the providers and patients. Below are a few tips to ensure effective patient flow.
Assess how a patient encounter progresses from the patient's point of view. This can be done by shadowing a patient through the visit, using a kitchen timer attached to a clipboard or notepad where the staff notes
Start from the initial appointment scheduling, the electronic health record (EHR) review. Identify the points of care where staff engage with the patient and prep for the visit. The process can then be reviewed as a team (providers, front desk, clinical, and billing staff) to identify areas that increase delays.
Gridlock in patient flow can be found during the check-in process, provider appointment times, and interruptions in providers' work flow, documentation practices, examination room setups, clinical processes, scheduling, and checkout.
Prioritize changes based on staff, provider, and patient survey information. Initiate one change per area at a time; ensure that adaptation and evaluation is complete before going on to the next one.
Goals to consider should focus on improving the overall satisfaction of providers, staff and patients all while increasing revenue and cutting expenses of the practice.
Identifying the flow of patients may also have an immediate effect on revenue. The location of the checkout or collections desk can have a significant effect on co-payment collection. As the patient checks out after the visit, a properly placed desk can improve contact with the patient and increase chances for collection. Co-payments are often given less attention in the world of collections because of the small amounts, but these dollars can quickly add up.
By making sure that all patients pass by the checkout desk before leaving the office, this can provide another opportunity to collect the co-payment as the patient schedules the next appointment.
Additional Examples Include:
Streamline Front Office Tasks
Front office staff are typically the first presence that patients and families come in contact with either via phone or face-to-face. It is critical that the first impression is a pleasant one. In order to decrease wait times and increase organization, the front desk staff should be responsible for:
- Scheduling appointments
- Collecting payments
- Verifying insurances
- Making sure patient forms are completed properly
Use MAs and RNs as Flow Managers
As a vital member of the pediatric practice team, Medical Assistants (MAs) and Registered Nurses (RNs) should be used to manage and complete back office tasks as a way to deliver and improve high quality clinical care to patients. Back office tasks can include:
- Exam room preparation
- Answering patient questions
- Gathering clinical information for providers (eg lab results, x-ray reports)
Optimize Patient Schedules
In terms of delivery of care, patient scheduling is one of the most crucial operational systems in a practice. For provider, staff and patient satisfaction, it is important to maximize patient appointments and minimize the downtime that happens when patients fail to show up. The use of an Electronic Health Records (EHR) system can create a smooth and seamless experience for both the patients and providers that can increase operational efficiency.
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