New medical practices are more focused on improving the patient flow with strategies that are patient-centered and by engaging skilled resources that can remove bottlenecks and streamline the patient flow. Increased and steady patient flow is a must to ensure that the medical practice is performing well and patients keep coming back for follow-up treatment and are satisfied. After the recent reforms, patients are more in control of their health management which is changing the role for patients from passive recipients of services to active decision-makers who can choose the physician of their choice and can influence care plan.
What exactly is patient flow?
According to a research article published in NEJM Catalyst, 1 January 2018 – “Patient flow is the movement of patients through a healthcare facility. It involves the medical care, physical resources, and internal systems needed to get patients from the point of admission to the point of discharge while maintaining quality and patient/provider satisfaction.”
During the care process, there are many things to consider that can ensure the complete satisfaction of the patients and makes them loyal to medical practice. They must be provided with a flexible and convenient care process where they are productively engaged and in effect more stratified.
Productive patient engagement increases patient flow
Patient engagement is the key to improving patient satisfaction. Satisfied patients keep coming back to a provider and result in increased patient flow. Here are some of the instances of patient engagement.
- Patients can make changes or can suggest them to their physician.
- Patients can track vital signs and share them with their physician.
- Patients can communicate with their physicians through an online portal.
- Patients can access their health information after discharge.
- Patients can download their health records.
- Patients can share health records with other physicians.
- Online access to patient-specific health education.
- Patients can get a summary of each clinical visit.
- Patients can receive reminders in a manner they requested for preventive and/or follow-up care.
Alignment of all departments
Giving patients satisfactory care experience has become indispensable for new medical practices. This is why; they don’t want to limit the improvements to only a physician’s office rather the enhancement of the whole clinical process is a must. New practices must design the patient flow, starting from patient check-in to check-out. The alignment of all the departments involved in the care delivery process is a must. The care coordination starts from the front desk than moving to care pathways patients interact with lab resources, physicians, medical assistants, pharmacy and billing staff. Medical practices are required to productively mobilize all the departments to create an integrated environment.
Optimization of workflows
Make the check-in process easier for patients. When a patient visits the medical facility after the appointment, make every step convenient for them. They should be communicated with the visit time and if there is any lag in time then front desk staff must communicate the new time slot. Patients should not be left stranded in the parking area or the waiting area without any clue to their scheduled visit rather the front desk staff should guide them with proper answers to their queries. Long wait times and unanswered questions add to frustration and patients get annoyed right in the beginning.
Plan the patient’s visit. Practice staff should be well trained to handle the visits with a plan. They must be prepared with all the information in advance and if pre-authorization is required then it must be done in advance. Entering patients’ personal information right at the point of care increases the visit slot time. If the patients’ personal information is available in the system in advance along with the past health records, it can decrease the time spent in paperwork and increases provider-patient interaction time. Medical practice administration should remove all the bottlenecks which can hinder the clinical flow.
Simplify checkout and follow-up visits. Patient flow also includes the checkout phase where they are provided all the instructions and the schedule of their follow-up visits if required.
Organize the physical setting of the practice. Medical practices should also consider physical settings when designing patient flow. They must consider the office arrangements that how convenient it is to get into the office. As soon the patients arrive, who they would meet first, where they would sit while waiting for their turn and what other activities they can perform during their stay in the medical facility. Similarly, how must time they would be spending at each counter and what they expect of the resources. The involvement of the patients in the care process and coordination with the physician improves loyalty and confidence levels.
Increasing patient flow is all about optimization of the practice resources and appropriately meeting the patients’ expectations during their stay at the medical facility. A well-designed patient flow should facilitate patients, improve care coordination and must fetch better health outcomes. However, with an increased workload, medical practices are left with limited resources to manage everyday responsibilities. This is why most of the medical practices prefer outsourcing burdening tasks and like to keep their focus on delivering the quality of care. By outsourcing tasks such as front desk management, coding, and billing, claim preparation and submission, payment posting, and other operational tasks, medical practices can optimize their resources. Efficient and streamlined clinical processes increase patient flow.