The stream of patients is always dynamic in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and laboratory testing facilities, increasing the importance of actively working with patient flow management. The volume of patient visits may fluctuate drastically and be highly unexpected, for example, in emergency rooms, while in other areas, it may be more balanced and anticipated, like at a dermatology clinic or dental office. Managing the stream of patients in and out of your facilities is key to creating the possibility to operate efficiently and to your fullest capacity while creating a smooth patient journey from arrival to discharge for your patients. To help you, we have collected our best tips on how you can improve your patient flow management.
What is patient flow?
Patient flow is the process patients go through during their entire healthcare journey, stretching from the very beginning of admission or appointment scheduling to the discharge stage. Patient flow includes various aspects such as managing the streams of patients, materials, resources used for treatment, operational processes, and digital systems along the whole patient journey.
Understanding how patients move through your facilities will help you identify how your operational processes are built, where there is room for improvement, and what resources are used to help optimize your resource allocation and patient flow management.
The complexity of patient flows depends on what type of healthcare is provided at the facility and the patient's level of urgency. For instance, the diversity of patients coming to the emergency room is not only extensive but based on the different levels of urgency the patients have, which creates a prioritization-based patient flow. Compared to a scenario with a more balanced patient flow at an appointment-based dermatology clinic where the diversity of patients is more limited, and the patient flow is established with certain touchpoints.
How to manage and improve patient flow management
Actively working with managing your patient flows is key to creating smooth and pleasant visiting experiences for your patients, which also affects the patient experience positively. There are several good tools that can be used for this, including different features and capabilities depending on your needs.
Some tools that can support you in optimizing your patient flow management are:
Appointment scheduling systems
Using an appointment scheduling system
An appointment scheduling system lets you monitor and manage patient flows and allocate needed resources and staff members to help you operate to your fullest capacity. A patient appointment scheduling system allows your patients to book their own appointments that fit their availability and reduces the administrative workload on your staff. It also enables healthcare providers to spread out visiting slots throughout the day to avoid peak hours and reduces crowds and waiting times when the volume of patients in your facilities is controlled.
Implement a patient arrival registration solution
Knowing which patient has arrived for their appointment and informing the relevant staff member the patient is present will help streamline the patient journey process. It allows the staff member to finish off their current task or appointment as the new meeting is approaching or call in the patient ahead of the appointment time, if possible, to speed up the visit.
Another benefit of patients announcing their arrival is that the number of no-shows is also recorded. This data can help healthcare providers pinpoint what they can optimize in order to reduce the number of no-shows, perhaps by sending appointment reminders closer to the appointment date.
Some arrival registration solutions are:
Check-in links in booking confirmations
Registration at a reception desk
Include virtual queuing
Large crowds in waiting rooms can create a very unpleasant and uneasy feeling for patients as they wait with other patients having various illnesses, but also creates bottlenecks in your patient flow. Using avirtual queuing solution, such asQmatic’s Mobile Ticket, allows your patients to wait for their turn outside the premises with a virtual ticket in their phone instead of sitting in your waiting room. With a mobile ticket, you enable your patients to wait remotely and perhaps grab a coffee or go to the bathroom without the stressful feeling of not knowing when it’s their turn. Virtual queuing reduces the infection risks of crowded waiting room areas and the anxiety that follows it amongst patients and healthcare staff, as the facilities become airer and cross-infections are avoided to a greater extent.
Monitor your patient flow in real-time
No matter how rigorous appointment scheduling or resource planning you do, in healthcare, you always have to be prepared for unexpected events that can affect your patient flow. Using abusiness intelligence tool likeQmatic’s real-time dashboards, you gain the ability to monitor your patient flow in real-time and make data-driven decisions on the spot to handle any disruptions that may occur. This is especially helpful when the number of unexpected drop-in patients suddenly increases and you need to prioritize your resources differently.
Use a fully integrated patient flow management system
Connecting the various patient journey touchpoints is essential for creating a smooth patient experience, and having a system that integrates all the touchpoints is important to be able to achieve smooth and efficient operations.
Qmatic’s powerful patient flow management system connects the tools used to manage patient flows from pre-arrival, visit and treatment stages, to post-treatment all in one platform. Providing various self-registration options and the capacity to be fully integrated into your hospital systems, you can manage your patient flow and resources efficiently across the organization and improve the overall patient experience.