Physician Practice

Improving practice efficiency top-of-mind for physicians

Physician Practice Insider, November 3, 2015

With millions of newly insured patients moving into the healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act, improving the efficiency of a practice is more important than ever as physicians prepare for a higher volume of patients.

Most practice managers say improving practice efficiency is an ongoing task that’s typically driven by simple programs such as conducting regular staff meetings, maximizing the use of health information technology, and using patient and employee feedback to identify weak areas and make improvements.

Medina Valley Family Practice in Castroville, Texas, uses a “fast track” scheduling system that allows patients with specific symptoms to be seen immediately. “We can schedule same-day appointments for patients with problems such as a cold, sore throat, runny nose, or a UTI,” says Lloyd Van Winkle, MD, one of two physicians at Medina Valley. “It operates the same way as a Minute Clinic, with short appointments and patients seeing whichever physician is available when they come in.”

Medina Valley has made a number of changes since it was recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) in 2014 by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The process of becoming a PCMH required the practice to undergo what Van Winkle described as a “transformative” experience that made it more responsive to patients.

“The PCMH process showed us things we really needed to improve on, and in many cases they were areas of the practice where we thought we were doing wonderfully,” says Van Winkle. “For example, if you asked me how well we were doing scheduling our female patients over the age of 45 for mammograms, I would have thought we were at 90% or 95%. As it turns out, we were closer to 70%.”

Van Winkle says having to closely monitor all aspects of the practice, including things like women following up and scheduling mammograms, made the practice better. “I probably just assumed that, because we sent out notices to women about scheduling their mammograms, that they were all following through, but that wasn’t the case,” says Van Winkle. “That was just one example of something I thought we were hitting it out of the park on that we weren’t doing very well.”

This article is excerpted from HCPro’s The Doctor’s Office.
 

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