If you’ve found that your practice can’t sustain profitability at your providers’ current level of productivity, you may be thinking that it’s time to ask your physicians and mid-levels to start seeing more patients per day.  But have you evaluated whether your patient workflow actually has extra capacity?  Sometimes, your providers may have already maxed out their capacity, given your current set-up.

Before embarking on outreach to patients to fill up the calendar or starting a more aggressive marketing program, be sure to look at the following parts of your practice’s patient flow, to be sure you’re ready and able for more volume:

  • MA/nursing support

If more patients are booked, your providers will need more support to move them through the practice — checking vitals, rooming/cleaning rooms, drawing blood, collecting data, etc.  Are you confident your current team of MAs/nurses has unused capacity?  (If you’re not sure, benchmarks from resources like MGMA can help you decide.)

  • Scheduling

If you want your physicians to see more patients, you’ll need to be sure there’s room in the schedule for more appointments.  If you’re finding that your providers aren’t bringing in enough charges, check the appointment schedule: are you offering the right type of slots?  (If every appointment is set for 30 minutes, you won’t get more than 16 in an eight hour day.  And, if many of those slots are used by short follow-up visits or injections, the schedule’s depriving your providers of the opportunity to see more patients and deliver more revenue.)

  • Exam rooms

You may want your physicians to move more quickly through the day — and they may want to, too.  But if exam space is short, booking more patients will just lead to bottlenecks, stress, long wait times in reception, and irritated patients, staff and providers.

Do you have enough exam space?  One big hint that your exam room capacity is your bottleneck is if physicians and mid-levels are waiting for rooms.  This can be a very difficult problem to solve.  If your practice expands its office suite or moves to a new location, make ensuring adequate office space for growth a key priority.  It’s typically easier to convert an exam room to an office than the reverse.

Before you try to add more patients through marketing, adding a health plan(s), or outreach to referral partners, be sure you know that your system can handle the extra load.  It’s not just about willing providers.  Besides the above workflow components, dramatically increasing visit volume can tax other parts of your system — you may even need to add more schedulers, billers or billing hours, even reception room chairs.


Are you working through workflow bottlenecks in your practice?  You might enjoy my ebook on this subject — “Patient Flow Mistakes Smart Managers Make — and How to Avoid Them.”

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