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      Your patient is scheduled for a 10-minute appointment, but the appointment runs 5 minutes long. As additional appointments run long, pressure mounts. Although timestamped data from millions of electronic health records suggest you're in the norm, it also reveals opportunities to improve. 

      learning from EHR data could be A time-saver

      The objective of a study by University of Minnesota researchers was two-pronged: 

      • Determine how much time primary care physicians spend with patients.

      • Identify discrepancies between allotted and actual times of those appointments by analyzing US EHR data culled from more than 21 million doctor visits in 2017.

      Results of that research are published in the January 2021 issue of Medical Care, a journal published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer. The results provide useful insights that could optimize the use of providers' time by making appointment scheduling and other practice management processes more efficient. By using timestamps recorded when information is accessed or entered, EHR data allow for potentially more objective and reliable measurement of how much time physicians spend with their patients, according to the new research by Hannah T. Neprash, Ph.D., of University of Minnesota School of Public Health and colleagues. 

      Among the findings regarding scheduled doctor visits :
      • Mean time was 18 minutes

      • Median time was 15 minutes

      • More than two-thirds of visits deviated from the schedule by 5 minutes or more

      • About 38% of scheduled 10-minute visits ran 5 minutes long

      • Scheduled 30-minute appointments averaged less than 24 minutes

      • On average, exams ran longer than their scheduled duration by 1.2 minutes

      In short, visits scheduled for 10 or 15 minutes were likely to exceed their allotted time. And visits scheduled for 20 or 30 minutes typically came up short of their allotted time.

      The findings suggest scheduling inefficiencies in both directions, authors of the report observed. Primary care offices' overuse of brief appointment slots may lead to appointment overrun, increasing wait time for patients and overburdening providers. In contrast, they wrote, longer appointments are critical for clinically complex patients, but misallocation of these extended visits represents potentially inefficient use of clinical capacity.

      Researchers noted that average visit times appear to have increased in years in response to time demands for EHR documentation, patient monitoring, screening, and preventative care. 

      EHR-generated data is more accurate and reliable

      Length of doctor visits, of course, may vary by practice or specialty based on the different needs of their patients. So, how do you identify and minimize scheduling inequities? How do you maximize scheduling efficiencies?  

      The problem with reports trying to measure the length of appointments is that they're usually from national surveys that rely on data from the medical practices. Sadly, these surveys don’t always show the exact time the doctor and patient spend together in the exam room.

      Routine data collected by EHRs, however, provide new and more reliable ways to measure the length of physician visits, write Neprash and colleagues, denoting two provisos. First, EHR data apparently not recorded in real-time were excluded. Second, they accounted for overlapping visits due to "double-booking."

      By monitoring EHR-produced data to track scheduled vs. actual lengths of visits, health systems can maximize their scheduling efficiency by allotting time that matches the needs of each individual patient . While acknowledging some limitations and challenges of this approach, the researchers said their findings "support the development of a scalable approach to measure exam length using EHR data."

      Efficiency is the key

      There are several facets of clinical efficiency that affect not only time saved but reduced stress, improved work environment for staff, and greater job and patient satisfaction as well. Such efficiencies include the following:

      Delegation of responsibilities

      Equip administrative staff and physicians alike to better handle any day-to-day adversities.

      Established go-to procedures

      Equip administrative staff and physicians alike to better handle any day-to-day adversities.

      RCM Protocols

      Minimize lost revenue, regardless of whether a practice relies on a billing service provider or in-house staff.

      Medical Software Technology

      Empowers greater accuracy and efficiency across the board, from the front office to the exam room to the back office. 

      Interested in improving technological clinical efficiencies in your own practice? InSync Healthcare Solutions offers superior medical software with advanced EHR technology that can improve time management, enhance your provider-patient experience and increase the level of care you're able to provide.  To learn more, schedule a demonstration today and a specialist will create a custom presentation for your practice. 

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