By Tera Roy, Nextech
Physicians are spending more time than ever on tasks that take them away from patient care. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, for every hour a physician sees patients, he or she spends two hours completing data entry and desk work. Over the course of the day, that translates into nearly 50 percent of physicians’ time going to the electronic health record or paperwork. When you add in workflow bottlenecks and front desk delays that disrupt practice operations, the time physicians spend away from patients often grows. This can cause frustration because spending time with patients is a fundamental aspect of the job for most doctors. Without strategies for addressing issues that detract from patient care, doctors can experience burn out—an affliction that affects 40 percent of all physicians.
On a positive note, there are several tools that can streamline workflow and ease the logjams that swallow provider time. When practices use the following solutions, they can give their providers a more predictable, organized workday that is centered around patient care.
Electronic scheduling. Double booking and overscheduling can further strip time from physicians, adding stress to an already pressure-filled environment. By using a practice management software to optimize the appointment schedule, a practice can make sure there is enough time for physicians and staff members to compassionately interact with patients while also completing necessary care tasks. In addition, these solutions can take into account a physician’s unique scheduling needs, giving them greater control over their days.
Automated communications. Providing patients with the tools they need to come to an appointment prepared can make all the difference when it comes to streamlining practice workflows. Practice management tools can remind patients about things to do or bring before their appointments. For example, if the patient needs to arrange for a referral, bring his or her insurance information, or secure a ride home, that’s something that can be communicated ahead of time. Similarly, if there is an expectation that the patient makes a payment at the time of service, that information should be shared as well. The more prepared patients are for their appointments, the less chance there is for delays or last-minute cancellations, which can disrupt practice workflow.
Once a patient is through the door, there are more opportunities for a workflow to be ruined. Inefficient front desk processes can slow down patient arrival, holding people in the waiting room instead of getting them in to see the doctor faster. Further holdups or shortened appointments, which shrink patient-provider time, increase stress and contribute to physician burnout.
To ensure smooth patient check-in, practices should improve communication with patients before they arrive on-site. By using a practice management system that sends automated reminders via email and text, an organization can limit no-shows and reduce the time front desk staff must spend on the phone confirming or rescheduling appointments. Employees can then be more available and interactive when checkingin patients, answering questions or addressing other concerns, as needed.
Auto-fill charting. As value-based care models gain favor, physicians are expected to prioritize patient-centered interactions, better patient outcomes and charting that accurately captures risk stratification and quality metrics with enough specificity to avoid denials. These somewhat conflicting priorities can put pressure on physicians, leaving them feeling like they don’t do any of the required tasks to the fullest extent of their abilities. However, when an electronic medical record (EMR) offers customizable, auto-filled charting options, physicians can quickly add detailed notes to patient charts without taking away from patient-provider conversations.
By using auto-fill charting, physicians can be more efficient without sacrificing specificity, simultaneously freeing time during the patient encounter to engage in more meaningful communications and creating documentation that fully describes the care episode. An additional benefit of these comprehensive drop-down menus is they can support stronger revenue cycle processes because the back-end practice operations staff receives accurate information quicker, streamlining billing while limiting denials.
Technology Holds The Key
The practice of medicine has become increasingly demanding for providers, and these challenges will likely continue to get worse. By leveraging robust electronic medical record and practice management solutions, an organization can remove some of the inefficiencies from providers’ day-to-day practice, increasing their time with patients, improving care quality and fostering patient and provider satisfaction.
About The Author
Tera Roy is vice president of business development at Nextech.