Practice life is often a daily race against time. Addressing the needs of all patients in a given day under time pressure is becoming increasingly more challenging. So how can practices optimise time management? Let’s take a closer look.
With patient demand rising and limited resource, time is certainly one thing many practices could do with more of at the moment. With every patient comes a unique concern, and no matter how well organised a practice is, it can seem like there are just not enough hours in the day.
Nevertheless, there are some ways teams can optimise processes and increase time available in practice. Here we present 7 small changes that can benefit staff, patients and practice efficiency:
1. Minimise disruptive factors
The problem: Time for patient consultations is limited, especially on days when patient numbers are high. If you are repeatedly distracted by calls or asked for a signature, this can disrupt the flow of conversation, causing delays and interrupting consultation time with the patient.
The solution: Take small steps to minimise distraction. Signing prescriptions and forms between calls or at the end/beginning of a clinic can help ensure you remain undisturbed during the appointment. Make sure your team knows when you are consulting and not to be disturbed unless in an emergency situation.
2. Plan realistically
The problem: Sometimes examinations take longer than planned. If, for example, a patient comes to the practice because of acute back pain but wants to discuss additional concerns, the planned consultation time can quickly overrun. If there are further delays, you can quickly go behind schedule.
The solution: When planning patient consultations, try and build in a buffer. Having some ‘catch up’ slots can help an overrunning clinic catch up. Plan out realistically how much time you might need for a flu case, diabetes check-up, health check or vaccination consultation, for example, and communicate this within the practice. Plan more time for acute patients on Mondays, and elective appointments later in the week. Reserve fixed time slots for acute patients (e.g., 1 to 2 hours in the morning).
Tip: Have patients fill out a (digital) symptom questionnaire before the doctor’s consultation. In some practices it has proven useful to have patients estimate the time they need for the consultation in advance.
3. Ensure appropriate signage
The problem: Some patients may have difficulty locating the designated consultation room, especially in larger practices. This causes delays, even if they are small. Making sure all patients can easily find their way around your practice is vital for time management.
The solution: Create clarity for patients with appropriate signage. Name tags and photo walls may help new or forgetful patients to find their way or the right contact person. Comprehensible symbols and signposting of rooms in different languages and formats can also help with orientation. If there is space, consider having a chair where patients can wait near the consulting room.
4. Conduct morning meetings
The problem: Do you feel there are any mistakes repeated in day-to-day practice, or any uncertainties about responsibilities? Making sure everything is running smoothly and as it should within the practice team itself can help secure time efficiencies.
The solution: High-functioning practice teams rely on daily morning meetings. These sessions provide a regular forum for discussion of specific concerns or issues. Teams can also go through what went well the day before and what could have gone better.
Through these meetings, the team has all the important information they need to start the day motivated. Ideally, the meeting should last no longer than 10 minutes and be held as a ‘stand up’ so that it stays consistently short.
5. Utilise all available resources
The problem: Maximising available clinical time
The solution: Utilise trained practice nurses to assist with chronic disease patients and practice pharmacists to conduct medication reviews. Practice paramedics and associated nurse practitioners may also support patients with acute illness to free up clinical time.
6. Leverage digital tools effectively
The problem: A constantly ringing phone, a growing pile of paperwork and forms that all have to be filled out. This can all disrupt practice life, increase waiting times and place unnecessary burden on teams.
The solution: Digital tools can help save time, facilitating efficient practice working and effective communication between patients and colleagues. Smart messaging tools and GP practice websites can optimise signposting, enabling patients to self-serve and reducing demand. Being realistic with patients about timescales for prescriptions and reports can also help manage expectations.
7. Increase in-practice capacity
The problem: A member of the clinical team calls in sick or members of the practice team depart the surgery, causing capacity gaps that need to be filled.
The solution: Digital clinical resource can be mobilised at speed and provide resource when needed. Our Livi Practice model is a great way for practice teams to bolster capacity to meet demand, either at short notice or on a long term basis, and can be contracted based on your specific needs.
Does your practice need support? Contact our team on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information