Clinics and departments with high morale foster a culture of continuous improvement. Your employees want opportunities to improve, and even small changes to the patient visit workflow can eliminate unnecessary tasks and headaches for busy staff. In turn, workflow improvements and a happy team ensure patient satisfaction and excellent care.

So what’s holding you back? Now is the perfect time to streamline your patient visit workflow. 

Streamline your patient visit workflow with these tips

1. Audit your workflow

The only way to improve your current workflow is to see what’s already happening. An easy starting point is to document and assess the most common patient visit types in your clinic or department. Streamlining steps in these routine visits will save the most time. 

Clinics can hire out a workflow audit, but it’s also something team leaders can do themselves. Schedule a meeting, map out every step in a typical patient visit, and look for chokepoints. When you find processes that your team could improve, brainstorm solutions and implement the change. 

2. Examine personnel roles

Like a well-directed play on stage, everyone in your clinic has a role to play. But are the right people in the right places? 

Conduct regular personnel assessments to make sure everyone – from the front desk staff to providers – fits into the overall clinic workflow as effectively as possible. Implement changes as necessary by combining or separating roles or updating job descriptions. Provide regular training opportunities for staff to ensure they feel confident in their role. 

3. Streamline clinical documentation

When providers can manage their documentation load, they’re more likely to be on time and prepared to provide excellent patient care. Save time by dictating clinical notes or adopting third-party EHR apps that streamline documentation. 

Any steps you take to streamline documentation will also improve the flow of patient visits. See these workflow hacks to get clinical notes done on time if you need some inspiration. 

4. Automate more than you think you can

You might think your clinic or department has already cut unnecessary steps in the patient visit workflow. But there’s always a way to cut more. 

Could online check-in replace front desk paperwork? Are there any steps you’re using paper for that you could complete directly in the EHR? Can patients pay online, so they don’t have to call the office? Today, there’s technology to automate nearly everything, from credit card processing to patient queues. Look carefuly at areas your office could streamline further. 

5. Optimize your patient portal

Your clinic probably already has a patient portal in place. But are patients using it? Are staff and providers using it? Look closely, and you’ll probably see that your portal offers functions you aren’t yet using. 

A well-designed and optimized portal can free up staff time by allowing patients to review educational materials, schedule non-urgent appointments, and update their medical history online. 

6. See some patients via Telehealth

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to telehealth, but experts say patient preferences will sustain it. For many types of visits, the best way to streamline your patient visit workflow is to avoid having the patient come to the clinic in the first place.

A thoughtful telehealth workflow can streamline documentation, prevent no-shows or late arrivals, and cut the average office visit time in half. Consider whether your practice should start seeing some patients remotely or expand your current telehealth practice. 

7. Implement pre-visit lab testing

Pre-visit lab testing involves ordering patient lab tests for completion before their upcoming appointment. Doing this gives physicians a chance to discuss results with patients at their visits, which improves patient care. It also eliminates reviewing results later, calling patients to explain results, and coordinating follow-up care. 

Read about how a primary care physician in Boston saw impressive time and cost savings using pre-visit lab testing. 

8. Consider schedule updates

Sometimes improving patient visit workflow requires reexamining your service hours. To do this, treat schedule changes like short experiments to see what works. Try adding or removing scheduled visit hours and see how this impacts your profit and workflow. 

9. Ask your staff for input

The people with the most expertise in streamlining patient visits are your staff. Encourage staff to provide input and identify where they think you could save time. Listen to their ideas and try them out by implementing new processes or technology. 

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