In the Race to Reduce Patient Wait Times, Labs and Hospitals are Doing More Harm

Labs and hospitals are racing toward reducing wait times. It’s a good marketing tool to acquire new patients as more and more patients are looking at social media or online platforms to decide their healthcare providers. Its also an important metric for patient satisfaction. Longer wait times results in unhappy patients.

In the race to reducing patient wait times, labs and hospitals often compromise on quality and operational values and end up doing more harm to both patients and themselves. In most cases they don’t understand its impact.

Many labs and hospitals administrations are often tasked with reducing wait times continuously. Before we implement our technology platform (VerioMed) we review their operations. To reduce wait times most labs and hospital just defer the processing for later time. For example, when a patient walks in to a lab for a blood draw, labs often make a copy of insurance and driver license and quickly sends them over for the draw (because many of the healthcare IT systems are obsolete and slow. We found it takes an average of 5 minutes to create/register a patient record with old legacy systems). In many cases the electronic patient record, order entry, bar-coded label generation, specimen packing were all deferred post-patient visit, meaning everything were manual to begin with — phlebotomist often stick a manually written label on specimen container and later relabel it again with an electronic label prior to shipping. When the lab advertised their patient wait time as 5 minutes we found the total operational time per patient was approximately 30 minutes. When we highlight this insight labs are shocked and surprised!

The Impact

Errors, Errors, and a lot of Errors. We also found a significant percent of cancellations with irretrievable specimens were a direct result of incorrect patient processing. Patient safety, incorrect draws/cancels and missed revenue opportunities at the expense of reducing wait times. If patients don’t get quality service, how could this result in higher patient satisfaction?

We found at least 45% of the transactions contained one or more error. Refer to this article for detailed information on the types of errors and cost of each error. The cost of downstream impact all the way to billing is significant.

We also found a direct correlation between increased patient wait line, employee burnout and increased errors.

Evaluate True Operational Patient Wait Time

Always evaluate the average total time it takes to process a patient’s entire visit event. This includes all the manual and electronic processing required to complete the patient processing plus the actual patient wait time. This is your operational efficiency. Estimate this metric for different hours of the day. Before you modify the workflow understand its operational impact including downstream impacts.

At VerioMed, our artificial intelligence based platform completely automates majority of the patient processing work. It uses patient face recognition, automated intelligent search, automated ID scan & patient registration and many verification functions like insurance eligibility and fraud checks etc in matter of seconds. Our Patient Processing module automatically integrates with real-time Analytics platform. This provides the lab or hospital administrators with accurate real-time patient wait time dashboard and detailed breakdown of different operations such as how long it currently takes for specimen draws or how long the patient is waiting and drilling it down by phlebotomist or 50 other metrics…. We empowered the staff to decrease total operational time per patient from 30 minutes to a mere 6 minutes.

Bottom line, reducing wait times by deferring the processing does not increase patient satisfaction nor improve quality. Improve your wait time by identifying & fixing bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

If your lab or hospital needs help with improving patient wait times or improving process please contact us at info@veriomed.com

Anand Prabhakaran is the Founder & CEO of VerioMed, www.veriomed.com. VerioMed is a healthcare technology provider helping labs and hospitals with Analytics, CRM, Intelligence and Order Entry solutions.

Contact: info@veriomed.com