Efficiency: A Critical Step in Creating a Distinctive Practice

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By April Jasper, OD, FAAO, and Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH

You might be the friendliest doctor in town. Your office might be beautiful. You might have all the latest products and technology. But if you’re not efficient, patients won’t be as motivated to come back. The “but” phrases that patients use to describe their experience highlight the lapses in efficiency. “The doctor was great, but I waited for 45 minutes.” Or “I love my new eyeglasses, but I had to keep calling to find out if they were ready.”

Some people equate efficiency with speed—and being respectful of patients’ time is certainly an element. But it needs to be coupled with thoroughness and accuracy (and we’ll talk about accuracy more next month). Patients don’t want to spend a lot of time in our offices. They have other things to do. If they believe that they can get the comprehensive care they need without an unnecessary wait, they’ll choose the more efficient place. Just look at the rise of urgent care centers: they provide an efficient alternative to an ER for many injuries or routine procedures.

One of the best ways to increase efficiency is to make sure that your office is taking advantage of all of the technology you already have as well as analyzing where additional technology can make you even more efficient. The slow periods of patient flow—such as these summer weeks—are a great time for staff training.

We highly recommend that doctors and staff take the time to review and retrain on the proper use of equipment. If you don’t have written procedures for the use of your technology, have the person most familiar with it draft a checklist or procedure guide. Then everyone on the team can review it. Not only will that help the team refine the procedure, it’s an opportunity for each person to learn what others are doing. In this process, you may find that you’re duplicating steps.

Patients might become annoyed if they are being asked the same question repeatedly or if they’re presented with duplicate forms or even testing. Consider asking a volunteer (a family member, for example) to go through a comprehensive visit and videotape the entire procedure. Review this video as a team to gauge where the duplications, waits or other lapses in efficiency arise. It’s a great opportunity for your entire staff to see how it looks to patients.

Are there processes that are included simply because they’ve always been there? Does every question and step along the way contribute to a better outcome? If not, what can be eliminated? Would changing the order of one aspect create a greater efficiency to the whole?

The wonderful thing about assessing efficiency is that many changes can generally be made quickly and easily. Keep a written log of changes made to the process and why. That helps reinforce when and why the changes were made so that staff and doctors don’t fall back into old, inefficient routines.

For more on our strategies for achieving efficiency, visit distinctivestrategies.com.

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