Anyone who has been running a healthcare organization for a while will likely be aware that patient flow is one of the critical metrics that will help determine whether your business succeeds or fails. If, on the other hand, you are contemplating starting your own clinic, you should be aware of this metric and how it can make or break your proposed venture. In this text, we first explain the concept of patient flow. We also explain why it is so critical to continually measure and monitor this metric. We then suggest 3 possible actions to increasing patient flow for your physiotherapy or other healthcare clinic. Essentially, these actions will optimize your clinic’s process flows to ensure that your staff can use their time as effectively as possible.
What Is Patient Flow?
To understand how to increase patient flow in your clinic, we must first understand what this metric aims to measure.
Patient flow is a concept that measures the movement of patients through a healthcare provider facility. This movement is measured from the point of admission to discharge. Patient flow tries to measure all the resources (medical care, physical resources and internal management systems) required to move patients from the beginning to the end of this process while maintaining quality of care and satisfaction of both the patient and healthcare provider.
Why Is It Important To Increase Your Clinic’s Patient Flow?
Increasing your clinic’s patient flow will improve your ability to quickly, efficiently and effectively move your patients through the care provision process. At the same time, you will be improving your patients’ safety and treatment outcomes. The result is greater patient satisfaction, which will lead to more word of mouth referrals for your clinic.
In addition to greater patient satisfaction, higher patient flow also increases the satisfaction level of your clinic staff, leading to higher employee retention levels. In addition, your clinic will be in a better position to recruit quality employees as your existing employees communicate their satisfaction with your clinic to potential recruits.
Finally, achieving these outcomes with the most cost efficient allocation or resources directly increases profitability. It keeps your operating costs at the lowest level consistent with satisfactory patient outcomes and high employee morale.
3 Suggested Strategies To Increase Your Clinic’s Patient Flow
Use Telecommunication Or Internet Technologies When Possible
Establish a process to identify patients who don’t actually need to be physically present at their next appointments. This should be done as part of the process of scheduling an appointment. You may determine that the patient does not need to be physically present at his/her appointment. If so, you can schedule a Telehealth call to discuss test results, review charts, etc. This will free up appointment slots and other resources for patients who actually do need a face to face consultation.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is another powerful reason for increasing the use of these technologies. Patients can remain at home and get the same quality of care that they would from a face to face communication. This also reduces the risk of viral spread and produces a win-win solution for all concerned.
Establish An Online Portal To Communicate With Specialists When Needed
Consultations with specialists can sometimes be difficult to schedule given their crowded schedules. To reduce the adverse impact on patient flow, you can establish an online portal that your staff can use to leave questions with specialists instead of trying to arrange face to face consultations.
Alternatively, it may already be possible to consult with your specialist partners outside of face to face consultations. If so, the action item is to train your staff in the use of this process. They will then have greater flexibility when it comes to allocating their time between patient care and specialist consultations.
Establish A Triage Process To Guide Patient Onboarding & Increase Patient Flow
Our third suggested strategy to increase patient flow at your clinic is to establish a triage framework as part of your patient intake process. This will involve assessing the seriousness of the patient’s injuries or illness at the time of onboarding. With this information you can then assess the urgency of care required as part of the intake process. Armed with this data, your clinic will be better able to match the timing and frequency of his/her appointments with the availability of qualified staff who are able to offer the level of care required for optimal outcomes.
In this text, we have suggested 3 actions that you can take to increase patient flow at your physiotherapy clinic. These may already be an integral part of your processes. If so, you can still take a fresh look at your process flow in search of possible further improvements. On the other hand, you may not have thought seriously about these processes in setting up your clinic. In that event, these suggestions represent a huge opportunity to take your clinic’s operations to the next level. Your patients and staff will thank you!