- By Justice
- With No Comments
- On 8 Apr | '2015
Improve Your Technician’s Efficiency with Templates
Dr. Traci Fritz, COE, suggests a thoughtful strategy for increasing profits in ophthalmology practices in her article “Using Templates to Improve Technician Efficiency.” A member of the Academy of Ophthalmology, she draws upon her own experience in her practice to suggest that developing more templates may ultimately enhance patient care and professional reputation.
What is a Template?
She explains that a template basically consists of a form developed by observing successful repeating situations. For example, many time management experts recommend using templates to schedule appointments in the most productive way. Insurance companies to some extent impose templates upon business offices, by asking them to follow specific steps in filing claims. These types of forms can benefit every department in an ophthalmology practice, she maintains.
An Illustration of a Template in a Ophthalmology Practice
In her case, Dr. Fritz notes that her practice developed more than 20 new templates covering a variety of procedures and surgeries. Staff members paid attention to situations which recurred frequently in order to formulate the best way of handling each scenario. These written guidelines function as a checklist, indicating questions that should be posed to patients in the treatment room and correct diagnostic and treatment protocols in a clear, consistent, orderly fashion. Technicians initial each step to clearly indicate the satisfactory completion of each essential designated step in this process.
The Special Challenge Facing Technicians
Although business and administrative departments in some ophthalmology practices widely utilize templates already, technicians in particular can often improve their time management and efficiency (and thus the profitability of the practice) by developing new templates and employing them in day to day operations. Dr. Fritz observes that sometimes technicians face a temptation to rely upon memory instead of rigorously adhering to the template; she urges staff members to resist that tendency. By applying every step in a template every single time, the technicians in a practice avoid errors and omissions that might impair patient care. This disciplined approach prevents mistakes.
Expanding the Clinical Use of Templates
For example, templates may assist technicians in taking a medical history. By asking important questions and then initialing a form to document that the information has been obtained from a patient, the technician helps ensure that vital information reaches the ophthalmologist. This step maximizes the efficiency of both the physician and the technician. As a result, the ophthalmologist can reduce time spent consulting with the patient. It permits ophthalmologists to rely more extensively upon the delegation of tasks. This situation, in turn, allows the practice to treat more patients, ultimately increasing revenues.
Two Illustrations of Clinical Templates
For example, Dr. Fritz describes benefits to her practice when the staff developed three templates for very frequent surgeries. They reduced several repeatable steps involved in dealing with corrective laser surgery, corneal surgery and cataract surgery into templates. Using these tools greatly improved efficiency and practice revenues. The templates also meant that every important step in care delivery occurred in a systematic, orderly manner.
Enhancing Organization With Templates
Dr. Fritz points out that asking technicians to establish and follow organizational templates can also benefit a practice. For instance, a template can direct the first half hour of the day, the critical 30 minutes before the first scheduled appointment. During this important period, staff members can attend to important office clinical tasks that sometimes fall by the wayside: making sure that appointment rooms are fully stocked with supplies, sanitizing and calibrating essential equipment and tools and making last minute inspections for cleanliness.
Organizational Templates Require Time Frames
She recommends that every task in an organizational template include a time frame, since some aspects of organization may require weekly rather than daily attention. For example, it may only be necessary to re-order particular office supplies one day a week. By adding a time frame for each essential step in the template, the staff can maximize their efficiency. They can help ensure that the practice will function seamlessly, without running out of essential inventories or wasting time during appointments fetching essential treatment supplies from another room; time can be spent more effectively in furnishing high-quality patient care.
The Importance of Communication
It remains essential for ophthalmologists to communicate their expectations regarding the use of templates to technicians and other staff members, Dr. Fritz believes. By helping all members of the treatment team appreciate the importance to the practice of the template tool, doctors reinforce the use of templates in office culture. Patients and practice profitability both benefit from this approach. Enhanced efficiency allows the practice to maintain a high quality of care and treat more patients, thus expanding profitability.
Dr. Fritz concludes that time management principles may benefit a practice. By performing small daily tasks in a consistent, repeatable manner, staff members can us templates to improve efficiency.
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