Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Innovations and Best Practices for Improving Patient Flow Management

patient flow management

As a healthcare provider, you want your patients to be taken care of and feel satisfied from the moment they enter your clinic till the moment they leave.

This is exactly why efficient patient flow is essential to excellent patient care delivery. The opposite can lead to higher costs, decreased service quality, and a poor patient experience.

However, ensuring smooth flow means providing consistent and effective health services to all patients through all stages of care - and that’s certainly easier said than done.

As such, providers should make the most of every method that can improve care services efficiency and speed.

Medesk is an assistant for clinic managers, collects and presents complex statistics about the work of the clinic in a simple and understandable way, that makes it easier for the manager to make both operational and strategic decisions.

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Patient flow management is definitely one of them.

Read on to learn:

  • What is patient flow management?
  • Patient flow management challenges
  • 7 Tips for effective patient flow management
  • 5+ Essential patient flow management software features

And more!

What is Patient Flow Management?

Patient flow refers to a healthcare professional’s ability to serve patients promptly and efficiently as they progress through all stages of care.

In turn, patient flow management aims to keep overcrowding to a minimum and ensure efficient and sustainable care at all times. This is done through careful planning and advanced technologies such as Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Practice Management Software (PMS).

Patient Flow Management Challenges

Poorly managed throughput can cause serious issues for any healthcare clinic. These issues include overcrowding, inefficient primary care, stressed clinical staff, a damaged reputation, and more.

This is why it is critical for any hospital or health and social care institution to know the two main challenges of patient management. This is in order to overcome them.

#1. Lack of communication

Service management is impossible without effective communication between and among workers and customers.

The whole system staff must communicate effectively to ensure a seamless flow of patients. Effective communication ensures that downstream departments are always ready to receive patients from upstream departments. In addition, everyone is ready to provide the highest quality of care for each patient.

Thankfully, there are various tools out there designed to help you exchange information quickly and efficiently. One example is telemedicine in healthcare, which allows you to schedule, edit and share appointments with other relevant staff members with a single click.

What’s more, patients can easily book consultations and meet their practitioners online, which significantly eases the patient journey.

Provide customers with the opportunity to communicate with you via the maximum number of channels. At Medesk, setting up an online appointment link in social networks or advertising will take only 15 minutes!

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#2. Poor patient engagement

Poor patient engagement with your clinic most probably means that you need to improve in your practice’s management process, staffing, or service delivery.

For example, it could mean you should take more advantage of in-depth analytics that track your clinic’s performance and show statistics for various metrics. Both of which can help you better understand why you’re experiencing bottlenecks with patient engagement and, in turn, problematic patient flow management.

Additionally, to improve patient engagement, you should try and answer the following questions:

  • Which clinicians are most popular with your patients?
  • What times are the busiest during the day?
  • Why do cancellations and no-shows happen?
  • Are there more inpatients or outpatients?

By doing so, you can tackle some common issues, boost your practice’s care pathways, ensure patient safety and a high level of satisfaction.

Medesk allows you to set arbitrary parameters in your reports and get filtered data. For example, you can create a report on a specific group of patients, on a selected employee, his position, department, as well as by any tags.

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7 Tips for Effective Patient Flow Management

Here are some of the most helpful tips we’ve compiled to help you deliver the patient flow experience your patients deserve. We've also compiled tips to overcome challenges along the way.

#1. Build a "Fast-Track" System for Emergencies

Sometimes, patients with non-urgent needs will be admitted to the emergency room and disturb effective flow by “stealing” time doctors could spend caring for emergency cases.

To avoid this, you can establish a fast-track system. Fast-track systems are built to effectively handle non-urgent patients admitted to acute hospitals.

For starters, establishing a "fast-track" navigation system for elective patients who need non-urgent care helps reduce long waiting times and improve patient flow across the emergency department, allowing such patients to receive care faster.

For example, if you implement an effective fast-track system, a doctor may treat one patient with minor urgent needs while awaiting another patient's test results.

Fast-track systems can also benefit patients with chronic conditions, such as chronic chest pain or asthma. In the case of a patient with an asthma attack, for example, a nurse could administer a cure. Doctors provide medical care for more urgent cases, like interventions.

Thus, implementing a fast-track system in the emergency department can reduce patient time there while simultaneously increasing patient satisfaction.

#2. Form a Patient Flow Team

Numerous case studies have demonstrated the significance of forming multidisciplinary teams to ensure quality improvements for efficient patient flow management.

Your patient flow team will contribute a variety of viewpoints and hands-on experience, discuss the underlying causes of flow issues specifically for your practice, and propose potential solutions.

Identifying the correct people to implement patient flow improvement strategies will be critical to forming a successful patient flow team. Once formed, the team should meet regularly to ensure seamless patient movement.

Members of the team can start their work by answering questions such as:

  • Is there anything wrong with the existing flow process?
  • Are all steps in the current flow necessary?
  • Can some steps be accomplished at the same time?
  • Is there a better way of organizing the steps?
  • Is it possible for someone with less expertise to achieve a specific step?
  • What technology can be used to simplify the process?

#3. Synchronize Work Among Service Stages

Ineffective synchronization of multiple stages of care can lead to poor patient flow management and poor overall patient care.

For example, real-time miscommunication among health departments within a practice can lead to extended waiting periods. In turn, this can cause patient dissatisfaction and decrease clinical outcomes.

As such, you'll want to create a management system that ensures departments communicate effectively with each other. In addition, you'll want to ensure that all testing, treatments, and patient discharge procedures, as well as scheduling, are coordinated to meet patients’ needs.

At Medesk, doctors and registry staff will be able to quickly navigate the appointment schedule and statuses, as well as synchronize it with the Google calendar.

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Efficient process synchronization can help doctors and administrative personnel appropriately clock their time. It can also administer drugs methodically and consistently, and provide exact timestamps for insurance companies to assure accurate reimbursements, to mention a few.

#4. Use the Triage Method

The team triage method involves assessing a patient's medical urgency by a care team. This flow technique can reduce hospital stays and make the most efficient use of doctors' time and expertise.

Healthcare system workers should practice the triage method to:

  1. Better decide which case to prioritize
  2. Distribute resources
  3. Allocate doctors' time.

In emergency situations, they should be able to do so in minutes.

According to the Emergency Medicine Journal's study, one clinic significantly improved its workflow efficiency using the triage method. The outcomes included considerably shorter patient waiting times, better hospital resource allocation, and increased patient satisfaction.

On the contrary, poor management and disregard for the team triage strategy can lead to extended waiting times, patient dissatisfaction, a damaged clinic reputation and a loss with stakeholders.

#5. Train Employees

To ensure effective patient flow management, it is also critical to train your staff regularly in the many aspects of providing excellent community services.

Time management is one example of a skill that both doctors and medical staff need to ensure successful patient flow. This includes structuring daily work efficiently and being aware of the best tools and strategies available to help with patient flow management.

As such, one way to train employees is by investing in high-quality specialist education. Alternatively, if your healthcare practice is using EHR software, you can take advantage of EHR benefits such as weekly staff training and masterclasses on making the most of patient management tools.

#6. Implement standardised protocols

Standardized protocols ensure that providers follow consistent and evidence-based procedures for patient care, which can lead to improved patient outcomes, reduced variability in care delivery, and increased efficiency.

By standardizing protocols for patient assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and discharge, you can ensure that your team follows best practices and provides consistent care to patients. Standardized protocols can also help to identify potential issues early on and take appropriate action to address them.

When everyone is following the same protocols, they can more easily communicate with each other and share patient information. This can lead to better coordination of care.

#7. Embrace Practice Management Software

Constant monitoring and advanced data-driven analysis can significantly improve support services. However, gathering and analyzing data is no easy task.

To do this, you can implement practice management software to optimize patient flow management by using various tools, useful analytics, and KPIs.

For example, PMS offers patient flow tools such as telemedicine to automate procedures (e.g. consultations, prescriptions, etc.) and collect objective data for analysis. Patients who do not require a physical appointment can be treated through videoconferencing, freeing up appointment times for those who require physical expertise.

Similarly, PMS provides advanced healthcare KPIs to assess your practice's performance and demonstrate how effectively you meet specific goals. For example, reducing patient wait times or emergency care readmissions.

Furthermore, they can help you to determine which areas of your practice require improvement. This will enable you to make smarter decisions to ensure your practice's patient flow management is at its peak!

5 Essential Patient Flow Management Software Features

Patient management software should facilitate smooth movement of patients across all departments, starting at reception through discharge.

Here are some essential features to look for in patient flow management software that can help with effective management.

Enhanced billing and invoicing

A smooth payment and invoicing process is essential for patient flow. With modern software, you can track and control all billing operations through a single monitoring system. By using an automated invoice process and digital payment tracking, your patients can have a faster billing experience and not waste time in your reception area.

Efficient scheduling

Modern management software handles scheduling to ensure that all appointments are met, all no-shows are accounted for, and patients receive regular reminders.

Analytics and reporting

The more data you have at your disposal, the better business decisions you'll make to improve patient flow management in your healthcare practice. Patient flow management software makes it simple to generate the reports and statistics you need with advanced analytics modes.

Telemedicine software

Using telemedicine software, doctors can easily connect and communicate with patients via video conferencing and other interactive features integrated into a single platform. Telehealth reduces the length of stay of outpatients.

Data security

Data security should be a priority for any healthcare clinic. Therefore, it is essential to implement software with secure and encrypted data protection solutions and advanced backup options. You can be sure that all white papers are safe and accessible 24/7.

Medesk has a unique fragmentary structure, allowing you to keep account, personal and medical data in different places. This option implements secure schemes of restricting information access. Patients’ personal data stay within a clinic and don’t get to a cloud system!

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Optimizing patient flow in healthcare settings is crucial for enhancing quality of care, reducing wait times, and improving patient satisfaction. Healthcare organizations can implement several strategies to streamline patient flow, such as:

  • Improving communication between healthcare providers
  • Utilizing technology to automate processes
  • Implementing standardized protocols for simpler decision-making
  • Enhancing the patient experience.

By adopting these best practices and continually evaluating and refining patient flow processes, healthcare organizations can improve patient outcomes and achieve operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Ultimately, prioritizing patient flow is a win-win for both healthcare providers and patients, as it enables providers to deliver high-quality care while empowering patients to receive the care they need in a timely and effective manner.

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