Exam rooms probably account for less than half of your total office space, but it’s primarily in those little rooms that income is produced. When improved exam room efficiency allows doctors to see just one or two additional patients each day, that extra revenue falls right to the bottom line because most office overhead is fixed.
In recent years, medical offices have begun to see the benefits of exam rooms that are identical in how they are arranged and stocked so that staff and doctors can quickly lay their hands on the items they need to take care of patients. If you’re not already on board with this practice in your office, make 2011 the year that you focus on standardization.
Position furniture in exactly the same way in each room, and stock and label drawers and cabinets so that supplies and instruments are within easy reach. Phones, computers, and dictation equipment should also be in consistent locations so that doctors and staff are able to access these tools more or less on autopilot.
If you have a large number of patient education brochures that you use regularly, invest in a literature holder that can be mounted on the wall. If you use only a few handouts, store them in color-coded file folders that are consistent from room to room (e.g., incision care in the red folder, instructions for colonoscopy prep in blue, etc.).
Because doctors should not have to leave the exam room during a patient visit, an intercom or light signaling system for them to communicate with staff is likely a good investment if you run more than two rooms per doctor.
Here are a few other quick tips for exam room efficiency: o Hang a large wall calendar in each room. o Keep counter tops clear of clutter. o Arrange space for patients to hang coats, purses, and clothing so that those items don’t impede the movement of doctors and staff during patient care. o If you have a computer in each room, set up a printer as well (now that they’re inexpensive enough, this is feasible). The ability to print out prescriptions and patient educational materials on the spot is a time saver. o Keep cleaning supplies out of sight, but within easy reach for disinfecting rooms between patients.
This level of consistency is mainly for the benefit of staff and doctors. Patients, on the other hand, might enjoy a little variety. You can avoid having exam rooms look too cookie-cutter by painting the walls in each one a different color and hanging unique art in each room.
Do you have exam room efficiency tips of your own to share? If so, please leave a comment for others to read.