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Improving Efficiency in an Outpatient Services Lab

January 27th, 2012

methodistdallaslgClient: Methodist Dallas Medical Center
Team: Kyle Chester, Kristin Evanto, and Emily Gray
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Barr
Year: 2010
Documents: Final Report, Presentation

A “hub” of activity at MDMC is the Outpatient Services department. Outpatient Services exists to serve the needs of physicians and surgeons alike with routine x-rays, blood draws to test for Tuberculosis or other ailments, or diagnostics to assess patient health. Many patients who come to Outpatient Services are preparing for surgery and thus need to undergo preliminary screens such as blood draws and EKGs.

The focus of this project is the observation and analysis of the administrative and technical operations within the laboratory component of Outpatient Services. Outpatient Services aims to reduce its patient wait times throughout the entire duration of a patient’s stay in Outpatient Services. Management has expressed a desire to reduce patient wait times such that 95% of all patients wait less than 15 minutes for the Outpatient laboratory department.

After spending time with Outpatient employees, observing the Outpatient process holistically and on a micro level, and gathering months of self reported data from Outpatient Registration, we have developed a number of tangible recommendations for MDMC management that will help Outpatient Registration achieve their wait time goals.

One central issue when analyzing patient wait times in the Outpatient lab is the relation between staffing levels and the unpredictable nature of patient arrivals. After the first few weeks of observing the people and processes involved with Outpatient Services, we recognized the chief issue is clearly the administrative tasks conducted at the computer during a patient’s visit to the lab. The entire throughput for each patient thereafter is due to the time spent entering and confirming patient orders. To eliminate the bottleneck that so often arises from this step in the procedure, Outpatient Services should separate the administrative function from the laboratory function. From observation, 60% of the patient’s time in the laboratory is spent waiting while a technician does administrative tasks on the computer or is working on another patient.

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