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Single Patient Flow

As I go to numerous optometry practices throughout the years I always get one question that keeps coming up in the conversations I have with all the stakeholders in the practice. 

How can I increase my current patient capacity so I can effectively and efficiently run my practice while better monetizing the capital outlays? The answer is Single Patient Flow (SPF).

How this is accomplished is through takt time, process mapping, and value/non-value-add time. These concepts help bring efficiency’s back into your practice that is needed so you can give better care for your patient and add value in your marketplace space that is sorely needed.

Efficiency is not always a negative term

Now I know that the term efficiency in the healthcare space has been used to cut costs and can be seen as a negative term. I will not be using the term in that nature.

What I am showing you are tools that you can use to better maximize your practice for the stakeholders (owners/managers), human capital (employees), and patients.

We are in an age where patients have various choices to take care of all their eye health needs. From online optical stores to eye exams that you can take from the house.

In this competitive marketplace, you have to have something unique and different that always brings the patient back for their eye health needs.

You also need to maximize dollars spent on each patient so you are giving them care when, where, and how they want it. SPF answers all the questions I have just purposed.

The First Step In Accomplishing SPF

The first step to fully accomplish SPF is that you have to find out your current total capacity you have for your practice using takt time. You can take your monthly, quarterly, yearly numbers to accomplish this.

I recommend doing this on a monthly basis because it will give you the best representation of your current capacity. Takt time is defined as “the time required to complete an individual procedure to meet the total patient demand for that procedure during the course of your specified time”.

Adding all the takt times for each procedure will give you the total current capacity you have within your practice (total number of patients seen in your specified given amount of time).

You quantify takt time by dividing the number of minutes worked during a certain time period by the number of times patients order that procedure (refractions, contact lens fitting, frame/lens fitting, etc).

Once you have found takt times for the procedures you can now figure out your total cycle time for a patient’s entire visit. This information is useful because it gives you a quantifiable idea if you are utilizing your human capital within your practice properly.

This information also helps you set up the next step in SPF.  

The Next Step

The next step is to set up a process map with all the individual procedures that are done for a patient’s visit. A process map is an illustration of the flow of work.

A process map may illustrate a small part of the operation or the complete operation. It consists of a series of actions, which change some given inputs into the previously defined outputs.  

Process mapping is a well-known technique, which is frequently used to create a common vision to improve business results. It is a faster and effective way to minimize flaws, maximize output and improve on customer satisfaction. 

In diagram one, I have given you a simple example of how to lay out your own process map. Each shape is represented by a meaning which is defined below…

  • Oval – indicates the start and end point of the process. They usually contain the words START and STOP, or END
  • Rectangular Box – represents the process or an activity in the process 
  • Parallelogram – represents the input or the output of the process
  • Diamond – represents a decision point in a flow chart. It has two arrows coming out of it, corresponding to yes and no or true or false
  • Circlerepresents a place marker. It is used when a line or page has to be changed with the flowchart. This symbol is then numbered and placed at the end of the line or the page.

After you set up the process map you insert the takt times for each individual procedure to give the illustration of your patient capacity. Once that is done now you go to the third and final step.

The Final Step

This last step is to figure out the value/non-value add each individual procedure gives to your total SPF.

To figure out what is value/non-value you have to keep in mind how each procedure accomplishes total eye health for the patient. If it does not accomplish that then it is non-value, but if it does then it is value add.

You place two columns on a piece of paper to illustrate this action. You add up all the time in each individual column and this gives you the total processes of the patient through your SPF.

You can now see how to reduce your time by taking time away from the non-value add SPF. This brings better efficiencies and helps you accomplish SPF.   

Knowing how to efficiently run your practice is key to better practice representation within the marketplace.

I addressed takt time, process mapping, and value/non-value-add time. These key steps will help you accomplish SPF.

Always remember it is your job to provide the best experience that the patient has within your practice.

Never assume that they could not get this service elsewhere. Adopting SPF will help bring value to your practice. Overall it helps you achieve HPM and what this series is all about.

Sean Carranco
Sean Carranco is the owner of Carranco Lunettes which is a consulting firm that helps independent practices in the marketplace. A versatile professional with over 15 plus years of executive operational, financial, marketing and retail experience, creating company guidelines and protocols to preside over your practice environment. He has a B.S. from The University of Texas and an Executive M.B.A from The University of Texas at El Paso.

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