3 Ways to Increase Patient Capacity in Clinics From the Inside Out
Thanks to retailer giants like Amazon and Carvana, today’s customer expects instant gratification and convenience as the standards for doing business. If you can’t meet those expectations, people simply move on.
In healthcare, timely care has been a struggle for most patients and providers and yet, it’s a critical component to patient outcomes and satisfaction. From a recent survey, 40% of patients say they have experienced “longer than reasonable” wait times for an appointment, and nearly half of those gave up seeking an appointment, resulting in not receiving care altogether.1 With a world of convenience at their fingertips, patients expect that same experience with your health system’s clinic.
The question is, how do you challenge the status quo and increase patient capacity? You have options: extend your hours or expand your facility with more square footage. It isn’t surprising these aren’t the most appealing, as they require additional resources and costs. Instead of looking outwards to expand your reach, take a look inside your facilities for the answer.
- Identify and reduce non-value-added time.
There may be pieces of your workflow breaking your efficiency and holding you back from increasing patient throughput. The most important ones to consider are the “non-value-add” moments where staff hunt for information. Where is the patient? How long have they been waiting in the exam room? What is the overall patient alone time? Where is the nearest ECG? Who needs to see the patient next to keep the visit progressing? Has the provider seen the patient yet and if so, for how long? What other services like imaging or labs are still needed to complete the patient’s visit?
It’s in these moments where time is lost—for both providers and the patient—and the overall visit stalls out, resulting in poor patient and staff experiences. Real-time location data is critical to understanding and improving how people and equipment move throughout your facility.
- Enable dynamic room assignments with visibility into room status.
In traditional outpatient facilities, providers are assigned two or more exam rooms and their patients cycle through those rooms throughout the day. Because the typical exam room is utilized just 33% of the time,2 this isn’t exactly the most efficient process. With limitations on who and when, traditional workflows will see missed opportunities in increasing capacity.
If your providers are waiting for their patients to be roomed, a “dynamic room assignment” model is one to consider. Patients and providers are assigned to the first-available room, allowing rooms to be better utilized while reducing patient wait times. The University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center staff follow this model and have seen process improvements that resulted in a 67% increase in room utilization.3 In this model, the patients become the anchor in how the workflow is approached, not the room or provider. It may allow for you to free up space, allowing you to add more providers or specialists to the practice and increasing overall capacity. It also provides the flexibility to deal with unexpected patient emergencies and walk-in patients. However, clear visibility into room status, like availability and turnover state, is essential for this model to succeed, because patients and providers can’t be roomed without first knowing where they’re going.
- Leverage analytics for process and scheduling improvements.
Data fuels the decision-making process, and a successful healthcare organization relies on accurate and timely information to improve workflows. Yet operational metrics are often challenging to collect, let alone measure, when it’s done manually (or not at all), and the sheer volume of data collected can be overwhelming to analyze. Do provider schedules accurately represent the time they spend with patients? Does any extra capacity exist within the schedule?
Automatic documentation of these key performance indicators helps empower your organization to make meaningful and actionable improvements. With data as the backbone, a practice can make more informed decisions and accommodate significantly more patients each day without impacting real estate needs.
Real-time locating system (RTLS) software coupled with room-level accurate locating technology such as infrared (IR) makes capturing accurate workflow data possible, communicating in-the-moment patient and staff locations, wait times, staff interactions, and robust retrospective detail.
Using badges (worn by people), tags (affixed to equipment) and sensors (placed throughout the facility) as well as sophisticated software, RTLS technology automatically receives and displays location data in real-time. This visibility allows staff to have the right information when they need it most. The accuracy of RTLS data ultimately helps give back time to your facility. And if your staff can be more productive with their time, your facility can see more patients per day and reduce overall appointment wait times.
A return on investment has been realized across the Midmark RTLS customer base. In just two examples, one healthcare system increased their appointment capacity by 10%, all without changing the number of exam rooms or bringing in more provider4; another increased provider capacity by right-sizing scheduling templates, adding 86 visits per month.5
To learn more about how to optimize your clinic workflow, download our eBook: Leveraging RTLS Data to Design Healthy Workflows.
1 “Two in Five Americans Report Unreasonable Health Care Wait Times.” American Association of Nurse Practitioners. July 2023.
2 Sg2 Analysis, 2020. Confidential and Proprietary © 2020 Sg2.
3 Midmark RTLS case study. 2019.
4 “Welcome to the Innovation Suite.” Health Management Technology. June 2016
5 Anonymized customer data.