Data-Driven Improvements for Your Vision Care Practice

By Austin Stone December 28, 2020

Do you know the beauty of being mostly digital in the healthcare field? It is access to unlimited data points created each day. Although this data can be daunting or make no sense, we can put it to good use if you have a direction you are looking to move your clinic. It is more important now more than ever to understand the most efficient way to run your clinic without damaging patient satisfaction. 

In the face of COVID-19, we've revamped our time-management strategies and appointment scheduling. We’ve all had to make sure our offices are safe and sanitized after each patient visit. The delay in turn-over can hurt our bottom line. However, if we dive into the data, I bet we can find some time savers. The first thing we should do is understand what data is populated from our Practice Management/EMR systems. Each keystroke that an employee makes is entered into a database of information. Here are some key areas that could benefit your practice to analyze today:

  1. Patient wait time/Expanding clinic capacity  

  2. Clinic Space

  3. Revenue 

Of course, there are many more areas you can analyze, but I will focus on these data points for now. 

Patient Wait Time/Expanding Clinic Capacity

As we continue to hear about the impact and infection rates of COVID and how it relates to the time spent around another person, this data should move to the front of the line.. You certainly do not want your wait time to be 30 mins - 1 hour when patients are near each other. One way we can look at this is by the “status options” your EMR system has for patients or appointments. For example, our system, Allscripts, goes from Confirmed --> Acknowledged --> Room # --> With Dr --> Check-Out. Each one of these statuses logs a time entered. After review, you can average your start to finish time with a patient. Was it longer than expected? Shorter than expected? Knowing this information, you can revise your template. Are you stacking too many New Patient Appointments or Long Visit types in the first part of the day causing a delay down the schedule? Are you not utilizing your first hour in the day well enough? Maybe you identified a workflow error that can be resolved or skipped entirely to enhance time with the patient face-to-face. This data could allow you to schedule your clinic 10 minutes apart instead of 15 minutes apart after adjusting for misused time. Shorter room turnover-time can help you bring your patient capacity up higher without impacting the health of others and remaining socially distanced. 

When we make efforts to be conscious of the patient's time, it goes a long way in assuring patient satisfaction. When I talk to most of my peers, this seems to be a point of contention for many offices. With this information, you can see your clinic flow and make changes in real-time to positively impact your clinic. 

Clinic space:

Although my next suggestion isn’t based on system data, I highly recommend that your team complete a mock exam to analyze the best patient flow. Have your staff do a walk through visit with you as a new patient from start to finish. Make observations of how your space is being utilized. Can you change it? Can you move a chair? Is check-out in the best spot to not have a line of patients waiting? Being able to see it yourself from a new perspective may allow you to find space in ways you never thought possible. 

Your Revenue Cycle is another great area to analyze your data. I found it helpful to pre-load our contracted rates into our practice management system. Having this data in your practice management system allows you to run your current payments against your contract, and you can identify any errors promptly. Additionally, analyzing your claim/coverage denials is a powerful data point. If your clinic has slowed down due to COVID restrictions, now is a great time to dig into your denials and locate areas that you can impact. Often there are denial analyzing systems that will trend the most common denial your clinic is receiving. For example, your practice might not be obtaining authorizations in time for a Medicaid health plan. You can take these patient examples directly to your staff and discuss a way to ensure the authorization is obtained and entered before the patient's appointment. This will reduce cancellations for these patients, as well. 

Today is a new age in healthcare that you didn’t see coming, but the changes you make today can positively impact your clinic for the future. Data can be overwhelming. If we break these data streams into bite-sized pieces and make one change at a time, we can make a huge difference for our patients, profitability, and staff.

Austin Stone

As a practice manager in the ever-changing field of Ophthalmology, I am excited to be apart of a community of support. I have been in the industry since 2017 with a focus on Revenue Cycle and Practice improvement. I have managed multi-specialty clinics and surgery centers down to single-provider practices looking to grow. I look to bring my passion and knowledge to this community to help your practice grow into everything you want it to

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