Running a medical office is never an easy task. Patients are calling every moment of the day with questions, or to schedule appointments and as if that didn’t keep you tied up on the phone all day long, the foot traffic alone can drive you over the edge. With salesmen from pharmaceutical companies and medical supply distributors wanting your attention, it is almost impossible to give the kind of patient care your office would like to provide. If you find that all these little distractions are keeping you from the more important tasks throughout the day, here are a few ways to improve efficiency at your medical office. It’s all about organizing and prioritizing your time.
1. Begin Each Day with a Staff Meeting
One of the biggest hindrances to effective use of time and resources is when members of your staff aren’t sure what others are doing and often this leads to a duplication in efforts. Time is easy to waste and that’s why it is so important to make sure each day begins with a quick meeting to go over scheduling for the day. Know who is doing what at all times. From billing and invoicing to setting patient appointment reminders, make sure your busy office has set up a schedule for tasks so that they are getting done efficiently and not wasting time that could better be spent elsewhere.
2. Strictly Schedule Breaks
One of the worst problems in a medical facility is not taking breaks on time. Make sure your office staff is able to take their breaks on time as scheduled. From those slotted 15 minute Starbucks runs to lunch hours, it is imperative that every employee goes on time. One person leaving late for break can set the entire office off schedule and that can lead to major problems in using time efficiently throughout the day. If your staff is late going to and coming from breaks, they are not on the task outlined for them at the beginning of the day and that will almost always set everything into a tailspin.
3. Make Use of Your Telephone System
It isn’t always necessary to answer the phone every time it rings. You spent thousands and thousands of dollars putting that VOIP phone system in so let it work for you. Offer pre-recorded answers to common questions such as directions to your location, hours of operation and how to leave information when refills are due to be written. Whatever you can have patients handle with self-help technology will save time for your receptionist who will not have to answer a million routine questions a day.
4. Go Paperless Whenever and Wherever Possible
There was a time when patient files were inches thick because every piece of information was documented on a hard copy. If you haven’t invested in technology such as an integrated Electronic Health Record, EHR, system that works seamlessly with a number of applications throughout your practice you should seriously consider investing in one. Not only does this allow you to handle documents quickly without searching through lengthy patient files, but it also saves space and time when everything is just the click of a mouse button away.
5. Utilize Email for Patient and Supplier Communications
Another way in which to save invaluable time is to utilize a powerful email server so that patients and suppliers can ask questions that you can quickly reply to instead of tying up time and phone lines with an answer. Some offices will implement a unified communications and collaboration strategy. If you schedule staff to answer emails at different times throughout the day, no one is being taken from a task just to answer questions that could better be handled by email anyway as the answers could be set out in black and white, constitute an official response, and easily tracked to ensure proper protocol was followed.
6. Send SMS Appointment Reminders
Most busy medical offices take the time to make courtesy calls the day before patients are scheduled for an appointment to remind them of the upcoming time and with which doctor, PA or NP. SMS messages can take at least 75% of the load off you because the system can be set to send those messages automatically. Most people have cell phones so this is an ideal way to remind them of upcoming appointments plus track the reminder in case you need to bill for no shows.
There are a number of things you can do in your busy office to take a lot of the stress off your already overworked staff. By automating as many processes as possible, setting up alternative means of communications and doing away with oftentimes tedious paperwork, you can increase efficiency by more than 100%.
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