January 14, 2019
Although healthcare services are indispensable for a population, mere treatment is not the ask today. There has been a change in the healthcare landscape as consumerization continues to unfold. Customers have come to expect the same kind of experience from healthcare. This has made the providers realize that patient experience holds paramount importance. That’s why there is an increased focus on delivering value and not just services.
It’s obvious that physicians hold the key role in healthcare delivery. In this effort of providers to optimize patient experience, physicians have all the more responsibilities today.
Because of this, they’re required to spend more time doing their core job which is attending patients and spending quality time with them.
Surveys and studies worldwide prove that there still lies a big gap in patient satisfaction. Patients feel that physicians aren’t available to them all the time they need them. Long waiting time and delay in consultation can be considered the biggest roadblocks in achieving the required patient satisfaction level.
On the other hand, many physicians are observed to have been overworking to ensure quality care for their patients.
For years, limited bandwidth has been forcing them to work outside their regular hours. Just to quote an example, based on the available data from 2011-2014, an article from the American Journal of Medicine said that physician burnout had increased from 45.5% to 54.4% during the period.
Does it mean there is a dearth of doctors? Should providers consider hiring more physicians to enhance patient care? Or maybe they can train more of them to bring them up to the needed level?
These might sound like quick solutions but far from perfect ones. We must recognize that physicians aren’t optimally utilized. And that’s the root of the problem. Therefore, even if there are more physicians hired or more junior professionals trained for superior care delivery, the problem is going to continue if this root cause isn’t addressed.
We need to realize that there are certain fundamental inefficiencies existing in the current workflow of physicians. No-shows, unutilized time of physicians and medical staff and long lead time are some of the major factors behind this, to name a few.
According to an article by CareRemote earlier in 2018, a single unused slot costs a physician 60 minutes and about USD200. The same article also stated that missed appointments cost as much as USD 150 billion to the United States healthcare. These numbers are enough to give a hint of how critical these factors are.
That’s where providers primarily will have to divert their focus on. Providers need to fill these gaps first.
While preparing a strategy on how to utilize the time of a physician in the most effective way, the consideration of technology isn’t optional. There are going be multiple tasks requiring automation and refinement.
The approach should predominantly be focused on designing an efficient scheduling model. It should be noted that a lot of patient appointments don’t end up being used due to no-shows or rescheduling.
Analyzing this data can provide valuable insights and help create that much-needed scheduling model. The insights would enable the physicians to utilize the empty slots in a better manner and accommodate patients’ needs.
This model can also send automated notifications to the physicians in case of cancellations or rescheduling of patient visits. Thus, the possibilities of several missed opportunities can be mitigated.
Another need of the hour is the increased adoption of electronic health records (EHR). During the consultation, if physicians have instant access to the latest health profile of their patients, they can skip several repetitive steps and get directly to the treatment process.
For example, if a patient comes to a doctor complaining high blood pressure, the physician would have to ask him several questions like lifestyle, other symptoms, family history, any previous treatment, whether he’s taking any medication etc.
But using EHR, the physician can quickly take a look at the complete medical record of the patient and determine what the best course of treatment would be.
This allows the physician to improve the schedule, spend quality time with the patient and ensure a more accurate care delivery.
The fact that physicians have to take care of various pieces of administrative work as well shows one of the major setbacks in achieving patient satisfaction goal. It has also been observed that a significant number of administrative tasks such as data-entry are performed after work hours. This probably explains the reason for physician burnouts.
Providers should make this issue a priority. Doctors are primarily expected to focus on patient care. Other activities, however important, will always assume a secondary consideration. In this case, it’s crucial that there are other teams that can take care of such non-core tasks of physicians to increase their bandwidth and optimize their schedule.
Another aspect that healthcare providers need to pay heed to is the seamless availability of support teams for physicians. This will help in making sure they don’t have to work on anything dealing in non-clinical tasks, saving them time to attend to care activities and preventing burnout possibilities for them.
A few major areas where these support teams can be highly valuable are:
Other than the tasks mentioned above, the support can cover various pieces of work that can be qualified as a non-physician responsibility. Of course, the support team must be trained for the same. This way, providers can enable physicians to engage in more strategic responsibilities and deliver enhanced care experience to patients.
Mobility is transforming business approaches all over the world across all the industries. Smartphones are an integral part of our daily lives. And hence mobility can surely contribute a lot in this context.
Leveraging mobile technology can further help address the issue of physicians’ bandwidth. It will save more time for medical staff and enable to utilize their time more effectively to attend patients.
A great consideration in this direction can be increased application of telehealth and telemedicine. If there are short slots available in the schedule, instead of leaving them like that, the staff can use telehealth to fill these slots with various informative and education pieces.
As healthcare providers strive to raise benchmarks of care delivery and deliver an optimum patient satisfaction, they will need to ease the unnecessary workload on physicians, all the while maintaining superior care quality. It will require them to streamline current workflows and ensure that administrative tasks are taken away from physicians.
The goal is to help them concentrate on their core job which is patient care. Once this is in place, there will be a considerable reduction in patient waiting time, certainly leading to a higher satisfaction level for patients.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can leverage data and technology to optimize the schedule of physicians, feel free to get in touch with one of our experts.