Another fun graphic from the Wall Street Journal! This time from an article on reducing waits at doctor’s offices (The Doctor Will See You Eventually, Oct 18).
For those who like to hear the story, here is a link to the author discussing it:
The article reports that the average wait across all specialties is 22 minutes in the US. Orthopedists are the worst specialty at 29 minutes while dermatologists offer the “best” service by beating the overall average by a mere 2 minutes. To put those numbers in perspective, the average wait at in the security line at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday mornings is 25 minutes while the California DMV offers an average wait of 42 minutes. Of course, comparing yourself to the DMV and the TSA isn’t exactly benchmarking against the epitome of service. Further, studies have shown that patient satisfaction can take a fairly big hit with each five minutes spent waiting.
What is interesting is that a number of the approaches the article highlights are pretty basic recommendations from the OM tool box. For example, shifting work to less expensive staff (e.g., having nurses give flu shots) is simply moving work from the bottleneck to less constrained resources. Having patients complete registration before arriving at the clinic or reducing unnecessary follow ups are examples of moving activities off the critical path or eliminating non-value added work.
Other things such as open access scheduling are a little more specific to health care. I wonder if some the recommendations they have here are potentially in conflict. For example, the “huddle” is supposed to identify patients who are likely to need more time — more accurately, those who have a high chance of exceeding their scheduled time slot. There is an easy way to deal with these patients: park them at the end of the session. Then if they do run over, they don’t impact later appointments. That, however, conflicts with letting patients self-schedule. Self-scheduling may increase patient satisfaction by giving them more control and letting them make an informed trade off among available appointment slots. However, it lessens the clinics ability to construct an easily managed sequence of patients.