Exam room check-out aids convenience, privacy

September 10, 2011

Being short-staffed has become an accepted way of life in this particular practice.

The practice is as full of activity as any other practice, with some days being busier than others. Just as with any other practice trying to acclimatize to the new economic realities, being short-staffed is an accepted way of life in our practice. New opportunities to make things better arise every day, but our challenge is to improve the practice with our existing resources. It's like a jigsaw puzzle: we cannot obtain more pieces, and we must make all of the pieces fit so that the final product is in perfect harmony.

A few months ago, as I walked from the corridors of the office to the front desk, I noticed that the ambiance of our front desk seemed chaotic. The chaos resulted from long queues of patients and their relatives waiting for a turn to interact with the secretary.

Our challenges:

The four key elements that defined the chaos:

Guided by processes from the book Measuring Quality Improvement in Healthcare: A Guide to Statistical Process Control Applications by Raymond G. Carey, PhD, and Robert C. Lloyd, PhD, we determined that the key quality characteristic we wanted to address was patient inconvenience. Other quality characteristics we sought to influence were patient privacy (for instance, when a patient needed to disclose, at the front desk in the presence of other patients, that he or she was seeing a psychiatrist or an infectious disease specialist) and front-desk personnel discontent.