Inside Secrets For Maximizing Efficiency

By Robert Smith, Contributing Editor

   When a practice’s bottom line is not as strong as it should be, one should take a serious look at overhead costs but it is also important to look at how you and your staff are doing your jobs. There are things podiatrists can do to make more efficient use of staff, technology and process, and accordingly rein in runaway costs. Indeed, there are few practices out there that could not benefit financially from being more efficient.

    “The idea is to look from the outside in,” says Hal Ornstein, DPM. “You are always inside the operation and you cannot see what is going on around you. If you were a bug on the wall and could see yourself, the results would be amazing.”

   Dr. Ornstein suggests practitioners take a look at every process they perform in the course of a day from the moment they enter the building in the morning to the minute they lock up at night. For example, when using forms or brochures on a regular basis, Dr. Ornstein says it can be helpful to keep them in the most likely place they will be needed.

    “We have five places in our office where we keep forms in order to make them easily accessible when we need them,” says Dr. Ornstein, the President of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management. “The ideal situation is having everything you need right in the treatment room.”

   Dr. Ornstein recognizes that efficiency is relative and one practice’s efficiencies might be of little use to another practice. However, the meaning of efficiency is universal. Whether it is in the context of a doctor’s office or a household appliance, efficiency is using less energy in an effort to produce more output.

   Stephen Peltz, of the Brewster, N.Y.-based Peltz Practice Management and Consulting Services, LLC, suggests an area where almost any office can improve.

    “If you must double-book appointments, do it at the top and bottom of the hour,” recommends Peltz. “Add walk-ins at the end of the session. This allows the patients to be seen closer to the time of their appointments.”

   He also suggests offices use an automated service to call patients the day before their appointment to remind them. Peltz says this reminder can reduce the number of no-shows.

What You Can Learn From The ‘Heel Pain Bag’

   Dr. Ornstein offers another example of improved efficiency. He sees many patients with heel pain and the remedies he uses to deal with the pain include prescriptions, air heels from an air cast, physical therapy and brochures with tips on exercises. Dr. Ornstein devised a way to avoid running around the office gathering the various treatments while a patient is waiting.

    “We have a heel pain bag that we put in every room,” says Dr. Ornstein. “Everything is right there. Not only am I saving money creating it, I am moving the patient out faster and enabling my staff person to get to his or her next job more quickly.”

   Not only does a “heel pain bag” help get information into the hands of patients quickly and efficiently, it also provides a consistent presentation and message, a practice Dr. Ornstein lifted from a familiar source. McDonald’s, he explains, owes its success to consistency and efficiency. He says DPMs can learn a few things from corporate America.

Emphasizing The Importance Of Excelling At Communication

   Dr. Ornstein’s practice extends the “heel pain bag” concept to other areas of patient care, noting that excelling at communication is key to handling patients in an efficient manner. He says it boils down to communicating to patients what disorder they have, why they have it and what options they have. After taking down their history, one should provide a brochure that is pertinent to the patient’s problems.

    “This reduces the number of questions patients have and enables us to take care of them without taking up an excessive amount of their time or ours,” says Dr. Ornstein. “For example, if we see a patient for an ingrown toenail and he or she has to soak afterward, we get the patient to read the form ahead of time. Then when I am with the patient, he or she doesn’t have to ask me, ‘How many times do I need to soak?’”

   Visual aids can also enhance communication with patients as some people have a more visually oriented learning style. To that end, every treatment room in Dr. Ornstein’s New Jersey practice features a poster of the foot and ankle.

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