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Waiting around at the doctor’s office isn’t just an annoyance for patients. With the number of patients at practices growing, it puts stress and strain on physicians and staff too.

There have been countless efforts to streamline intake and reduce paperwork to reduce wait times. But Jehni Robinson, MD, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and professor of clinical family medicine, was able to shrink patient wait times by 12% at a USC clinic using simple administrative efficiencies. 

Over the course of 1 year, Robinson and her team reduced “cycle” time from 71 minutes per visit to 65 minutes, while improving patient satisfaction scores. Over the next two years, further efficiency gains reduced that time to 60 minutes. 

The findings were published this spring in the journal BMJ Open Quality

“We know people spend a lot of their valuable time waiting to see the doctor,” Robinson said. “We had to look at the entire journey, from checking in with reception to the time spent with the nurse and then the doctor and to check out. We had to map out and engage our whole team in the process. When we brought our team together, they wanted to work on what happens in the beginning. So, we made check-in more efficient and changed the schedule of our nursing staff so that patients could be roomed more quickly.

“We also added an earlier start time for one provider, as we noticed everything slowed down between 11-1 when staff was leaving for lunch. So staggering schedules and having more staff available at peak times is important.”

The research was conducted at the Keck Family Medicine office in HC2. Yara Montalvo, the clinic manager, was “an important ally and still runs this data,” Robinson said.

“A lot of the work is in team building, measuring and showing people the data and asking for their ideas on how to improve which is really important to make things better in complicated, interdependent systems,” Robinson said.