5 proactive strategies to make more time for patients
2016 Physician Writing Contest First Place Winner
Our practice has made its reputation by focusing on making time for patients, whether during office visits, on the phone or via email. Physicians, their staff and patients must understand that time with patients is hardly ever paid for under the current third-party-based payment system. But every physician practice must understand also that time with patients brings the best value for patients and professional satisfaction for themselves. This has been our principle for 14 years and should work for almost all private practices.
Efforts at making time for patients start with contracting with payers that pay better for our services and demand less from our staff (so-called hassle factors). So we have essentially ended contracts with payers that don’t understand this value-based concept. A significant minority of our patients covered by such plans continue to seek our care outside of their network by paying us directly, and we make it affordable for them.
Second, every staff member and I prepare for patient visits ahead of the appointment time. Our staff confirms every appointment one week prior to the appointment to avoid no-shows and to make sure patients have had the needed tests (this makes every visit more productive.)
In the background, our outsourced billing crew verifies insurance and other details such as deductibles, copays, etc., so our office staff is aware what to collect when the patient arrives. Another basic principle of our practice is to keep only those staff that need to interact directly with our patients. All other functions are outsourced.
Third, we have designed our electronic health record (EHR) system such that the staff can input all demographic data prior to the patient arriving for the visit and visit-related lab data while checking the patient in for the visit. I usually review and enter lab/investigation data before bringing the patient into the exam room. So when the patient is with me, I am able to spend about 80% to 90% of the visit time with the patient.