How can I improve patient flow in an outpatient clinic?

patient workflow diagram


  1. Ask Questions – “Where exactly are you getting the most friction now? What part of that flow do you want to improve? What would an improved patient flow look like for you?” (Carlos Voltron at

  2. Avoid Bottlenecks – Operations Management 101: Your bottleneck will usually be the resource that has the greatest value of (time the resource is used per patient) / (number of units available of the resource). You can eliminate bottlenecks by increasing the number of units available of the resource that is the bottleneck. For example, imagine an ophthalmic practice that has 2 pieces of diagnostic equipment and 5 physicians. Suppose patients must spend 10 minutes with the diagnostic equipment and 5 minutes with the physician. There will be a bottlneck on the diagnostic equipment because 10 minutes / 2 units > 5 minutes / 5 units. To eliminate the bottleneck, the practice can buy additional diagnostic equipment.

  1. Education by Non-Physicians – “I found it can be a great advantage to educate patients, but if the education is done by the doctor it ties up his/her time and they often speak over the patient's head (initially). Hiring a patient advocate in the office can help. This person educates the patient. The doctor diagnoses and moves to the next patient. The patient advocate defines, coaches and educates the patient on the findings and after care. This means the doctor can more efficiently use their time, but the patient is well taken care of and learns. If the patient asks the doctor a question, they are in a better position to understand the answer more fully.” (Rick Jahn at

  2. Optimize Documentation Workflow – Understand your documentation requirements and options.  Can your doctors be more efficient in their documentation and see more patients as a result?  Are your support staff a bottleneck to timely documentation?  See how ZyDoc's clinical documentation solutions can help.

  3. “Improve Departmental Efficiency – This will happen if each department discusses problem areas with other departments. In other words, each department participates in promoting efficiency. Holding departmental meetings is important to understand the difficulties each department faces and to remove them collaboratively.” (Jayden Henrii at

  4. “Predict Traffic Patterns – Yes, you can do it. There is software that can help you analyze data…and predict patient volumes and your staffing needs as well. There could be emergency admissions, agreed. But still you can predict through your historical data what would be your patient traffic flow on a given day or shift. You can prepare yourself accordingly to handle the situation better. This will save money by reducing extra staffing and decrease patient wait time through the optimum use of resources.” (Jayden Henrii at

  5. Parking Facility Improves Patient Inflow – You read it correctly. This is a part of patient satisfaction (and your increased revenue). There are areas where street parking is limited, and this could mean late-arrival or no-shows of patients. Providing a parking facility would be a big relief to patients. Additionally, if your clinic has an opportunity to handle an elderly family member or a patient on crutches or wheelchair you've increased your patient satisfaction and patients inflow.” (Jayden Henrii at

  6. “Improve Providers’ Productivity – Ensure your providers are managing their time efficiently and are seeing the optimum number of patients per day. You can do this by improving the operational efficiency of your establishment such as by using practice management software. Whether you are managing your practice by yourself or have a large staff, it is vital to get a clear picture of how things are running.” (Jayden Henrii at

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