Medical Office Makeover

I’ve always been one to try to streamline parts of my life.  From childhood, I incorporated time management techniques into my daily routine and was not a procrastinator; I hated bottlenecks.  So when I began to learn about lean six sigma (LSS), and ultimately go through training, I realized the LSS principles are in my DNA.

With that in mind, one day recently I took the day off of work and scheduled multiple doctor appointments.  It’s a pre-tax season ritual with many of us accountants.  It was a small challenge getting them all arranged, but I was able to get them in a logical sequence from a geographical and time perspective.  The one that concerned me the most was the 2:00, which was preceded by a 1:00 about 15 minutes away.  But the 1:00 appointment was a follow-up to a procedure that would require three minutes of the doctor’s time and was the first appointment after lunch.  NO PROBLEM, right?

I arrived early at my 1:00, to ensure I was the first patient seen.  I signed in at 12:20 and was the only person in the lobby.  Another patient arrived around 12:45 and signed in and was called back before me, but I figure they have multiple doctors; I’m still first after lunch.  I was called back about 1:05 and placed in a room to await the arrival of the doctor.

Numerous times I heard my doctor (who appeared to be the only doctor there) call over the paging system for assistance in the room next to me.  About 1:25 I finally asked if I was going to be able to see the doctor in the next 5-10 minutes.  I created a little bit of a stir in the office, especially when I found out they double booked appointments.   They asked if I wanted to reschedule.  No I don’t want to reschedule; I took the day off of work to take care of a bunch of things.  I was here 40 minutes early: for over an hour now!  The doctor finally came in and saw me at 1:35 and I walked out three minutes later rather agitated.

During those three minutes I asked him why I was not seen first since I was there at 12:20 and required an insignificant amount of time compared to the other patient.  He said “I just take the patients in the order they tell me to.”

I walked out thinking, “What a great opportunity to implement the principles of Lean Six Sigma to the patient scheduling process”.  It’s about making your customers happy and reducing waste.  I was obviously not happy.  And what a waste to make the patient with a three minute time requirement sit in the office and wait 35 minutes past their appointment time.  A better solution would be to see the short appointment first while the person having a 30 minute procedure could have been seen at 1:05.  Two happy patients, instead of one annoyed patient.  Not to mention I was there well in advance of the other person.  While implementing the principles of lean six sigma to the scheduling process, a practice could incorporate both the arrival time and the length of face time into process when patients are double booked.  Implementing certain procedures and policies could streamline the scheduling process and help to eliminate waste (bottlenecks, etc.) and improve patient satisfaction.

Happy customers are loyal customers that make referrals.  Annoyed ones just write articles about their experiences.


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