A Healthy Dose of Skepticism
“To be honest, I have real reservations about a non-clinician telling me how to see patients”. This was literally the first sentence that I spoke to my Coleman coach in our initial phone meeting 10 months ago. My aim was not to be confrontational or an unwilling participant. I’m not the mean-spirited type. I made this somewhat feisty comment with one goal in mind: protection of my patients. In my mind, more efficiency meant rushing through as many patients as possible as quickly as possible. I didn’t want anyone or anything interfering with my highly valued face-to-face patient time.
It wasn’t until we started diagraming patient visits in my health center that things started to click for me. We learned in this process that approximately forty percent of a patient’s time in our health center was spent waiting while not in contact with a single staff member. With a baseline visit time of 82 minutes, more than 30 minutes were completely wasted for every single patient that came to our “excellent” site. Over the next several months, the work to make our health center function better for our patients actually resulted in me having more time in the exam room while dramatically reducing cycle times. Patient waits reduced, provider stress decreased, and thorough quality care improved. Given that I am not only a physician, but also a good husband, I know how to admit when I was wrong.