Article Date: 2/1/2012

Time to Look at What You Do
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Time to Look at What You Do

Utilize workflow efficiency analysis to create a profitable and efficient office.

Scot Morris, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Have you ever thought about what you do every day? When I consult with practices, I first observe the doctor and staff. In most instances, I find that practices could improve efficiency by 20% to 40% and better their bottom lines substantially just by analyzing what they do — that is, implementing workflow efficiency analysis.

Workflow process

All businesses have a workflow process. Yet many businesses, medical or otherwise, are unaware of their own processes, much less whether they help or hinder the organization. Jim Collins explains this in his book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't (Harper Business, 2001). If you really want to provide better care, more efficient service, and improve your bottom line, I recommend you read this book this week.

Each step is an opportunity

In most paper-based practices, for instance, staff perform approximately 102 steps for each patient from the time patients schedule an appointment until you see them the following year. These steps don't include marketing, human resources, inventory management or operational tasks. Each step is an opportunity, lost or gained, to educate your customer, to sell something and to make a good impression.

Getting started

Begin your workflow analysis by identifying each of the approximately 100 steps in your consumer's experience. Start slow. Have each person in your office, including yourself, list each step that your front desk staff performs. (See Table 1 for an example.) Next, have each person list the order these occur. Then collect and combine answers, and prepare to be amazed. Don't be surprised if everyone gives completely different answers.

Table 1. shows steps that may occur during the “appointment and check-in” process.

This exercise challenges everyone to get on the same page and may take a few weeks to complete. Break down each step into what is actually being done and said. If a step doesn't educate, sell or improve efficiency, get rid of it. Have staff write what they actually say to the consumer during each step. If they are not educating or selling, change the script.

Next, decide whether each step could be done more efficiently or eliminated altogether. This process may take a month or so. Once you finish, move to pre-test, the doctor's exam, the optical, the contact lens area, check-out and billing. This process does take a while, but the changes in efficiency and profitability are well worth it. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: February 2012, page(s): 66