Within the last few years, the inefficiencies within medical offices have increased exponentially. That doesn’t mean that these challenges didn’t exist before.
As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to grow to almost burdensome levels, you may be looking for ways to increase your productivity, lower costs for your medical office and patients, and ultimately provide the patient with the most consistent quality care.
It is estimated that 12 billion dollars are wasted yearly on medical facilities.
How do you combat this? Where do you start? Continue reading this article to find out.
What Is a Medical Office Workflow?
Medical office workflow refers to managing patient care within a healthcare facility, from scheduling appointments to billing and insurance management.
These are the steps your office takes to treat patients. Another way to look at this is a workflow is the sequence of physical and mental steps performed separately and simultaneously to provide patient care.
Because medical offices are known for their outdated practices, it can take an outside perspective to help see what is working, what isn’t, and what can be improved.
1. Map Out the Patient's Journey
This may seem obvious, but defining how the patient's journey from the beginning to the end of their treatment at your facility will help you better observe your challenges and what you can adjust to streamline the process.
Of course, the patient journey does not begin with you. With the high usage of search engines, once a person can feel “something wrong,” 16.8 percent of patients look up their symptoms online before coming to you.
The standard first step of a patient’s journey is when they come to you to help make sense of the symptoms and seek treatment for an ailment they may not immediately understand.
Once they reach your office and are seen by a physician, they will start their treatment, whether for medication or a needed medical procedure.
When they receive treatment, they need to review side effects and adjust treatment or improve their condition.
2. Eliminate Redundancy and Overlapping Practices
After reviewing your patient’s journey, you should look for overlapping practices hindering your success and efficiency. This means looking for redundancy in the following:
- Ask yourself what team members' roles are, how tasks are delegated between them, and how you can optimize each position’s workflow.
- What tasks are accomplished during each step of your patient journey? Do any of these tasks lack purpose, or are performed by multiple team members?
- Medical offices often underutilize resources and technology. Are you doing the same thing? Look for outdated tools that could use an upgrade and tools that you are using but aren’t helping you be more proficient.
- When defining your patient journey, ensure you have definable steps for each interaction to help better care for the patient and improve overall satisfaction from intake to discharge.
3. Set Up Automations
Many tasks that service providers manually provide when they could easily automate them. Automation services are one of the most under-utilized resources within healthcare facilities. Almost 40 percent of tasks are estimated to be redundant, leading to wasted efforts.
For example, consider implementing an automation system that automatically sends in the original script and refills prescriptions and patient reminders about appointments.
This will help your medical office staff stay off the phones, as many of the calls received are double calls due to the office not getting back to patients, and provide more time to do what medical offices are meant to do: treat patients.
4. Explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Staff Learning
Artificial intelligence isn’t just seen in the OR or when treating patients; it can also be used to help with staff-wide and individual training. The more educated your staff is, the more smoothly your medical office workflow will be.
Each person should know their role and responsibilities, and if you are implementing new systems, this is an excellent way to get them up-to-speed and onboard.
5. Employ Electronic Health Records
Electronic Health Records, sometimes called EHR, are becoming one of the most commonly used practices within medical offices.
By implementing electronic health records, it’s easier to track patient data and information and share it with different physicians. This can also help keep patient medical records up-to-date and vitals easily accessible.
EHR will help lessen the data entry burden and should include patient monitoring, relieving the stress in doctor’s offices, creating missteps and overlap in patient care, and increasing transparency amongst doctors and patients.
6. Increase Communication and Speed
Much communication between doctors from different medical fields and facilities is outdated and can slow patient care exponentially.
A prime example of this is that 75 percent of hospital communication, including critical information, is done via fax machine, which is astounding as in our digitized world; hardly anyone outside of this profession knows how to use a fax machine.
Use secure text lines, which increases efficiency and security when doctors, nurses, and other medical office staff speak to each other. This also means physicians are not tied to one place while relying on a landline.
7. Assign Roles Within Your Medical Office
When considering the role within your office, consider what tasks _must _be done by specific staff. For the duties that someone like a physician doesn’t require, see if you can find a way to combine the responsibilities and adequately assign them to the correct people.
Think of this as the best way to be sure that your medical office workflow not only moves swiftly but also avoids any overlap or gaps in patient care.
8. Create Measurable Goals for New and Condensed Roles
After you have done the legwork for consolidating and redefining roles within your medical office, you should establish ground rules and goals for each position.
This will set the standard moving forward and help alleviate the stress of people not knowing where they need to be and what they are doing.
Once roles and responsibilities are assigned, be sure you clearly state each specific expectation and obligation with examples to help them better understand.
See if you can make the learning process fun, almost game-like, to empower your employees and create a team atmosphere.
9. Increase Team-Building and Collaboration
As mentioned, a medical office should be a united front in constant communication. Eighty-six percent of employees cited lack of communication as a leading job hindrance.
Create a team-oriented workflow plan to help with communication. This will create an environment where employees feel valued, and their role is vital in patient care.
A Stanford study suggests that employees who work in a supportive and collaborative environment can maintain their focus on projects for significantly longer periods compared to those working alone — up to 64% longer, in fact. These employees also had a higher success rate and lower fatigue levels. Ultimately, this leads to a better patient experience.
During the Great Resignation during the pandemic, many doctors and nurses left their positions due to burn-out, so it’s essential that as you re-establish roles and responsibilities, you keep your staff’s mental health at the forefront.
Those who do not feel comfortable, frustrated, or not valued are more likely to leave, and your remaining staff will suffer because of it.
10. Incorporate Telemedicine: Beyond Covid-19
During the Covid-19 pandemic, telehealth exploded as it became the safest way to see patients. However, now that the pandemic has slowed, doctors are embracing everything telehealth offers for themselves, their offices, and their patients.
The telehealth market is estimated to be worth $83.5 billion, growing 24 percent between 2023 and 2030.
Telemedicine in medical offices has helped streamline medical office workflow and helped treat patients based on convenience and accessibility, especially for those with disabilities and in hard-to-access and rural areas.
Implementing more telemedicine into the medical office workflow could lower costs for healthcare facilities and patients while reducing patient travel time to facilities and staff workload.
A medical office workflow must exist to keep all those involved — physicians, nurses, and other medical office staff — to assure quality care for the patients.
By implementing the steps listed above, and perhaps considering a few others, you will notice a sizable difference in how your office runs, how much money you save, and how many repeat patients you will see who trust and feel comfortable within your office.
Assessment of the Frequency of Online Searches for Symptoms Before Diagnosis: Analysis of Archival Data | NCBI
Improving Clinical Workflow | HIPAA Journal
3 ways to improve healthcare workflow | MGMA
Workplace communication statistics (2022) | Pumble
Cues of working together fuel intrinsic motivation | ScienceDirect
Telehealth Issues to Watch in 2023 | Insights & Resources | Goodwin Procter