“The doctor’s schedule is constantly changing. Technology should make it simple to alter things, stay current, and, most crucially, communicate changes to stakeholders quickly.”
Patient flow management is a topic that does not always get the attention it needs. It is, nonetheless, one of the most important factors that determine patient happiness. More importantly, a well-thought-out and implemented patient flow management strategy allows you to save time and stress in your office, which cannot be overstated.
There has been a tendency to believe that there isn’t much that can be done to regulate patient flow. It’s an occupational hazard that must be accepted. Many doctors will offer a variety of scenarios for how things can go wrong.
Patients seeking appointments in a variety of ways, unexpected walk-ins, urgent appointments, VIP patients, a lack of well-trained staff to manage the schedule, a lack of transparency in queues, patient arguments, and doctors and patients unable to keep the schedule promise are all contributing factors. There are far too many problems. “It’s as if you’re attempting to construct a quiet, placid pond in the middle of the Himalayan rapids,” one of the specialty doctors put it succinctly.
Let’s agree on one point. Scheduling doctor’s appointments is a difficult task. There is no such thing as a silver bullet. Things go wrong. There will also be enraged patients. There are going to be bad days. However, another way to think about it is: can I soften the blow? Is it possible for me to fix 80% of the problems? Is it possible to implement a better, if not optimal, patient flow management strategy?
The answer is found at the crossroads of technology, process, and people. Technology frequently aids in the packaging of the most effective procedures and embodies collective learning. People are required to put the technology into action.
“The doctor’s timetable changes and changes frequently,” the solution’s underlying idea states. Technology should make it simple to alter things, stay current, and, most crucially, communicate changes to stakeholders quickly.”
I propose the following five fundamental measures for facilitating patient flow management.
First and foremost, it contains a central real-time shared calendar that keeps track of all appointments in one spot. There are no confrontations. If you’re going to a lot of different places, your calendar should be able to keep track of everything. You should be able to establish your timetable, slots, and update the configuration in real-time using a technology tool.
Second, determine the methods by which patients communicate with you. The main routes include phone, internet, and walk-ins. Find a programmed that combines all three in a real-time calendar. Today’s technology allows a tailored automated IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to receive a patient call, pull up your calendar, announce the time, and, upon selection, convey the appointment time via text message and email. On the Internet, the same calendar is available. The doctor’s schedule is visible to the entire team.
Finally, set out enough time for walk-ins to keep your timetable from going haywire. Do not overbook yourself with appointments. Respectfully communicate your true feelings to patients who fail to show up for appointments.
Fourth, cancel text messages/emails to convey any timetable changes. Patients understand that doctors are sometimes swamped with emergencies, and they appreciate being informed of schedule changes ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.
Finally, increase transparency in your clinic or hospital by showing the patient line on overhead screens that show “who is next.” Keep the ability to switch queues if necessary.