Identify time-wasters to make your office more efficient

Most medical practices are overworked, understaffed and desperately wishing for more time in the day. Fortunately, with some thoughtful pre-planning and dedication, you can "find" additional time for your office.

Here are some of the easiest ways you can identify your time-sinks and streamline your practice:

Focus on appointment efficiency
A lot of wasted time in small medical practices can be blamed on scheduled patients arriving late or failing to arrive at all. While this is extremely frustrating, it can be controlled with careful planning. Follow these steps to instantly improve your scheduling process:

  • Have patients prepare paperwork beforehand. One doctor found that having patients complete paperwork before the day of their scheduled appointment reduced no-show rates from 40 percent to as low as 5 percent. If you can utilize technology to automate this process, all the better.
  • Be well prepared for the first appointments. Make sure your staff arrives at the office an hour before the first scheduled appointment. You’ll be able to take early birds immediately, and prevent any delays at the beginning. If you get backed up early, it’ll create a bottleneck for the entire day, so it’s important to get off to a good start.
  • Leave a couple of slots open each day for emergencies. This will provide you the opportunity to take patients who need immediate assistance. It also allows you some flexibility for catching up on your appointments for the day if you do get backed up.

Keep information flowing
Time can easily be wasted when employees have to review data that has already been shared or recover information that they should have been privy to in the first place. Here are a few suggestions on how you can improve office communication:

  • Utilize specific process guides. Effective process guides serve two key purposes: First, they act as a tool to manage the office and completely control processes with minimal delegation and supervision. Second, employees can refer to the guides to find information on their own, removing the need for questions, discussions or additional training.
  • Hold regular staff meetings. Staff meetings are extremely effective for communicating new information on a regular basis. They're also great for offering your staff an opportunity to offer recommendations for continual improvements. As an added bonus, opening the lines of communication will empower your employees and make them feel appreciated, potentially boosting their productivity and adding inspiration to their daily routine.

Identify your own bottlenecks
Each office is unique, so bottlenecks may vary greatly. To begin finding what's holding things up at your parctice, you need to create a process map for patient flow. Carefully list the steps each patient take as they receive care and go through an appointment, from the initial booking to the payment process to any potential follow-ups.

Once you have completed the process map, carefully track any hang-ups over a couple of weeks. You’ll more quickly be able to pinpoint where the time-sinks occur, and will be ready to figure out how to solve them.

Creating a more efficient medical office can’t happen overnight, but focusing on an effective appointment process, keeping the flow of information open, and working to identify bottlenecks keys to improvement. Once you've mastered those areas, your office will be running efficiently and taking more patients in no time.

Monica Gomez specializes in writing about health and medical-related topics.