Workflow, much like technology, is a powerful form of leverage that can work for or against you. When small hiccups in your workflow get repeated over and over during the day, patients and your staff suffer.
If a patient file is not managed efficiently, not only is the doctor inconvenienced, but that patient and other staff is affected as well. Before long, your day is getting longer right before your eyes, with little hope of getting back on track.
This is where workflow effectiveness comes in. If you can identify those tiny sources of inefficiency, you can multiply the benefits across the entire office, from staff back to the patient. With even small changes, the amount of work that your practice could complete (in comparison to other offices within your specialty of the same size) will increase dramatically.
The smoother your workflow operates, the easier and less hurried an office visit feels to both patients and staff. Your patients benefit directly in reduced wait times, reinforcing confidence in your office as a whole. And when your physicians are more productive, your staff experiences fewer bottlenecks, interruptions and hassles.
Workflow optimization requires more than just the physician or office manager’s input. An engaged staff that’s trusted to share their suggestions and comments is much more likely to find those inefficiencies and offer deeper perspectives on workflow. By giving them a voice in how workflow is implemented, you encourage their participation in finding a better way.
Here are six questions to ask to determine if your workflow is running optimally:
1. Does each staff member understand their duties?
Having clearly delineated duties for every staff member is vital. When your staff is unsure who is responsible for completing the tasks on-hand, you end up with bottlenecks and redundancies.
2. Is work being repeated?
Each task should be done once and done right. If you find that your patients are telling you they’ve given the same information to multiple staff members, your workflow is in trouble. There should be a clear path for patients form check-in to check-out with no redundancies. Map out your optimal patient flow versus what is currently happening to spot bottlenecks.
3. Does your practice follow a set schedule?
Without scheduling, necessary tasks can fall through the cracks and create workflow issues. List all daily tasks and set up times to complete them in batches to improve efficiency.
4. Does your practice have communication problems?
No practice workflow can function optimally without clear communication between staff members. Each person on staff from physicians to the front desk should feel empowered to speak up when problems arise, whether it affects workflow or patient care. By immediately addressing issues, your practice can improve both efficiency and patient experience.
5. Does your staff fit your practice?
Needs of practices change over time as they grow and add physicians or ancillary services. To determine if your current staffing fits your practice, have staff members log their tasks completed versus time spent on each task for a week. This will allow you to determine if you need to add staff or better allocate duties.
6. Does your staff fully understand the technology implemented in your office?
EHRs are one of the most valuable tools available to overcome practice workflow issues. However, your staff must fully understand how to use the features available to them to prevent bottlenecks. Take advantage of the training offered by your EHR vendor to ensure optimal workflow.
Now that you have an idea of the workflow improvements needed in your practices, use this checklist to make sure you have the essentials covered:
Commit to investing the time and attention to continuously improving your workflow. It’s a journey and not a destination. There are always new ways to improve and protocols that have to be accomplished inside your practice. And there will invariably be new technologies to implement, designed to make certain parts of your workflow more efficient. With all of these different moving parts, you should commit to continuously refine your workflow. This ensures that you keep your practice up-to-date, efficient and successful.