Improving Patient Wait Times

The system has enabled us to improve our customer/patient’s experience. Moreover, it has helped us manage our patient flow, which in turns makes our staff a little more efficient, thus productive. Overall we are very happy with the wave system and I think it goes without saying we highly recommend it.

Wait times are certainly at the top of patient/parent’s complaint list. Most doctors I know try to stay on time. But sometimes, it is just not possible.

I’ve heard many practice management consultants give ideas about making sure doctors start on time in the morning and limit the “visit” time (minimize chatting with patients) or look for ways to improve work flow process in order to usher patients in and out faster.

Those are all good tips, but again, sometimes no matter how hard one tries, the practice is going to run behind from time to time. It is too difficult to anticipate the needs parent/patient’s are going to have during a visit.

But that doesn’t mean we ought to give up on finding ways to reduce wait times.

A while back I came a cross something called the “wave system.” In essence, the system consists of scheduling more patients at the top of the hour and blocking the last part of the hour. You can read about how the process works  here and here (Second link is a PDF). These two sites explains how the system works.

I wanted to share with you was our practice’s results. We implemented the wave system about a year ago. The doctors felt patients were waiting less. The staff agreed. They loved the system. But how were we really doing?

Glad you asked!

Thanks to our little (sometimes) nifty EMR, I ran a data analysis in Excel and this is what I found:

 

modified-wave-system

I was happy to see that even before we implemented the wave system, we were doing pretty well in terms of patient wait times. Average wait times was less than 20 minutes. However,  we were able to make a significant improvement as a result of implementing the modified wave system.

We did make one small modification to the system. Because one is scheduling more patients at the top of the hour, obviosuly more of them are showing up at the top of the hour. Although we were putting patients in an out pretty fast, our waiting room appeared crowded and the staff had to work extra hard to check people in, triage and all that good stuff.

So what we did is change the start time for each doctor so they started their schedule in 15 minute intervals. In other words, Dr. A started at 9:00 am and doctor B would start at 9:15 and Dr. C would start at 9:30 and so forth. Otherwise, if each MD started at 9:00 am, conceivably one would have eight patients showing up around the same time. By implementing the 15 interval change, the patient flow runs smoothly. 

The system has enabled us to improve our customer/patient’s experience. Moreover, it has helped us manage our patient flow, which in turns makes our staff a little more efficient, thus productive. Overall we are very happy with the wave system and I think it goes without saying we highly recommend it. 

If you have experience with this system, I’d love to hear about (good or bad). If you know of another system, I’d love to hear it too. If you think this system stinks, I want to hear it.  

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