We’ve all been there. We arrive for a doctor’s appointment on time, yet we end up waiting … and waiting … to actually see the doctor, nurse or technician. Isn’t there some way to improve efficiencies in clinic environments and improve patient flow? It turns out there is hope, and Key-Whitman Eye Centers is leading the way.
As Key-Whitman President and Chief Surgeon Jeffrey Whitman, M.D. explains, “Ever since I’ve been involved in medicine, patient wait time has really concerned me. Most doctors conduct surveys, and from our own research, we found wait time to be the single thing that bothers patients the most.”
The automated system uses RFID technology to analyze patient flow
Along with Dr. Whitman, Key-Whitman Executive Director Dan Chambers spearheaded RTLS (real-time location system), which relies on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) badges to monitor the whereabouts of people in the building, as
well as wait times of patients and real and average times Key-Whitman eye doctors and technicians spend serving patients.
Patients are assigned an RFID badge when they check in, so their movement and wait time can be tracked for the duration of their visit. Employees don their badges as soon as they get to the office.
“The No. 1 reason why staff members wear the RFID badges is so we know where everyone is at any given time. For example, if I’m on the first floor in our office, and a patient needs to see me on the second floor, the team can notify me, then they know I’m on my way and can prepare for my arrival,” Dr. Whitman says.
Dr. Whitman explains why Key-Whitman’s RTLS and RFID tags are a win-win for patients and Key-Whitman.
While there are presently no other eye doctor’s or other medical offices in North Texas using the RTLS system, Dr. Whitman says, “We have worked with other clinics throughout the United States to adopt RTLS, because so many healthcare organizations are focused on improving efficiencies just as we have been.”
RTLS conducts “simulations” to improve staff efficiencies
The team had several goals in mind when the RTLS was launched at Key-Whitman two years ago. Along with reducing wait times, Dr. Whitman and Chambers sought to reduce the total time it takes to process a patient through the clinic, while better utilizing staff and equipment.
RTLS initially collects and analyzes data from a real time perspective – how long a patient waits and how much time a doctor or technician spends in the room with a patient. From there, the software aggregates the data is to help identify bottlenecks.
Dr. Whitman discusses how the RFID tags and corresponding software help improve efficiencies and the patient experience at Key-Whitman.
The beauty of the RTLS is Chambers and team can use reliable, continuous data culled from process times to run “simulations.” They can perform “what if” analyses to mathematically optimize resource scheduling for doctors, staff and other resources. The system also relies on software, not staff, to analyze the data, which leads to more accurate adjustments to the clinic’s processes and a better patient experience.
The best is yet to come at Key-Whitman’s new HQ in 2016
As technology continues to evolve at lightening speed, Key-Whitman plans to enhance the capabilities and efficiencies realized with RTLS. Consequently, patients can expect to see even more high-tech solutions at Key-Whitman’s new headquarters in Dallas, when the facility opens in the coming months.
According to Dr. Whitman, “With our move to the new facility, which surely will be state of the art, one of the things we’re developing now is a new wireless system that will enhance communication between the front desk, technicians and doctors. This technology will let us know what patient needs to be seen next, where they are located and exactly what type of eye care procedure or consultation the doctors and ophthalmology technicians need to perform.
While I can’t say we will ever be able to conquer wait time issues 100 percent, we are one of the few medical organizations to take such an aggressive approach to improving efficiencies, and it’s working. Patient wait times continue to improve, and that amounts to more happy patients.”
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