Three-Step Plan to Optimize Physician Capacity

Posted by Brad Veach Thursday, September 21, 2017

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There’s ongoing debate over whether we have a physician shortage looming in our future or not. Do we need to train more doctors? Or are we just inefficient? Obviously, something is awry and, as a result, American healthcare continues to rank poorly in comparison with other developed nations.

To add to the conundrum are some interesting statistics. In this study it was reported that roughly 75% of physicians say they are “overextended and overworked”. While another study revealed a mean no-show rate of 18.8%. Most physicians feel like they are operating at full capacity, while 18.8% of the appointments on their calendars never actually happen.

It certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to train more doctors; however, we believe that this alone is too simplistic of an approach to truly deal with the problem at hand. In other words, the inefficiencies (that lead to no-shows, wasted time by physicians and office staff, and long lead times) will remain – and they need to be dealt with.

In order to optimize physician capacity, we need to look at solutions that benefit everyone involved in healthcare delivery: physicians, patients, and staff.

With that said, here’s our three-step approach to optimizing physician capacity:

  1. Accept that physician calendars are not currently optimized. By integrating all open calendar appointments into a single view, physician utilization can be honestly analyzed. Many practices think they are at capacity and yet, often times only 70% of appointments are completed. The first step towards solving this problem is accepting the truth that it exists.
  2. Find a solution. A digital care coordination solution can bring all appointment booking data together. This enables real-time patient self-scheduling and streamlined referral coordination. As a result, patient experience is boosted while workflows and business efficiencies are improved for staff.
  3. Implement, analyze, optimize, and repeat. Data from a digital care coordination platform will show how well your physicians are being utilized while presenting booking patterns for further optimization. This includes analyzing things like referral patterns, web analytics, slot capacity and show rates.

Is overbooking to one particular physician creating long waits for patients to be seen? Is there an opportunity to book a similar provider that is available sooner?

Or take this example: several providers in the same referral network who are in the same specialty are fully booked for the 4pm timeslot. However, one physician does not offer the 4pm slot, but does include a 7am timeslot that often goes unfilled. A digital care coordination solution can uncover these types of scenarios, and now action can be taken to solve the problem. In order to optimize the schedule, the 7am timeslot should be eliminated and the 4pm time slot added (for the one provider that did not offer it). The provider will work the same number of hours, but since the 4pm slot is in higher demand, they will now see more patients. This is a perfect example of how a digital care coordination solution can optimize physician capacity.

Interested in learning how digital care coordination can optimize physician schedules? Download our free guide, Improving Health Outcomes & Reducing Lost Appointments.

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Topics: Calendar Optimization, Provider Utilization, Referral Coordination, Optimize Physician Capacity