An Observation of Healthcare at a Clinic…

Last week, I took my wife to a well-known local clinic since she had the flu that is spreading across U.S this year. Since I had my notebook, I started to make some observations in regards to the overall process and customer service. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to make a surface-level current state analysis and propose a future state to be considered.

As we walked into the clinic, the receptionist smiled at us and asked how she could help. We explained to her that my wife probably had the flu that is going around. She asked us to sign-in and gave us paperwork to fill out since it was the first time we came to this clinic. While filling out the paperwork, I overheard another person come into the clinic and the receptionist inquired if they had been to the clinic in the last 4 months and if not then paperwork needs to be filled out (again).  After finishing our paperwork, we gave it back to the receptionist and she asked for my wife’s driver license. I am assuming that all this information was needed to create a preliminary patient record on the computer.

30 minutes later the nurse called her name and took us to a small room. In this room the nurse requested my wife to change into a medical gown and gave us some privacy to do so. After 20 minutes the nurse came back and started typing the information in the paperwork into a computer in the room. The computer was placed in a way that the nurse had her back towards my wife. After typing the paperwork information the nurse typed the blood pressure reading, temperature, height and weight into the computer. During the data entry, I asked the nurse how come my wife still got the flu since she had taken the flu shot a couple of weeks ago. I was explained that the current flu shot only protects against 4 strains of the flu and the flu strain that my wife had is different.

After the nurse left it took about another 15 minutes before the doctor came into the room and looked at the paperwork and inquired about a medication listed that she could not find in the system. This medication is a Tylenol-type medication but since it was not sold in U.S. there was no record of it and thus we explained the doctor that the active ingredient was Acetaminophen and the dosage level. After inputting this information into the computer,  the doctor recommended a basic test that would be carried out at the facility.

The doctor left and the lab technician came in about 10 minutes later and took samples for the basic test. Another 20 minutes go by and then the doctor comes into the small room and informs us that nothing serious was found during the test and prescribes antibiotics. The doctor also informs us that she will conduct further tests whose results will be known in the next 48 hours and regardless of the result she will call us. 4 days have gone by and we have not received a call from the doctor.

So that is the current state and it seems pretty typical but now the fun part begins where I propose a few things to think about and how I would hope the process would go in the future…

As we walk into the clinic, the receptionist smiles at us and my wife swipes her health insurance card across a card reader. The card reader signs her in, provides a queue number, the receptionist confirms that the record is accessible and provides a medical gown. After this the receptionist asks if we want to use the self-service kiosk to take readings for blood pressure, temperature, height and weight or if we prefer that a medical professional take these readings. We prefer the self-service kiosk that takes about five minutes and updates the patient record.  The patient record also contains the flu shot information that my wife took several weeks earlier. This information and the readings taken by the self-service kiosk are not displayed anywhere on the self-service kiosk but it gives the option to the patient if they want to print this information for themselves and gives a list of basic tests that are taken. Additionally, she is glad to have access to her patient records available securely online if she wanted to view them herself to see what medical conditions she has had and the insurances she used in the past.

A few minutes go by and then it is her turn.  We enter a private room that has a sign outside indicating if the patient is ready or not. The doctor comes in and after some inquiry recommends a basic test that we already know about from the self-service kiosk. Then the doctor leaves and the lab technician comes to take test samples. The test is carried out at the facility while we wait in the private room. Additional minutes go by and the doctor shows up indicating that nothing serious was found and prescribes antibiotics. As the doctor is putting this information into the patient record, it indicates if there is history of any allergic reactions to this antibiotic and if the current medications will have any affect on my wife. The doctor informs about additional tests that will be conducted and if we request they can provide us a printout about those tests.

As we leave, the doctor indicates that an automated message will be sent to the cell phone to indicate if the results have not found anything and we will have a window of about 5 minutes to call back if we want to discuss something further. In the case the doctor finds something that needs to be explored further, she would call us as soon as possible or within 1 day whichever is sooner after the results have been received.

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3 thoughts on “An Observation of Healthcare at a Clinic…

  1. My only problem with your idea is that it reduces the time a medical professional is seeing the patient. Even if it seems that all they are doing is taking routine tests, they are often paying attention to what’s going on, how the patient speaks or moves, etc. These things aren’t always seen in one conversation, but might be seen in two or three conversations.

    • I agree that body language is important for medical professionals but in our case we did not see the medical professionals (receptionist/admin, nurse, lab tech, doctor) talk to each other about my wife’s condition. The doctor spent maybe 3 minutes and the nurse about 5 minutes with us and so what I am advocating is that if certain routine activities could be somehow semi-automated then the doctor and nurse could have spent more time with us.

      On the flip side, in the case where perhaps the medical professionals were talking to each other but not in front of us, the notion of some sort of semi-automation would still hold true since then they will be able to spend more time with us and may not have to do 2 or 3 conversations. At the end it all depends upon the situation and that there is always room for improvement.

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