By Peter J. Cass, OD
June 14, 2017
Your staff can be the engine that drives your practice’s efficiency. They work for you, but they can keep you on track.
A well-trained and properly utilized staff can keep the practice running at a pace that ensures profitability, while still providing stellar care to patients.
Staff efficiency can be tracked by revenue per staff hour. The Management & Business Academy median is $83 (see MBA Key Metrics).
By comparison, our staff generates around $127 per staff hour. As a rule, the higher the number, the more efficient your staff is; the lower the number, the less efficient your staff is. According to the MBA, the symptoms of under-staffing include low staff morale, administrative tasks left frequently unattended, frequent patient waits of five minutes, or more, during office visits and the doctor assuming some of staff’s testing, or administrative duties, to keep office processes flowing.
High staff efficiency is a key to growing your practice. It enables you to hire an additional employee, at $31,000-$42,000 per year. Then you can see more patients and expand overall revenues.
Effect on Patient Experience
An efficient staff should improve patient experience. Rushing a patient, and efficiency, are not the same thing. Patients will appreciate an efficient office, and will be pleased that you respect their time (our online surveys and reviews validate this in our practice). Patients also are more likely to spend in the optical if it takes them less than 45 minutes to get through the exam process (including check in, workup, exam and discussion) and to the optical. Click HERE to read a recent ROB article on this topic.
Staff Should Be Ahead of You
At our office, we have these staff efficiency goals:
• Always answer the phone within two rings
• Keep the schedule full
• Get patients quickly from the waiting room (no more than 15-minute wait – maximum, goal of five minutes)
• Work patients up quickly in pre-testing (no more than 15 minutes – maximum, goal of five minutes)
• Fill the next exam room before the doctor finishes in the previous one
• Respond to the pager within one minute
• Help patients choose eyewear within 15 minutes (30 minutes maximum)
• Train contact lens patients within 15 minutes (30 minutes maximum)
• Get patients checked out quickly (within five minutes)
Improve Office Processes to Enhance Efficiency
Over the past few years we have re-evaluated and tweaked our check-in/check-out process, as well as our workup processes, to make our staff as efficient as possible. We were able to go from seeing four patients per hour with one OD and one tech to 12 per hour with two ODs and two techs.
Technology: We added automated recall technology from Solutionreach to improve our recall rate and decrease our no-show rate, while automating tasks like eyewear notification and patient satisfaction surveys. We recently added a live chat feature that makes scheduling and answering questions faster for the staff – and patients love it, too. We customized our EHR to speed up data entry, and integrated it with our online patient history submission. We also integrated our diagnostic instruments with our network to facilitate secure data transmission within the office.
Workflow: We eliminated nearly all paperwork and forms (we don’t hand our patients anything when they check in, and any signatures needed are captured on a signature pad). We mapped out the exam workup process and arranged instruments and pre-testing order to maximize workflow. We segregated instruments into different rooms (pre-test, procedures and special testing) based on the point they are needed during the office visit).
Certification: We require all staff to have certification from the American Optometric Association, the American Board of Opticians, or the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. We train at every monthly staff meeting, and regularly send staff to conferences, as well as vendor headquarters.