Maintaining an effective medical practice is not easy. With so many factors and moving parts to consider, making sure your office is running smoothly requires constant attention. And it requires identifying different areas that waste time or result in poor outcomes.
Below are three conditions that can harm your operational efficiency, and how to improve your medical practice operations by fixing them.
1. Communication Breakdowns Between Doctors and Patients
It goes without saying that doctors need to do a good job discussing treatment with the patients they see. Yet a breakdown in communications lead to many issues in healthcare practice management. This is especially true when it comes to updating prescriptions.
Recent data shows that communication breakdowns regarding medication can have disastrous effects throughout a patient’s experience with a hospital—from admission to overnight stays to eventual discharges.
A study conducted by Karin Frydenberg and Mette Brekke, which explored the cases of 30 emergency patients, highlights this common mistake and the swath of problems it generates. The researchers set out to find discrepancies between "the patients’ actual drugs taken and what was recorded on admission to hospital, during hospitalization, at discharge, and five weeks after [their] hospital stay,” and the results were alarming.
In total, the 30 patients used 250 different drugs, and a whopping 50 medication errors were found—27 of which were considered potentially harmful. 60 percent of those monitored were impacted by these mistakes.
These errors lead to a wide range of inefficiencies and make it difficult to improve medical practice operations. Improper use of medication, and the time spent distributing that medication, can be considered wasteful. It can lead to patients staying in your facility longer than they should, which, of course, costs money.
It can also lead to legal trouble: According to The Doctors Company, communication was a contributing factor to more than one-quarter of all malpractice claims from 2012 to 2016. And, most importantly, it can create serious health risks for your patients, who deserve to receive proper care.
“General practitioners have a key role in updating their patients’ medication. Poor communication regarding patients’ drug use may easily occur when patients cross health care levels,” Frydenberg and Brekke wrote.
“The majority of the medication errors were made when the patients were admitted to [the] hospital, and a substantial proportion were potentially harmful. The medication list should be reviewed together with the patient on admission, and each patient should carry an updated medication list provided by his or her general practitioner.”
Without question, doctors need the personal skills to gather information so they can properly diagnosis patients, offer the right counsel, provide helpful instructions, and build trusting, meaningful relationships. They need strong organizational skills, as well, to ensure that important information remains accurate as it moves through different channels.
Unsurprisingly, research has shown that strong communication is one of the best ways to improve medical practice operations.
“Effective doctor-patient communication is a central clinical function, and the resultant communication is the heart and art of medicine and a central component in the delivery of health care,” a study in The Ochsner Journal found. “Good doctor-patient communication has the potential to help regulate patients' emotions, facilitate comprehension of medical information, and allow for better identification of patients' needs, perceptions, and expectations.
“Patients' agreement with the doctor about the nature of the treatment and need for follow-up is strongly associated with their recovery. Some studies have observed a decrease in length of hospital stay and therefore the cost of individual medical visits and fewer referrals. Satisfied patients are less likely to lodge formal complaints or initiate malpractice complaints.”
2. Poor Office Flow
Regardless of how strong your healthcare practice management is, you should consider updating patient flow, which involves the first time they contact your facility to the last payment they make. Those who wish to improve their medical practice operations should constantly evaluate this area.
To make sure everyone in your office is using their time efficiently, their tasks and responsibilities should be broken down clearly. Work should be divvied up as equally as possible, and everyone should be doing what they are trained to do.
You can improve your medical practice operations by making sure doctors are not answering phones or handling paperwork; by making sure nurses are always doing what they can to treat patients; and by making sure those who are trained to use administrative software are handling all payments and schedule issues.
"If we don't identify who is doing what, prior to a patient visit, then again, you run into a productivity issue, but also the potential for redundancies, and potential for confusion," said Barbara Stahura, senior consultant with Gates, Moore & Company in Atlanta. "I see that as a big issue.
"If you flow that whole visit, you see what it takes for each step and who does each piece of that visit. That goes hand-in-hand with the development of job descriptions… and is enlightening for a practice. It shows you where you may have redundancies, but also shows you that you have to think through who is going to take care of that piece of the visit."
3. Long Wait Times for Patients
One of the best ways to improve medical practice operations is to get your patients in and out the door in a more efficient manner. This can be done by utilizing queue management software. The QLess healthcare queue management system has been proven to cut down operating costs, boost staff productivity, and eliminate overcrowding in your waiting room.
With our FlexAppointments feature, existing appointments merge with walk-in customers – providing an effective solution to eliminate scheduling gaps when patients cancel or change their appointments.
Improving patient flow can increase satisfaction by up to 20 percent. Queue management software accomplishes this by notifying patients of delays; in turn, their expectations are controlled and they feel less frustrated by the waiting process.
QLess Analytics offers valuable data that can sharpen your healthcare practice management. Once you implement our software, you will be able to send SMS surveys to your patients to collect real-time thoughts about their time at your practice, helping you target areas that need to improve and proving to your patients that you truly care about their healthcare experience.
To learn more about QLess and how our solutions can improve medical practice operations in your hospital, clinic, or medical practice, to watch our 30-minute product demonstration here.