When it comes to a doctors’ office, there are several tried-and-true traditions that are assumed to be necessary parts of the business, but what if they’re not? Some offices are going above and beyond in their effort to provide exceptional patient-oriented service, and in doing so are transforming the idea of what it takes to run a successful medical practice. One daring refractive surgical practice has removed their waiting room entirely as a part of their new wait-free appointments policy. This private office does their absolute best to provide the most patient-oriented care they can think of using time-management studies and their method has invented a brand new way to see patients.
Where Do Patients Sit?
That’s the beauty of this design, they don’t! In an interview with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Durie Vision revealed that this revolutionary change is based on a resolve to eliminate the usual hassles of visiting a doctors’ office starting from the moment a patient walks in the door. Their entire team agreed that the first bottleneck is also the first action a patient takes: the clipboard and waiting room. When your practice is patient-experience oriented, it quickly becomes obvious that this procedure sends a clear message: that the doctor’s time is more important than the patient’s. Often, even once a patient has been seen into an examination room and interviewed by a technician, there are still a few more minutes to wait before being seen by their physician. Patients are constantly waiting, but the clever Durrie doctors and staff decided that it didn’t have to be that way and then made it true!
There’s No Such Thing as ‘Wait-Free’, Right?
Waiting is just how doctors’ offices work. Everyone starts out at the beginning of the day doing their best to go fast, but by lunch, a dozen little delays will have created a half-hour wait time. This is the way it’s always been done, but it’s just been proven that new strategies can be formed that can effectively and enjoyably replace the old waiting room system. The key is a combination of technology, staff cooperation, and a team-wide dedication to continuously improving the process. The team that invented the method insists that “there was no top-down approach to this. The staff really pulled it off because the physicians weren’t the ones greeting patients at the front desk”. Their theory is sound, their method is simple: It’s all about managing time and working together to create a steady schedule.
How Does It Work?
When the Durie team decided to eliminate wait times, it became immediately obvious that this would require a complete overhaul of their scheduling methods and the way they thought about appointments. Instead of simply trying to work faster and avoid slow-downs, they decided to create a predictable blocked scheduling system in which each stage of an appointment took about 20 minutes and could be reliably kept at that pace so that the staff, technicians, and doctors would be ready for the next patient in a constant cycle of greeting, history taking, testing, and consultation. While this method effectively eliminates the slow-downs that cause wait times, to get rid of the waiting room entirely means taking care of the clipboard phase as well. The solution here is something many practices are already doing: online scheduling and paperwork. When done correctly, their ‘clipboard’ information is already in your system and ready for use by the time they walk in the door.
Most people, patients and doctors alike, expect a medical appointment to involve an average of five to thirty minutes in the waiting room, and up to two hours for very busy offices. You may be worried about disconcerting your patients with the lack of waiting rooms or making them feel rushed with speedy appointments, but have no fear! Durie reports that its customers are surprised, but always happy about the lack of wait time. Many are astonished when led into their appointments right away, but 100% of patients since this incredible implementation report that they would recommend the team and their method to friends and family.
The innovative team hasn’t stopped looking for new ways to solve logistical slow-downs involved in medical service and provide an increasingly superb patient experience. This isn’t just a matter of brainstorming, their team is constantly performing “time-management studies as part of [their] ongoing audit process. A staff member will watch the patient flow, look for bottlenecks and propose any corrections.” They have found this constant self-actualized dedication to improving internal methods inevitably produces higher and higher quality of service for their patients. This kind of open-minded innovation combined with real performance metrics is sure to create even more revolutionary method changes in the future.
Medical practices across the country and the world are striving to provide faster, higher quality, and more personal care to their patients, and there are more techniques available than you may realize. When you’re willing to completely recreate the way you handle appointments, the possibilities are nearly infinite. The Durie team took this mindset and showed us how waiting rooms can be obsoleted, freeing us to ask “What else could be done?” Take inspiration from their innovation by asking your own team where they see bottlenecks and inefficiencies that could be solved. The next great idea to revolutionize how doctors see patients could very well be yours. For more interesting medical news and advice on office best practices, contact us today!