By Dr. Hanaa Nasir
Doctors have always been known to have tough schedules, long days, and difficult working hours. Tending to patients and carrying out all sorts of treatments means that time, for doctors, is relative and time management a concept hard to execute. The discrepancy between a physician’s time and the time patient care requires often results in ‘burnout’, bringing with it unfavorable factors and reducing a medical health practitioner’s efficiency. Whether the calendar is marked for surgery or a simple tooth removal procedure, effective management of time is crucial for a physician’s health and their ability to provide the best care they can for their patients.
With better understanding and research on this phenomenon, as well as with the aid of improved technology (such as automation in healthcare), a few changes can drastically reduce the likelihood of experiencing burnout whilst keeping patients content. To learn five approachable ways on how to organize your time, continue reading below.
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- Determining Patient Visit Lengths
The amount of time given to a patient varies between a physicians’ personal preference and even between countries. However, according to studies carried out in the United States, visit rates of 3 to 4 patients per hour were directly linked to suboptimal visits satisfaction. Properly timed visits offer the benefit of:
- Structured and organized scheduling
- Increased patient participation
- Improved patient education
- Ability to establish preventive health measures
- Increased patient satisfaction
Conversely, increasing or decreasing the length of visits can significantly affect the practice, with too little time making patients feel as though they weren’t heard – and on the other hand giving too much time consequently results in time being taken away from other patients that also need to be treated. Therefore, a balance needs to be in place.
- Improved Patient Communication Skills
One of the most productive ways to improve time management are good communication skills. Factors such as setting a goal early in the visit, active listening, providing empathetic support, soliciting patient attribution, and establishing goals together with the patient, can reduce the wasted time that arises with miscommunication – whilst also providing proper care and support leading to patient contentment. Clear communication with a patient means efficient results and expectations managed.
- Delegating Tasks to the Task Force
Having well-integrated and smooth-running staff procedures is necessary for optimal performance. Like a well-oiled machine, trained and professional staff responsible for all other tasks that a physician can be spared from allows room for better management and organization. Patients that are offered care from the first phone call to the very last minute are more comfortable and happier and this can only be done with more helping hands!
- Healthy Work Boundaries
Doctors and medical health practitioners are more than ready to go the extra mile, pull off hours-long surgery and spend the entire night on duty, although this is a basic requirement expected of most doctors – some boundaries still need to be placed to avoid physician fatigue and burnout. For doctors working in a hospital setup this responsibility lies with the hospital management: they should make sure that with work hours, doctors are offered time to recuperate. With private practice, boundaries need to be implemented by the owner. Knowing that an idealistic approach may not be familiar to all, the importance of mental and physical health still stands and should be considered in all aspects of personal physician care.
- Automation in the Clinic and Telehealth Services
The use of automated systems, artificial intelligence (machine learning AI), and telehealth services have provided a new dimension of care and service that allows patients to be categorized, treated, and managed even before they arrive at the clinic. This saves time for both patients and physicians, and allows scheduling with goals already set. Follow-up appointments, repeat prescriptions, and patient education can be offered without physical presence using automated systems, freeing up time in a physician’s schedule for other tasks.
There is No One Right Way
As with many instances, one method or system doesn’t work for all. The best way to organize your time in terms of medical practice and patient care involves critical analysis of current methods that may require modification to reduce time spent, and also the integration of new technology and work models that synergistically work together to give you the best of both worlds. With time today in our fast-paced world, the value of seconds and minutes literally comes down to the last nanosecond. Organized time means organized care and happier patients for everyone.
Dr. Hanaa Nasir is a dental professional, currently pursuing her Master’s in Oral Surgery. She has worked for a recognized dental hospital in Pakistan and is in the process of attaining her further education in Australia. Still, in the early process of her research based on Psychology and Dentistry, she aims to advocate for dental care to be integrated with mental health. Dr. Nasir dedicates most of her time to science and medicine, balancing them with her passions – poetry and art.