A NEW WAY TO WAIT

Darla Coullard, ophthalmic assistant, using the eSynchrony board.
Darla Coullard, ophthalmic assistant, using the eSynchrony board.

Innovative, Cloud-Based Technology Dramatically Reduces Patient Wait Times

Long patient wait times, miscommunication about which patient should be seen next or patients getting “lost” as they progress through different stops of their appointment, is stressful for patients, doctors and staff. That’s why the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences implemented eSynchrony. With this visual communication tool, doctors, staff and technicians in a fast-paced clinic can nonverbally track patients by visually moving them through the steps of the process as they are being treated on a central screen. The large touch screen is located in a common area and is simultaneously accessible on desktop computers in other areas.

The software visually shows on a monitor where patients are currently located and exactly how long they have been in each step of the appointment process. If a backup in patient flow is forming, resources can be allocated immediately to alleviate the bottleneck.

“The best feature about the eSynchrony board is that at one glance, I know whether my clinic is running on time, which patients are waiting for me and where my staff members are,” says Dr. Yasmin Bradfield. “One glance gives me a live snapshot of my entire clinic in real time.”

“I can immediately see which patients are waiting for me and rearrange the sequence of patients, so I can see those who have been waiting the longest or who will have shorter appointments sooner,” Bradfield explains.

Builds Teamwork

The eSynchrony board improves teamwork in clinics because it allows everyone to help improve the patient experience throughout the clinic.

“The eSynchrony board forces us all to think about what the other people are doing and how it is affecting the whole patient experience,” Kristin Anderson, orthoptist at UW Health, says. “Before, we only focused on finishing our own responsibilities. Once we handed patients off, we moved on.”

Added Patient Appointments

“Implementing eSynchrony is extremely helpful if there are multiple steps in the patient’s journey through their clinical appointment,” Dr. Kimberly Stepien of UW Health says. “Using the board helps to create a team approach in the clinic toward patient care because everyone knows the status of the clinic and can help where needed, which reduces patient wait time.”

Streamlining patient flow has allowed her to add clients to her clinics. “For example, we used to struggle to see 17 people in a half day, but now I can comfortably see 20 people in a half day, and our patient satisfaction has gone up,” says Dr. Stepien.

Patient experience is, after all, a crucial piece of the puzzle. “Our patient satisfaction has gone up dramatically,” Darla Coullard, ophthalmic assistant and office coordinator in Dr. Bradfield’s clinic, says. “We are now consistently getting nines and tens on our patient exit surveys on a 10-point scale. The board is helping us to take better care of our patients and reduce their wait times.”

In Dr. Bradfield’s words, using the board to manage patient times “helps our overall clinic to run more efficiently and helps me to provide solutions for delays and potential areas of patient dissatisfaction. Using eSynchrony improves the patient experience in our clinic, which is the bottom line for us.”

Problems Solved with Real-Time Data

The data that is collected for every clinic also allows doctors and staff to review the patient experience and identify opportunities for continuous process improvement.

“From an administrative standpoint, I like to look at the data at the end of the day to see where our wait times were and how we can improve them,” says Gary Lukes, ophthalmology supervisor at UW Health. “By brainstorming how to reduce wait times, we should be able to see more patients in the future. This is important to our patients because our specialists are booked three months out and comprehensives are booked almost a year out.”

Dr. Terri Young, department chair of ophthalmology, also uses the patient data to improve clinic processes. “Using the real-time data that is collected allows us to use the metrics to analyze where the bottlenecks are and determine how to prevent them, eliminate waste in the system for patients and improve the patient’s overall experience,” says Dr. Young.

According to Young, the data is also allowing her front line staff to solve problems and come to the table with solutions.

“The staff is now problem solving and proposing changes,” Young said. “It gives everyone ownership and an equal part in the process, and it creates a sense of, ‘What can I do to help?’”