The Dysfunctional Medical Practice – Part III of a Five Part Series

We have been discussing a chaotic physician practice client with numerous issues impeding office success. So far, we’ve explored tardiness and chattiness. Of course, there is no magic bullet solution to physician practice problems, and the approach must be multi-faceted, but “Inch by inch, everything’s a cinch.”

Issue #3: Walk-ins

This practice experienced an unusually large number of walk-ins. As you know, an unscheduled patient – especially in a paper-chart practice – can wreak havoc in the work-day. When this becomes the norm, it’s an indication that something isn’t working right. Every practice experiences urgent visits; the solution is planning for them by building open slots into the schedule, developing criteria for their use, and – if necessary – an “approval” process.

Our physician client’s schedule had no urgent visit slots, so a total of four slots were created: two in the morning, and two in the afternoon. The next step was to determine the reason for so many walk-ins. Undoubtedly, people get sick without notice and prefer to see their physician rather than waiting in an urgent care center or ER. Our study, however, revealed that the majority of the unscheduled visits were routine in nature.

Drilling down to the root cause revealed a problem with the telephones! Because the phone lines were jammed, patients preferred a stop in the office, where they always received assistance, to the “eternal hold” of telephonic communication! Furthermore, the majority of calls were repeated requests for prescriptions, referrals or test results.

Next week, we’ll discuss the solution to this new wrinkle in Part IV of the series.

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