Patient Flow in Waiting Room
MGT/554 Operations Management
University of Phoenix
April 5, 2006
Patient Flow in Waiting Room
Healthcare clinics are under a great deal of pressure to reduce costs and improve quality of service. In recent years, healthcare organizations have concentrated on preventive medicine practices and have tried to reduce the length of time that patients stay in a hospital. Outpatient services have gradually become an essential component of healthcare. Organizations that cannot make their outpatient component cost-effective are finding themselves financially burdened in this ever-changing industry (Caldwell, 2005). Patient waiting times and waiting-room congestion in outpatient settings are two challenges facing the healthcare industry. Survey results indicate that excessive waiting time is often the major reason for patients' dissatisfaction with outpatient services. Waiting times of 10 to 15 minutes are considered reasonable. Outpatient clinics are in essence queuing systems. These systems embody a unique set of conditions that must be considered when examining the appointment making procedure. Patient flow is simplified when scheduled patients arrive punctually and a single doctor serves them within predefined processing times. The flow gets more complicated when multiple doctors are involved or patients arrive late. Other factors that may complicate the flow are no-shows, walk-ins, and emergencies. In addition, doctors are sometimes delayed or interrupted throughout the course of the day by events not directly related to medical consultation. The flow of an established patient in the waiting room is the subject of this process analysis. The process begins when the patient walks in the door. If the receptionist is not helping another patient, she greets the patient that has just walked in. The patient waits in line to check in with the receptionist (he or she enters the Arrival Queue). Once the patient reaches the desk, the receptionist asks if he/she has an appointment. If the patient does have an appointment, the receptionist "arrives" the patient, which consists of checking the patient into the computer system. Then, the receptionist checks the patient's demographics, which takes approximately two (2) minutes. Next, the receptionist asks if the patient has insurance. If the patient does have insurance, the receptionist collects their co-pay and asks them to take a seat and wait for their name to be called. If the patient does not have insurance, they are asked to fill out an eligibility waiver form (this takes five minutes), then asked to sit down. At this point, the patient enters the Waiting Queue, which acts as a buffer for the next stage of the patient flow: the medical consultation or examination itself. This is the end of the patient flow in the waiting room process. Returning to the first decision point, if the patient does not have an appointment, the receptionist collects the patient's information and establishes the reason for his or her visit. This takes about five minutes. Then, the receptionist contacts the nurse, which takes five minutes or more. The nurse takes at least five minutes to decide if the patient needs to be seen in the office. If the patient does not need to be seen in the office (immediately), then they are re-scheduled, sent to the Emergency Room, or sent to Urgent Care. If the patient does need to be seen in the office immediately, then the doctor's availability is checked (this takes at least five minutes). If the doctor is not available, then the patient is sent to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care. If the doctor is available, then the receptionist "arrives" the patient and the flow continues as described above. The cycle time is the average time it takes to complete a unit. In this case, the patient is considered the unit. Because this process involves the interaction of human beings and not machines, the...
References: Chase, R., Jacobs, R., Aquilano, N. (2004). Operations Management for Competitive Advantage. McGraw-Hill Companies Boston.
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