“I apologize for the delay, but the doctor will see you in a moment!”
A conventional explanation, albeit in different versions, which patients hear nearly every time. While we look at other spacesー for decades, the experts there have paid special attention to improving efficiency by utilizing time judiciously. However, in healthcare, it’s most needed as lives are at stake here.
Value of time for providers and patients in the care continuum
At some point in our lives, we all have experienced the nervousness that hits as we wait for our turn, watch the seconds tick by. However, for a patient in need of urgent care, this wait could very easily be life-threatening. The effect of any delay in treatment for the patients— whether it be a lab test, medication, or anything else, is not just crucial for them but for providers as well.
In a space as diverse as healthcare, every patient is unique- and the likelihood of two patients encountering the same episode depends on many variables. This makes the productivity or quality measurement more elusive for an organization and time spent on each process even more valuable. According to a survey, the total time spent by Americans waiting in a care facility is over 1 billion hours per year- costing $52 billion. Adding further to it, the Institute of Medicine breaks down the causes of financial loss in US healthcare, revealing inefficiencies to be a major contributor.
Source: Value of Time, Becker’s Hospital Review
What implications does delayed care have?
Consider a patient suffering from celiac disease in his small intestine, and is frequently referred to multiple physicians, EDs, and for other lab tests. After looking at his records, it turns out that he made a total of 23 visits and spent 60 days admitted in the hospital. If we look closely at those 23 visits, each of them with nearly 11-hour wait, we realize that the quality of care results in less than 1% of the total time spent on him.
Such instances are the reasons that time becomes a significant aspect in determining the efficiency of the care provided. Sometimes these delays could be slight, but for other situations, such delays could adversely affect the patient outcomes and could lead to a longer length of stay (LOS).
The current model of providing care follows ‘react to demand.’ The queueing models followed in organizations ignore the effects of delay and might force them to discharge the inpatients preemptively. It doesn’t just lead to poor health outcomes of the concerned patient, but for other patients too.
The right approach to valuing patients’ time
Reducing the wait time for patients during a visit to any facility is not enough. The process of care across the continuum has to be made efficient. The care experience can be divided into mainly three stages:
These three stages make up the outline for the entire care journey of the patients. Proper physician-patient interaction is the primary requirement for improvement in all these stages.
It’s important to understand a patient’s perception to strategize a holistic care model.
While promoting value-based care, it is essential to identify the questions and doubts which a patient has during every stage of his care journey.
Spending less time ‘waiting,’ and more time ‘healing’
“Why do I have to wait for so long before I get treatment?”
During a patient’s visit to any new facility, the availability of their medical history is the most prominent issue. The patient has to present all their dataー that takes a good 15 minutes before any treatment. The organization needs to ensure that patient data is readily available to the providers at their fingertips. They can ensure the availability of physician by managing the workflows of every provider and enhancing the appointments by automatic scheduling.
“What should I do until my doctor searches for my record? Why doesn’t he know about my conditions before the actual visit?”
One major issue which patients face is the little time which they spend being in direct conversation with the physician during the entire appointment. Providers lack the data about their upcoming patients and having pre-visit summaries would essentially help them to cater to the needs of patients effectively. As stated already, data is the key. Records should be readily accessible.
As for clinical documentation, that could be a time-taking task for physicians, it should be either delegated or automated to prevent any chances of downcoding or miscoding which affects risk-adjustments. In terms of aligning the workflows for multiple members of the organizationー physician’s comfort is paramount while following the procedures and patient-centricity.
“Finally, I got the treatment, what now? Will I get any post-treatment care? How will that go?”
There are pretty fair chances of a patient getting re-admitted if not given proper post-treatment care. A patient staying for a longer duration in the hospital after treatment is likely to recover slowly as compared to the one provided with home-care or is in an SNF. The primary aim should be to make the recovery process easy for the patient. The health coach should be notified in proper time and the assignment of care teams should be automatic and efficient.
Moving beyond the conventional methods to improve care efficiency
The aspects on which patient’s utilization time is determined to go beyond the conventional considerations of improving the care efficiency. Healthcare organizations need to identify the future liabilities in terms of health outcomes of a patient by leveraging predictive analytics models to prevent further chances of readmissions.
The time spent on the computer screen is the time lost for the patient. Making patient data readily available for the physician will reduce the wastage of time during the consultation and the time consumed by them to pinpoint the actual condition of the patient.
A little nudge, a little efficiency can take us a long way, and perhaps we could even change the perception of patients waiting for care.
To know more on how you can redefine the workflows of your organization to reduce the patients’ waiting time, get a demo.
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Read more about how next-generation healthcare data analytics assisted an Iowa-based ACO in enhancing their efficiency here.