Practice Notes

Five easy ways to better your primary care clinic

Braden Lang

Earlier this month, I delivered a webconference on redesigning the primary care clinic, now available for viewing on demand.

Don’t have time to watch the full presentation? Here’s a summary of five best practices for optimizing your primary care clinic.

Standardize clinical processes to maximize patient-team interactions

Outlining a clear set of care standards enables clinic staff to assign appropriate tasks to each member of the team, thereby maximizing provider time and offering patients a seamless care experience.

Standardize patients’ experience before, during, and after the visit by implementing disease registries to identify treatment needs, track gaps in care, and improve quality.

Create a practice site that encourages collaborative care

Clinics will struggle if they lack spaces for collaborationEven with the most solid clinical processes in place, clinics will struggle to deliver effective care if they lack spaces that encourage collaboration between physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and other members of the care team.

Consider creating spaces for team huddles, identifying care team spaces away from patients where the care team can interact freely, and reducing or even eliminating private office space to promote interaction.

Centralize and streamline patient registration

Many pre-visit steps, like registration, do not require patients to be physically present. As such, some medical groups with multiple practices are centralizing registration at a single location, enabling the group to realize efficiencies and enabling patients to skip the waiting process.

Organizations without either the volume or the resources to warrant investing in a call center should consider using kiosks to streamline check-in without adding staff.

Design patient-centered exam rooms

Exam room design hasn't changed in the past 50 yearsOur approach to primary care delivery has evolved, but exam room design hasn’t changed in the past 50 years. Medical groups must adapt exam spaces to serve changing team dynamics and new patient demands. As a first step, clinics can adopt patient-centered design elements to facilitate more interactive visits.

Exam rooms should still have dedicated room for physical exams, but they should also contain areas where physicians, patients, and family or caregivers can sit down and discuss care plans.

Also, as technology is an inevitable part of the exam room, leverage your EMR investment by providing large, colorful displays that physicians can use to present useful information to patients.

Expand the clinic’s reach with the right virtual tools and access points

Virtual access points can offer patients more convenient care while reducing clinic staff’s patient loads. Use multiple virtual tools to create a spectrum of resources for patients to engage with the medical system.

Web-based portals can provide patients with scheduling, access to diagnostic information, basic care management advice and a virtual front door for the practice. New communication tools can triage quick written messages to physicians on their smartphones or tablets, allowing them to respond as they find time, getting responses to patients more quickly, and saving physicians the long slog of phone calls or emails at the end of the day.

Finally, a virtual visit platform allows patients with less acute needs to be see promptly while reserving capacity at the clinic site itself for needed in-person visits.

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