How do you measure productivity when it comes to healthcare?
Is it the amount of patients you see in an hour or a certain standard of care? Understanding metrics of success are important, even in a healthcare environment.
You not only need to know what will keep your clinic afloat financially, but also how to keep staff and patients happy in the process.
But tracking productivity metrics can be difficult. If you go simply by your financial records, for instance, you might miss out on aspects of care that could be improved.
When measuring productivity, you have to see the whole picture, especially in the age of technology and changing healthcare standards.
Here’s what to know when it comes to measuring productivity for your practice.
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How is Productivity Traditionally Measured?
High productivity has traditionally been based on a few key metrics, mostly related to either finances or time spent in your practice.
This may have included number of patients seen, the speed of their care received or the overall amount of time that each physician or staff member spent on each patient.
In this model of care, productivity is measured by how fast patients can move through the practice, not necessarily on the quality of care.
In a financial sense, productivity might be measured by the cost of hiring staff during peak hours, or keeping physicians on the clock longer than necessary to either see patients or fill out paperwork.
In which case, positive productivity would include reducing clinic hours to save costs or to only hire staff that is absolutely necessary for the most essential patient care.
While keeping both costs and time constraints low may improve some aspects of care, they are not necessarily the best measures of success.
The Problem With Traditional Productivity in Healthcare
While physicians may see fewer patients in a day, or spend more time with patients, may be considered traditionally “less productive” by certain standards, they also improve patient satisfaction, which has other benefits to the practice as a whole.
For example, 47% of patients say a doctor’s reputation matters when choosing a practice, and 80% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Patients with higher satisfaction rates in the clinic are often more inclined to give positive reviews outside of the clinic, whether online or to friends and family. This can improve the overall reputation of your practice and increase quality of care given.
Meanwhile, patients who receive poor care are shown not to return and to seek out care elsewhere. If the goal of your clinic is to increase productivity in order to grow, then moving them through as fast as possible won’t help.
On the flip side, time matters most to patients when they are sitting in the waiting room.
80% of respondents in one patient satisfaction survey said that reducing wait times in the waiting room would either completely or somewhat minimize their frustration.
This means that often times measuring productivity must include both “hard” metrics, like time spent with patients and cost per patient, as well as “soft” metrics like patient (and staff) satisfaction, and the overall value and quality of care provided.
How to Improve Healthcare Productivity In Your Office
So how do you ensure that you are maximizing your productivity?
First, you must understand the real metrics of productivity as described above.
As Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter describes, the new value equation of health care is “health outcomes that matter to the patient divided by cost.”
This factors in things like how often a patient returns to the clinic, whether or not their needs were met and their conditions were stabilized, not just how much they spent or how long an individual visit was.
Second, practices must use technology to minimize unproductive tasks.
Because time is still a factor, you want physicians to spend their peak hours interacting with patients and not worrying about paperwork or other tasks that can be completed using technology.
For example, clinics should be using Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), so that patient notes stay organized and note taking is made easier. Paper forms and records may take more time to record, file and track down during busy days.
This may also include using technology like online intake forms and patient portals to ease the intake process for front desk staff, nurses and physicians.
Patients who have more access to and control over their own medical records are also shown to view healthcare services more favorably.
Third, practices should look into any extraneous elements that keep productivity low.
This might include complicated regulations or mandates that make it difficult to remain compliant.
It can be difficult for any practice to fully comply with all of the regulations currently in place. You may need to lobby to persuade federal and state agencies and other regulators to create policies and procedures from a more standardized data set, for instance.
You may also find that scheduling staff at certain times of the day may help alleviate wait times and overall improve staff productivity and happiness.
Understanding when your peak hours occur will allow you to stagger staff appropriately and prevent having staff around during slow times.
Fourth, practices should look at physical barriers to productivity.
You might look at more minor elements of productivity as well, such as how long it takes for staff or patients to travel from the parking lot to the office, and whether or not that is a hindrance to care (or time spent during a visit).
Cleanliness of the office can also be a factor. If there is clutter around the office or workstations are not properly maintained, it may take longer to find patient files or to gain access to necessary resources.
Even the color of the patient rooms or the waiting room may affect general well being and perceptions of care, which can increase comfort and improve wait times.
It’s important for practices to consider not only the financial benefits of having a well-kept practice, but also the mental and emotional ones.
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While traditional methods of productivity include cost and time, those are not the only metrics for productivity.
Practices must look at the big picture and take into account metrics which are highly measurable, like wait times and income versus expenses, but also “soft” metrics, like patient wellbeing, ease of care and accessibility.
It’s important for practices to ensure that patients and physicians are using their time wisely. Technology such as EMRs, online intake forms and patient portals can help improve productivity across the board.
In terms of emotional wellbeing, clinics should also consider reducing any physical barriers to productivity, like cluttered areas and uncomfortable spaces.
The more you can do to increase the overall satisfaction of everyone involved, the happier and more productive your practice will be.