Measuring and optimizing patient production for optometric practices

Measuring and optimizing patient production for optometric practices

Patient production measures the overall volume of patients and the associated revenue generation. It can be the difference between a thriving optometry practice and one that’s merely surviving. For any optometry practice looking to grow, increasing patient production while improving the quality of care is the right goal. This comprehensive guide explores various facets of improving patient production, from the importance of data tracking to operational enhancements and staff engagement. Whether you are a seasoned healthcare provider or new to managing a clinic, we will equip you with the knowledge you need to not only improve your bottom line but also enhance patient care.

Measuring to Improve Patient Production

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, a principle that definitely rings true in healthcare. In optometry, measuring patient production can serve as a litmus test for your clinic’s operational efficacy. According to a study by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, the average optometrist treats around 60 patients per week, including 20 new patients and nine walk-ins or emergencies. This is an average, so take it with a grain of salt. However, knowing these industry benchmarks helps you assess how your clinic compares. Are you seeing more or fewer patients than the average? What about new patient acquisition or the ability to handle walk-ins and emergencies? These metrics don’t just tell you about your practice’s current state; they also highlight areas for potential growth and improvement.

Tracking your patient numbers—be it total visits, new patients, or emergency cases—provides information that can be used to improve the quality of care you provide and to be able to see trends in your practice and how changes impact your care and the profitability of the clinic. For instance, if you notice a higher than average number of walk-ins, it might be worth examining why that is and if you should do more to balance that or to lean into a particular advantage. Being on a busy intersection across from a popular coffee shop may mean that walk-ins will naturally be a larger part of your business, and therefore, making sure you’re staffed correctly and have enough regular gaps in your schedule to accommodate walk-ins is worth your consideration. 

Operational Improvements

Operational improvements to save time and money should be your best friends, especially when they also improve patient care. Simple changes like reorganizing the patient check-in process or integrating real-time patient flow tracking can affect how efficiently your clinic runs.

It’s not just about speed; it’s about patient satisfaction, too. By implementing process improvement techniques, you’re essentially eliminating adverse events like prolonged wait times and unclear patient instructions. This will not only make your healthcare service more efficient but also more appealing to the people you serve. 

Remember, these operational improvements are ongoing; you’re never really “done.” The best practice is to regularly review your processes, make adjustments as necessary, and ensure that the healthcare being delivered is up to the standard your patients deserve. For many, yearly goals and quarterly check-ins are a good start. Operational improvement is often a team effort involving everyone from care providers to administrative staff. Take the time to include your team in planning and executing these changes. Consider a yearly off-site day where key staff members gather to focus and improve on your strategy. After all, they’re the ones on the frontline, delivering care and ensuring patient satisfaction and safety. Their feedback can be invaluable in effecting meaningful change.

Tracking and Data

Data is another best friend in the industry. Collecting the right data can offer helpful insights into patient flow, health outcomes, and clinic efficiency. By monitoring metrics such as the average time a patient spends in the waiting room or the patient capture rate, you can identify areas for process improvement. Some Practice Management Software (PMS) can often help with this, but even informal tracking with a notepad and a pen can give you baselines to compare against, so don’t overthink this and skip it just because it sounds hard. 

The tools for data collection have evolved substantially. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and PMSs are capable platforms that offer some analytics capabilities. These technologies can track items from patient demographics to healthcare providers’ performance metrics. Interpreting the collected data is just as necessary as collecting it. Proper analysis can also help pinpoint bottlenecks in patient flow or identify which days of the week your healthcare service may be understaffed. This in-depth understanding will guide you in making data-driven decisions that enhance both patient outcomes and clinic productivity.

Staff Buy-in and Training

A fully engaged and well-trained staff plays a big role in increased patient production. If your team understands the significance of the metrics you’re tracking, they are more likely to actively participate in initiatives that drive improvements. Consider annual training, such as workshops, seminars, and educational sessions that can be held to educate your team on the latest healthcare practices and technologies, and don’t forget to include them in the strategy sessions mentioned earlier so they feel a sense of ownership in the ways you serve patients. The focus shouldn’t just be on clinicians and healthcare professionals. Administrative staff should also be trained in areas like patient engagement strategies and software tools that facilitate efficient healthcare delivery.

Open communication is crucial when implementing new practices and procedures. Staff members should feel encouraged to provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not. This not only aids in continuous improvement but also helps build a cohesive team. A healthcare provider that listens to its staff is often more successful in maintaining high levels of patient care. A good way to tell if you’re achieving this is to simply ask your staff. It’s their sense of ownership that we’re after here, so don’t be afraid to directly ask them how you’re doing and be open to changing as needed. 

Investing in comprehensive training programs pays off in the form of better patient outcomes and higher levels of patient engagement. The human touch can’t be overlooked; patients often equate their overall care experience with the quality of interactions they have at every touchpoint in your healthcare facility. Therefore, staff training isn’t just an operational requirement; it’s an ongoing element for long-term success.

Outsourcing to Improve Efficiency

Outsourcing is increasingly popular among ODs. This strategy can relieve your in-house team from tasks that are not their core competencies, allowing them to focus more on patient care. For example, hiring a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company to handle administrative tasks can eliminate tons of busyness and distractions from your clinic. For example, hiring a BPO to handle administrative tasks can eliminate small things like a phone call interrupting time with a patient picking frames or big stuff like screening resumes for an open front desk role.

Partnering with a BPO not only takes the load off your in-house staff but also brings specialized expertise to your clinic’s operations. These companies are professionals in what they do, equipped with the latest technologies and methods to efficiently handle tasks like billing, insurance claims, and appointment scheduling, and they often come with reduced staffing costs as well.

The financial benefits of outsourcing can be significant. By redirecting the focus of your in-house staff to patient care, you can improve patient satisfaction and, in turn, attract more patients. Furthermore, a specialized BPO can often perform tasks more cost-effectively than in-house staff, leading to higher per-patient profits.

However, the decision to outsource should not be taken lightly. Consider a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the BPO first. Then, with proper vetting, ongoing communication, and regular performance reviews, you can ensure that the BPO meets your clinic’s standards for quality and patient safety. A poorly managed outsourcing relationship can lead to subpar patient experience, so due diligence is vital.

Financial Efficiency and Improving Per-Patient Profit

Financial efficiency is about much more than just cutting costs; it covers optimizing resource use for maximum impact. One avenue to explore for financial efficiency is increasing per-patient profit without compromising patient safety or the quality of care. A comprehensive approach to this would involve analyzing every aspect of patient interactions, from the initial consultation to follow-up appointments. Are there additional services or products that could be offered? For example, could an optometry clinic offer specialized lens treatments or eyewear accessories that would benefit the patient while also generating additional revenue? Can this be done without slowing down the overall processing of each patient? Does the income generated to cover the additional costs associated with offering that service? It’s a lot of work, but it can lead to great results. Further, consider using a BPO to help make sure these processes don’t fall through the cracks and that you’re equipped with the right staff and the right strategies. 

The goal is not just to increase the number of services provided but to improve the quality of care. Upselling services or products should only be done when it aligns with the patient’s healthcare needs. Quality should never be sacrificed for the sake of boosting profits, and tracking post-visit satisfaction through regular patient surveys will help you know if you’re slipping too far into efficiency. Financial efficiency also extends to reducing wastage. Cutting out unnecessary steps can lead to more streamlined operations and, by extension, cost savings.

Using Technology to Facilitate Improvements

Compared with just a decade ago, technology has become an indispensable asset in modern healthcare. From telemedicine to automated patient scheduling systems, the right technological tools can profoundly impact your clinic’s efficiency and patient satisfaction levels. Take Electronic Health Records (EHRs), for example. These digital systems not only allow for seamless record-keeping but can also integrate with other platforms to provide a holistic view of patient care. This integration can lead to better health outcomes as providers are better equipped to make informed decisions quickly. 

Let’s not forget about the role of technology in enhancing patient engagement. Tools like mobile apps that allow patients to view their medical history, schedule appointments, or even consult with healthcare providers remotely are becoming more commonplace. Engaged patients are often more compliant with their treatment plans, which contributes to better health outcomes. But technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can significantly improve efficiency and patient care; on the other hand, it can also introduce new complexities. Data security, for example, becomes a major concern as more patient information gets stored digitally. Hence, any technology adoption should be accompanied by a rich set of cybersecurity measures.

What to Watch for As You Begin Optimizing Patient Production

Setting out on the journey to optimize patient production is exciting, but it comes with its own set of challenges and considerations. One of the first things to be cautious about is the potential for adverse events. As you implement new procedures or technologies, it’s important to monitor for any unintended negative effects on patient satisfaction or quality of care, like the patient surveys mentioned earlier.

Another area to be vigilant about is staff morale and workload. While the goal is to improve efficiency and patient outcomes, the process should not lead to staff burnout. Continuous improvement is a team effort, and an overburdened team can be counterproductive to achieving your clinic’s goals. It’s also wise to be cautious about becoming too numbers-focused. Metrics and data are valuable, but they are not the be-all and end-all. Don’t let numbers give you permission to make decisions that only benefit the bottom line at the cost of your staff’s work/life balance or patient care. It’s essential to balance quantitative measures with qualitative insights. Patient care is, at its core, a human service, and the importance of the human touch should not be underestimated. As you take steps to optimize, regularly reviewing online and in-person reviews, retention rates, and staff morale are essential to gauge the effectiveness of the changes you’ve implemented. These reviews will not only help identify any gaps or areas for further improvement but also celebrate successes, however small they may be. Acknowledging and learning from both successes and failures is key to sustainable improvement.

Remembering the Why Behind the Work

Improving patient production in an optometry clinic encompasses operational efficiency, staff training, and the strategic use of technology, all aimed at delivering better patient care. While data and measurements are vital, they are just one piece of a much larger puzzle. It’s crucial to adopt a holistic approach, taking into account both quantitative and qualitative factors, from patient surveys and staff check-ins, to retention data. This ensures that in the quest for greater efficiency and profitability, the human element of healthcare is not lost. As you take on the optimization challenge, remember that the ultimate goal is to create a healthcare environment that benefits everyone involved, from your staff to the patients you serve.


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