Today’s healthcare providers are continually tasked with doing more—treating more patients, completing more paperwork—without a corresponding increase in resources. And the most finite of all those resources is time.
Your time—and your patients’ time—is valuable. If often seems like there are more patients in the day than hours to treat them. There are clear incentives to save time by moving patients through your facility quickly and efficiently. However, there are multiple ways that better patient flow can benefit your facility—some of them are less obvious, but no less important.
Patient Flow Impacts Patient Satisfaction
Patient flow—how you move patients through their care journey—significantly impacts the patient experience, and ultimately, patient satisfaction. From the patient’s perspective, even a routine doctor’s appointment can be stressful, not to mention a trip to the emergency room or a scheduled surgery. Add inconveniences like long wait times, crowded waiting rooms, and multiple hand-offs, and you have a recipe for a negative patient experience that ultimately leads to lower patient satisfaction.
The Patient Experience Starts With Patient Flow
Unfortunately, many providers find that efficiently treating patients while also providing a stellar patient experience don’t go hand-in-hand. The challenge is to keep patient’s needs and expectations top-of-mind while improving operational efficiency. Optimizing patient flow is a way to bridge that gap, and it begins much earlier in the patient journey than many providers assume—before a patient even enters your facility.
For example, fast, easy appointment scheduling sets the stage for a high-end patient experience. But it also affects the patient flow in your facility. Walk-in traffic, patient no shows, and an overburdened front desk all have a negative effect on patient flow and the patient experience. A feature-rich appointment management platform—combined with in-office queue management—can reduce or eliminate those issues.
The Link between Patient Flow, Cost, and Quality
When it comes to quality measures, the role of patient satisfaction is only growing. Higher patient satisfaction scores—along with more positive customer feedback—are linked with better clinical outcomes, increased patient retention rates, and lower risk of malpractice claims. Plus, as value-based care continues to ramp up, an increasingly significant portion of provider payments are based on patient satisfaction scores. How you move patients through their visits—and all of the touchpoints those visits consist of—can make or break patient satisfaction scores and overall quality measures.
Over the past few years, the patient experience has begun to affect insurance reimbursements. Payers continue to favor contracting with providers who provide high-quality care at a lower cost, relative to their peers. Problematic patient flow can increase the risk of medical errors, compromise clinical outcomes, and decrease overall quality. In turn, this escalates the cost of care. As a result, providers who don’t conquer their patient flow problems could find themselves excluded from payers’ narrow networks and high-value provider networks.
Invest in Better Patient Flow
Good patient flow benefits everyone—providers and staff, patients and their families, and the organization as a whole. In fact, improved patient flow has a bigger impact on the patient experience than physical renovation and facility expansion, according to this study in The Journal of Emergency Medicine. There is a solid body of research pointing to the positive effects of well-managed patient flow in terms of improving outcomes, lowering costs, and increasing patient satisfaction.
In today’s market, there is no shortage of solutions that promise to smooth patient flow. But while patient flow technology isn’t a silver bullet—no software is—the process improvement that results is about as close as you can get. Technology won’t do all the work of improving patient flow for you, but it can free providers’ and staff time so they can concentrate on the interactions that matter: treating and communicating with patients face-to-face.
Are you ready to create a memorable patient experience and boost patient satisfaction levels? Download our complimentary white paper—A Prescription for Patient Satisfaction—and find out how to address four common patient satisfaction slip-ups.