Room management tool boosts patient visits and revenue at clinic
The Kirklin Clinic of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Neurology Clinic is the only academic neurology program in the state.
The clinic is in high demand by patients throughout the region. In addition to Alabama, the department provides care for patients across Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. Employing 65 neurologists and leveraging 28 exam rooms, the clinic sees around 50,000 patients every year.
However, despite the high patient volume, there was not a streamlined room management system in place. This led to the development of several pain points, including:
- Increased patient wait time.
- Increased administrative time spent managing rooms.
- Decreased revenue.
- Decreased physician satisfaction.
Dr. David Standaert, John N. Whitaker Professor and chair of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Kirklin Clinic, looked at what was happening and saw room management at the root of the problems. He discovered that he wanted to solve the “motel” problem; or, in other words, figure out how motels can consistently keep all of their rooms full at the same time, but healthcare organizations like his struggle.
There was not a streamlined room management tool in place. In fact, some administrative staff used an Excel sheet to chart room use, but that technique made it nearly impossible for clinics to be canceled or adjusted.
“Though rooms looked full on paper, there were days when rooms were consistently idle,” Standaert explained. “This made administrative staff reluctant to trust the Excel sheet. Further, it provoked fear of logistical nightmares for providers and patients, which led to rooms staying empty despite their availability. By not filling the rooms, the department was quickly losing potential revenue and increasing physician and staff frustration as patient demand continued to be bottlenecked.”
"Concerns like revenue, provider satisfaction and room availability can appear disjointed, but the reality is that they’re all interconnected and they all matter."
Dr. David Standaert, University of Alabama at Birmingham Kirklin Clinic
Once Standaert realized the hold was due to a need in room management, he pushed for a system that would enable improved patient and physician satisfaction and increase revenue through effective management and utilization of exam rooms.
That was when Standaert and his team looked to health IT vendor QGenda, maker of a room management tool.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
As the number of patients at the clinic continued to grow, so did the room utilization and management issues. The clinic ultimately chose to implement QGenda Room Management to facilitate:
- Physician communication about time away and other requests that resulted in cancellation or modification of clinic time.
- Physician and administrator visibility into available clinic rooms by data and specific characteristics (i.e. room equipment).
- Enforcement of clinic cancellation and additional approval policies.
- Communication and notification of changes to clinic time to the appropriate parties for adjustments in the clinic’s Cerner EHR.
To do this, QGenda developed a custom grid display that met the needs of clinic managers by easily showing which rooms were open and which were in use so that they could deploy staff and view where patients would be on any given day. The grid display also gives physicians better insight into when they can reschedule a clinic, while nurses and staff also can use it to see where empty rooms are available should they need one.
The Kirklin Clinic of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Neurology Clinic was able to successfully fill in the unused rooms and regularly assign physicians with accurate information, which resulted in an increase in revenue as more patients could be seen.
More specifically, 902 additional patient visits and 114 more clinic sessions occurred after the implementation of the room management tool, which shows that effective utilization and management of exam rooms led to a 7.4% increase in patient visits and a 4.7% increase in clinic volume.
In addition to these results, the tool has increased provider satisfaction, since physicians now can better communicate their time away from the clinic and trust that their schedule is accurate and flexible, should rescheduling or canceling be needed.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“Don’t underestimate the impact room management has on your organization,” Standaert advised. “Concerns like revenue, provider satisfaction and room availability can appear disjointed, but the reality is that they’re all interconnected and they all matter.
“Additionally, looking at growth from the perspective of streamlining space can allow you to better understand what your organization truly needs,” he concluded. “For example, adding a meaningful percentage to your capacity can allow you to gain a lot without having to add additional costs. Looking at administrative priorities like these can prevent new overhead costs and better the environment your physicians work in.”