Maximizing Patient Volume without Reducing Quality of Care
By Courtney Dryer, O.D. June 17, 2022
As rising inflation became a concern this past year, discussion amongst optometrists has centered around the rising cost of doing business and remaining profitable. Our cost for rent, optical products, and labor has risen significantly without an equivalent rise in vision care reimbursement rates. There are two solutions to this problem, increase patient volume or increase per-patient revenue. It can be difficult to find the right balance in profit vs. building relationships. Consider the useful tips below to maximize your schedule without sacrificing patient care.
Hire A Scribe
2-3 patients per hour and a contact lens follow-up or medical per hour are considered best practices. Hiring a scribe can be beneficial for time considerations, a decrease in physician burnout, and improved patient satisfaction. Instead of the doctor’s focus being on data input, they can maximize their face-to-face time with patients. Physicians who communicate with patients versus the screen, are perceived to be more compassionate, professional, and having better communication skills.
The use of scribes can directly correlate with an increase in practice revenue and profitability.
Scribes can save up to 5-7 minutes per patient. At 20 patients a day, the doctor can gain 1-2 hours more to see patients.
Improve Staff Education and Efficiency
Cross-training staff can help maximize volume without a decline in patient satisfaction. Training staff at multiple positions can help fill in needed service gaps. Staff can easily and effectively fill-in in various roles in the offices as they are needed. On low-volume optical days, they can help to run visual fields, but during optical events, they can help patients with their insurance benefits. When employees are out, cross-training can eliminate stack-ups in the schedule and improve teamwork. In addition, Cross-training has been shown to improve employee satisfaction, improve retention rates and reduce hiring costs.
Utilize Entry Questionnaire
It’s helpful for both staff utilization and time allocation to have an idea prior to the patient’s appointment which services or goods they may be interested in. Reception or an online EHR questionnaire can determine who is interested in new glasses, who may be a new contact lens fit and who may require more staff time in the optical. Appointment times can be allocated accordingly. Having your patients complete a comprehensive interview prior to scheduling can help gain insights on prior medical problems, vision difficulties, and interests in specialty services like sports therapy or orthokeratology. This gained knowledge can help your staff prepare dry eye questionnaires, medical contact lens paperwork or research medical benefits by significantly cutting down on time and office surprises!
Customize Your EHR
If your EHR system has the capability, utilizing and setting up specific appointment slots can help maximize office volume without reducing the quality of care. Specific appointment slots can be configured for time allocation depending on the type of exam, medical vs. routine. This feature allows patients to schedule online and allows staff to best configure the schedule. Online scheduling frees up staff time and is preferred by 80% of your patients. In fact, 35% of consumers see online scheduling as a deciding factor between competing options.
Most EHR systems also allow the physician to customize their templates according to exam type or diagnosis, improving productivity. Studies show overall patient satisfaction is based on wait time, service time, and clinic environment. Utilizing and customizing all the capabilities of your EHR will improve all aspects of the patient experience.
Employ A Communication System
Automating patient communications for recalls, reminders, and appointment times can free up staff time for the patients in your office. They are also effective at reducing your office no-show rates. One dental communication system reports a reduction in no-show rates by 40%.
Many office communications systems such as Weave or Revolution have an open seat waiting system. If patients are interested in an earlier appointment date or a last-minute cancellation, your staff can add them to the system. A text is then sent to the patient to ask if they would like that appointment slot. This can be offered to patients with past no-shows to give them the option of a same day appointment without the risk of another no-show date.
Consider Helpful Advice: Doc Slow Down!
As an extern, my preceptor conveyed to me an important piece of advice, when you feel like you are rushed for time, slow down. The more rushed you feel, the more you need to take your time with patients. Patients need to feel as if they have your undivided attention and leave with all questions answered. Despite the emergence of telehealth during the pandemic, research continues to support the need for patients to be in person with their doctors. At the end of the day, only the doctor can decide exam time allocated per patient and their comfort level with the quality of care. Building patient loyalty is vital to increasing revenue per patient 25% to 95%.
By best utilizing both systems and staff, you can find a good balance of volume vs patient satisfaction. Volume is important for profitability, but a good patient experience in your office leads to long-term relationships and increased revenue per patient.