December 2012

Keeping Patient Wait Times Down In Your Office

By Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor

In the midst of a busy day treating one patient after another, things inevitably threaten to throw your practice’s well-oiled machine off balance. How can your office avoid the pitfalls and keep things running smoothly so patients have reasonable wait times?

   For Jonathan Moore, DPM, the key is delegating and teaching key staff members how to know which slots in the schedule should go to new patients and which should go to established patients, given that new patients require extra time. To this end, Dr. Moore recommends scheduling software so one can adjust time blocks within the schedule, saying this can help better negotiate a busy schedule with appointments that vary in length.

   David Helfman, DPM, says it can speed up the process if patients go to the practice website to complete their paperwork and send it to the office prior to their visit. If possible, he suggests verifying patients’ insurance before they present to the office so the staff can prepare a chart and patients understand their benefits prior to seeing the doctor.

   “Making sure that activities that can happen out of the patient room do happen out of the patient room can help improve efficiency,” says Dr. Moore, a managing partner of Cumberland Foot and Ankle Centers of Kentucky. “We have many of our patients pick up orthotics, ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) and shoes in our retail center shoe store. There my staff is trained to get the patient ready and fitted before the doctor comes over to watch the patient and assess the products.”

   Similarly, Kevin McDonald, DPM, says his office has protocols for the most common diagnoses and keeps commonly used items (such as injections, wound products and biopsy kits) in the treatment rooms so there is less wasted motion.

   What common patient behaviors lead to longer waiting times and what can DPMs and staff do to correct those?

   Certain patients, such as the elderly, those with retinopathy due to diabetes and those with attention deficit disorder, may have a hard time filling out paperwork, says Dr. Helfman, the CEO and founder of Village Podiatry Centers in Atlanta. “It’s good for staff to ask the patient: ‘Would you like help filling out the paperwork?’ in a non-judging manner,” he suggests.

   Dr. McDonald notes several types of patients who can throw off the schedule. Some need extra time to tell their story and he will work on such patients while they talk, scheduling them at the end of the morning or end of the afternoon. He also says some children need extra TLC to endure a procedure and he will give nurses and parents “time to talk to the child about getting through the little boo boo.”

   “We have found it is better for everyone (and more profitable for us) to provide comprehensive and deliberate care to fewer patients than to provide rushed and sloppy care to too many patients,” says Dr. McDonald, one of the managers of the NC Podiatric Physicians and Surgeons Group in Concord, N.C. “If we have a busy period, we will start earlier, shorten lunch or extend the afternoon rather than simply cram someone in to an already full schedule.”

Study: Arthroscopy Effective For Some Ankle Osteoarthritis

By Danielle Chicano, Editorial Associate

A new study, published in Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, concludes that arthroscopic treatment is a favorable option for select patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis.

   The study looked at 63 patients with mild to moderate ankle osteoarthritis who received arthroscopic treatment. Researchers used the Visual Analogue Scale and American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) Ankle-Hindfoot score to note patient improvements after surgery for up to two years. The largest improvements, researchers note, occurred after six months, with a decline thereafter.

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