updated - September 20, 2021 Monday EDT
Improving the efficiency of a medical practice is something that should always be on the mind of those in charge of it. Even when it seems like things are running smoothly, there's a good chance that there are various viable opportunities to improve on that front even more, but they often go unrealised until things get really bad. If you want to always be on top of your game and make sure that your patients are getting treated as quickly as possible - without compromising the quality of the treatment of course - here are some suggestions for areas you might want to look into.
Big data is all around us, and the healthcare sector is particularly ripe with opportunities for applying complex analytical engines to go through large volumes of data, identify patterns, and suggest potential improvements. Even smaller practices can benefit from that without having to invest in large-scale data collection and analysis systems. Simply running an analytical engine over your patient data, and things like your scheduling and communications with patients and other practices, can often reveal lots of areas for improvement. You don't have to be a specialist in this in order to take full advantage of what the market has to offer - though be careful with bringing in outside help. We'll go into more detail on that below.
Something as simple as using the right medical software can also go a long way towards making your practice run more efficiently and minimising bottlenecks. MedicalDirector is a well-known name in the medical software field if you don't know where to begin. Their solutions can help you manage your practice better, and with a more in-depth overview of what exactly is going on at every stage. If you haven't updated your software in a long time and are still using old solutions (or worse, relying on outdated practices like complex Excel sheets), you should consult a vendor like them to see what can be done to improve things.
Don't just think of optimisation as something that has to happen on an abstract level, touching up processes, software and other similar aspects. Something as simple as reorganising your practice to be more conducive to daily work can also result in huge improvements. There's a lot of information available on this out there, and you should check out methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma for a good starting point. Experts in those fields have already done a lot of research on things like the ideal layout of working stations for various kinds of work - not just industrial and manufacturing, which is what most people associate those philosophies with.
If you're bringing in outside help to assist you in your optimisation approach, make sure that they are qualified for working in this sector in the first place. You should know best as the manager of a medical practice that patient confidentiality should always be your top priority when handling data. A possible breach can destroy your practice completely, both in terms of public trust as well as the fines you'll incur in the process. From software vendors, to contractors working on different parts of your system - everyone who could potentially come into contact with patient data must be carefully vetted to ensure that they know what the implications of their work are.
While analysing potential optimisation opportunities, you might be tempted to go for a physical expansion of your practice. It can seem quite attractive in the sense that it can resolve many of the fundamental problems you're trying to address. But it can also be a huge mistake if done incorrectly, as it can introduce other, much more challenging problems in the long term. Physical expansion comes with a significant ongoing cost, which many people fail to plan for properly. It can actually make things worse if you're not careful, and it's an option that should be reserved for a time when you're absolutely certain it's the only viable way to go forward. There is a time where it will be an appropriate move, but that time is rarely when you're trying to make things run more smoothly in a more immediate sense.
All of this is something that should be checked regularly - it's not a one-time process that you can just complete once and call it a day. Especially as your practice grows, you'll want to investigate new opportunities for making things run more smoothly and ensure that your setup can accommodate the new situation. Do your best to be proactive about these issues instead of leaving them unattended until they've become too pressing, because you're going to face even more challenges at that point.
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